The Legislature had appropriated for the sixteen beneficiaries at the rate of two hundred and eighty-three dollars per annum, to which we added sixty dollars as tuition for pay cadets; and, though the price was low, we undertook to manage for the first year on that basis.
Promptly to the day, we opened, with about sixty cadets present. Major Smith was the commandant of cadets, and I the superintendent. I had been to New Orleans, where I had bought a supply of mattresses, books, and every thing requisite, and we started very much on the basis of West Point and of the Virginia Military Institute, but without uniforms or muskets; yet with roll-calls, sections, and recitations, we kept as near the standard of West Point as possible. I kept all the money accounts, and gave general directions to the steward, professors, and cadets. The other professors had their regular classes and recitations. We all lived in rooms in the college building, except Vallas, who had a family, and rented a house near by. A Creole gentleman, B. Jarrean, Esq., had been elected steward, and he also had his family in a house not far off. The other professors had a mess in a room adjoining the mess-hall. A few more cadets joined in the course of the winter, so that we had in all, during the first term, seventy-three cadets, of whom fifty-nine passed the examination on the 30th of July, 1860. During our first term many defects in the original act of the Legislature were demonstrated, and, by the advice of the Board of Supervisors, I went down to Baton Rouge during the session of the Legislature, to advocate and urge the passage of a new bill, putting the institution on a better footing. Thomas O. Moors was then Governor, Bragg was a member of the Board of Public Works, and Richard Taylor was a Senator. I got well acquainted with all of these, and with some of the leading men of the State, and was always treated with the greatest courtesy and kindness. In conjunction with the proper committee of the Legislature, we prepared a new bill, which was passed and approved on the 7th of March, 1860, by which we were to have a beneficiary cadet for each parish, in all fifty-six, and fifteen thousand dollars annually for their maintenance; also twenty thousand dollars for the general use of the college. During that session we got an appropriation of fifteen thousand dollars for building two professors' houses, for the purchase of philosophical and chemical apparatus, and for the beginning of a college library. The seminary was made a State Arsenal, under the title of State Central Arsenal, and I was allowed five hundred dollars a year as its superintendent. These matters took me several times to Baton Rouge that winter, and I recall an event of some interest, which most have happened in February. At that time my brother, John Sherman, was a candidate, in the national House of Representatives, for Speaker, against Bocock, of Virginia. In the South he was regarded as an "abolitionist," the most horrible of all monsters; and many people of Louisiana looked at me with suspicion, as the brother of the abolitionist, John Sherman, and doubted the propriety of having me at the head of an important State institution. By this time I was pretty well acquainted with many of their prominent men, was generally esteemed by all in authority, and by the people of Rapides Parish especially, who saw that I was devoted to my particular business, and that I gave no heed to the political excitement of the day. But the members of the State Senate and House did not know me so well, and it was natural that they should be suspicions of a Northern man, and the brother of him who was the "abolition" candidate for Speaker of the House.
One evening, at a large dinner-party at Governor Moore's, at which were present several members of the Louisiana Legislature, Taylor, Bragg, and the Attorney-General Hyams, after the ladies had left the table, I noticed at Governor Moore's end quite a lively discussion going on, in which my name was frequently used; at length the Governor called to me, saying: "Colonel Sherman, you can readily understand that, with your brother the abolitionist candidate for Speaker, some of our people wonder that you should be here at the head of an important State institution. Now, you are at my table, and I assure you of my confidence. Won't you speak your mind freely on this question of slavery, that so agitates the land? You are under my roof, and, whatever you say, you have my protection."
I answered: "Governor Moors, you mistake in calling my brother, John Sherman, an abolitionist. We have been separated since childhood—I in the army, and he pursuing his profession of law in Northern Ohio; and it is possible we may differ in general sentiment, but I deny that he is considered at home an abolitionist; and, although he prefers the free institutions under which he lives to those of slavery which prevail here, he would not of himself take from you by law or force any property whatever, even slaves."
Then said Moore: "Give us your own views of slavery as you see it here and throughout the South."
I answered in effect that "the people of Louisiana were hardly responsible for slavery, as they had inherited it; that I found two distinct conditions of slavery, domestic and field hands. The domestic slaves, employed by the families, were probably better treated than any slaves on earth; but the condition of the field-hands was different, depending more on the temper and disposition of their masters and overseers than were those employed about the house;" and I went on to say that, "were I a citizen of Louisiana, and a member of the Legislature, I would deem it wise to bring the legal condition of the slaves more near the status of human beings under all Christian and civilized governments. In the first place, I argued that, in sales of slaves made by the State, I would forbid the separation of families, letting the father, mother, and children, be sold together to one person, instead of each to the highest bidder. And, again, I would advise the repeal of the statute which enacted a severe penalty for even the owner to teach his slave to read and write, because that actually qualified property and took away a part of its value; illustrating the assertion by the case of Henry Sampson, who had been the slave of Colonel Chambers, of Rapides Parish, who had gone to California as the servant of an officer of the army, and who was afterward employed by me in the bank at San Francisco. At first he could not write or read, and I could only afford to pay him one hundred dollars a month; but he was taught to read and write by Reilley, our bank-teller, when his services became worth two hundred and fifty dollars a month, which enabled him to buy his own freedom and that of his brother and his family."
What I said was listened to by all with the most profound attention; and, when I was through, some one (I think it was Mr. Hyams) struck the table with his fist, making the glasses jingle, and said, "By God, he is right!" and at once he took up the debate, which went on, for an hour or more, on both sides with ability and fairness. Of course, I was glad to be thus relieved, because at the time all men in Louisiana were dreadfully excited on questions affecting their slaves, who constituted the bulk of their wealth, and without whom they honestly believed that sugar, cotton, and rice, could not possibly be cultivated.
On the 30th and 31st of July, 1860, we had an examination at the seminary, winding up with a ball, and as much publicity as possible to attract general notice; and immediately thereafter we all scattered—the cadets to their homes, and the professors wherever they pleased—all to meet again on the 1st day of the next November. Major Smith and I agreed to meet in New York on a certain day in August, to purchase books, models, etc. I went directly to my family in Lancaster, and after a few days proceeded to Washington, to endeavor to procure from the General Government the necessary muskets and equipments for our cadets by the beginning of the next term. I was in Washington on the 17th day of August, and hunted up my friend Major Buell, of the Adjutant-General's Department, who was on duty with the Secretary of War, Floyd. I had with me a letter of Governor Moore's, authorizing me to act in his name. Major Buell took me into Floyd's room at the War Department, to whom I explained my business, and I was agreeably surprised to meet with such easy success. Although the State of Louisiana had already drawn her full quota of arms, Floyd promptly promised to order my requisition to be filled, and I procured the necessary blanks at the Ordnance-Office, filled them with two hundred cadet muskets, and all equipments complete, and was assured that all these articles would be shipped to Louisiana in season for our use that fall. These assurances were faithfully carried out.
I then went on to New York, there met Major Smith according to appointment, and together we selected and purchased a good supply of uniforms, clothing, and text books, as well as a fair number of books of history and fiction, to commence a library.
When this business was completed, I returned to Lancaster, and remained with my family till the time approached for me to return to Louisiana. I again left my family at Lancaster, until assured of the completion of the two buildings designed for the married professors for which I had contracted that spring with Mr. Mills, of Alexandria, and which were well under progress when I left in August. One of these was designed for me and the other for Vallas. Mr. Ewing presented me with a horse, which I took down the river with me, and en route I ordered from Grimsley & Co. a full equipment of saddle, bridle, etc., the same that I used in the war, and which I lost with my horse, shot under me at Shiloh.
Reaching Alexandria early in October, I pushed forward the construction of the two buildings, some fences, gates, and all other work, with the object of a more perfect start at the opening of the regular term November 1, 1860.
About this time Dr. Powhatan Clark was elected Assistant Professor of Chemistry, etc., and acted as secretary of the Board of Supervisors, but no other changes were made in our small circle of professors.
November came, and with it nearly if not quite all our first set of cadets, and others, to the number of about one hundred and thirty. We divided them into two companies, issued arms and clothing, and began a regular system of drills and instruction, as well as the regular recitations. I had moved into my new house, but prudently had not sent for my family, nominally on the ground of waiting until the season was further advanced, but really because of the storm that was lowering heavy on the political horizon. The presidential election was to occur in November, and the nominations had already been made in stormy debates by the usual conventions. Lincoln and Hamlin (to the South utterly unknown) were the nominees of the Republican party, and for the first time both these candidates were from Northern States. The Democratic party divided—one set nominating a ticket at Charleston, and the other at Baltimore. Breckenridge and Lane were the nominees of the Southern or Democratic party; and Bell and Everett, a kind of compromise, mostly in favor in Louisiana. Political excitement was at its very height, and it was constantly asserted that Mr. Lincoln's election would imperil the Union. I purposely kept aloof from politics, would take no part, and remember that on the day of the election in November I was notified that it would be advisable for me to vote for Bell and Everett, but I openly said I would not, and I did not. The election of Mr. Lincoln fell upon us all like a clap of thunder. People saw and felt that the South had threatened so long that, if she quietly submitted, the question of slavery in the Territories was at an end forever. I mingled freely with the members of the Board of Supervisors, and with the people of Rapides Parish generally, keeping aloof from all cliques and parties, and I certainly hoped that the threatened storm would blow over, as had so often occurred before, after similar threats. At our seminary the order of exercises went along with the regularity of the seasons. Once a week, I had the older cadets to practise reading, reciting, and elocution, and noticed that their selections were from Calhoun, Yancey, and other Southern speakers, all treating of the defense of their slaves and their home institutions as the very highest duty of the patriot. Among boys this was to be expected; and among the members of our board, though most of them declaimed against politicians generally, and especially abolitionists, as pests, yet there was a growing feeling that danger was in the wind. I recall the visit of a young gentleman who had been sent from Jackson, by the Governor of Mississippi, to confer with Governor Moore, then on his plantation at Bayou Robert, and who had come over to see our college. He spoke to me openly of secession as a fixed fact, and that its details were only left open for discussion. I also recall the visit of some man who was said to be a high officer in the order of "Knights of the Golden Circle," of the existence of which order I was even ignorant, until explained to me by Major Smith and Dr. Clark. But in November, 1860, no man ever approached me offensively, to ascertain my views, or my proposed course of action in case of secession, and no man in or out of authority ever tried to induce me to take part in steps designed to lead toward disunion. I think my general opinions were well known and understood, viz., that "secession was treason, was war;" and that in no event would the North and West permit the Mississippi River to pass out of their control. But some men at the South actually supposed at the time that the Northwestern States, in case of a disruption of the General Government, would be drawn in self-interest to an alliance with the South. What I now write I do not offer as any thing like a history of the important events of that time, but rather as my memory of them, the effect they had on me personally, and to what extent they influenced my personal conduct.
South Carolina seceded December 20, 1860, and Mississippi soon after. Emissaries came to Louisiana to influence the Governor, Legislature, and people, and it was the common assertion that, if all the Cotton States would follow the lead of South Carolina, it would diminish the chances of civil war, because a bold and determined front would deter the General Government from any measures of coercion. About this time also, viz., early in December, we received Mr. Buchanan's annual message to Congress, in which he publicly announced that the General Government had no constitutional power to "coerce a State." I confess this staggered me, and I feared that the prophecies and assertions of Alison and other European commentators on our form of government were right, and that our Constitution was a mere rope of sand, that would break with the first pressure.
The Legislature of Louisiana met on the 10th of December, and passed an act calling a convention of delegates from the people, to meet at Baton Rouge, on the 8th of January, to take into consideration the state of the Union; and, although it was universally admitted that a large majority of the voters of the State were opposed to secession, disunion, and all the steps of the South Carolinians, yet we saw that they were powerless, and that the politicians would sweep them along rapidly to the end, prearranged by their leaders in Washington. Before the ordinance of secession was passed, or the convention had assembled, on the faith of a telegraphic dispatch sent by the two Senators, Benjamin and Slidell, from their seats in the United States Senate at Washington, Governor Moore ordered the seizure of all the United States forts at the mouth of the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, and of the United States arsenal at Baton Rouge. The forts had no garrisons, but the arsenal was held by a small company of artillery, commanded by Major Haskins, a most worthy and excellent officer, who had lost an arm in Mexico. I remember well that I was strongly and bitterly impressed by the seizure of the arsenal, which occurred on January 10, 1861.
When I went first to Baton Rouge, in 1859, en route to Alexandria, I found Captain Rickett's company of artillery stationed in the arsenal, but soon after there was somewhat of a clamor on the Texas frontier about Brownsville, which induced the War Department to order Rickett's company to that frontier. I remember that Governor Moore remonstrated with the Secretary of War because so much dangerous property, composed of muskets, powder, etc., had been left by the United States unguarded, in a parish where the slave population was as five or six to one of whites; and it was on his official demand that the United States Government ordered Haskinss company to replace Rickett's. This company did not number forty men. In the night of January 9th, about five hundred New Orleans militia, under command of a Colonel Wheat, went up from New Orleans by boat, landed, surrounded the arsenal, and demanded its surrender. Haskins was of course unprepared for such a step, yet he at first resolved to defend the post as he best could with his small force. But Bragg, who was an old army acquaintance of his, had a parley with him, exhibited to him the vastly superior force of his assailants, embracing two field-batteries, and offered to procure for him honorable terms, to march out with drums and colors, and to take unmolested passage in a boat up to St. Louis; alleging, further, that the old Union was at an end, and that a just settlement would be made between the two new fragments for all the property stored in the arsenal. Of course it was Haskins's duty to have defended his post to the death; but up to that time the national authorities in Washington had shown such pusillanimity, that the officers of the army knew not what to do. The result, anyhow, was that Haskins surrendered his post, and at once embarked for St. Louis. The arms and munitions stored in the arsenal were scattered—some to Mississippi, some to New Orleans, some to Shreveport; and to me, at the Central Arsenal, were consigned two thousand muskets, three hundred Jager rifles, and a large amount of cartridges and ammunition. The invoices were signed by the former ordnance-sergeant, Olodowski, as a captain of ordnance, and I think he continued such on General Bragg's staff through the whole of the subsequent civil war. These arms, etc., came up to me at Alexandria, with orders from Governor Moore to receipt for and account for them. Thus I was made the receiver of stolen goods, and these goods the property of the United States. This grated hard on my feelings as an ex-army-officer, and on counting the arms I noticed that they were packed in the old familiar boxes, with the "U. S." simply scratched off. General G. Mason Graham had resigned as the chairman of the Executive Committee, and Dr. S. A. Smith, of Alexandria, then a member of the State Senate, had succeeded him as chairman, and acted as head of the Board of Supervisors. At the time I was in most intimate correspondence with all of these parties, and our letters must have been full of politics, but I have only retained copies of a few of the letters, which I will embody in this connection, as they will show, better than by any thing I can now recall, the feelings of parties at that critical period. The seizure of the arsenal at Baton Rouge occurred January 10, 1861, and the secession ordinance was not passed until about the 25th or 26th of the same month. At all events, after the seizure of the arsenal, and before the passage of the ordinance of secession, viz., on the 18th of January, I wrote as follows:
Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy January 18, 1861
Governor THOMAS O. MOORE, Baton, Rouge, Louisiana.
Sir: As I occupy a quasi-military position under the laws of the State, I deem it proper to acquaint you that I accepted such position when Louisiana was a State in the Union, and when the motto of this seminary was inserted in marble over the main door: "By the liberality of the General Government of the United States. The Union—esto perpetua."
Recent events foreshadow a great change, and it becomes all men to choose. If Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union, I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the Constitution as long as a fragment of it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word.
In that event, I beg you will send or appoint some authorized agent to take charge of the arms and munitions of war belonging to the State, or advise me what disposition to make of them.
And furthermore, as president of the Board of Supervisors, I beg you to take immediate steps to relieve me as superintendent, the moment the State determines to secede, for on no earthly account will I do any act or think any thought hostile to or in defiance of the old Government of the United States.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN, Superintendent.
January 18, 1861.
To Governor Moore:
My Dear Sir: I take it for granted that you have been expecting for some days the accompanying paper from me (the above official letter). I have repeatedly and again made known to General Graham and Dr. Smith that, in the event of a severance of the relations hitherto existing between the Confederated States of this Union, I would be forced to choose the old Union. It is barely possible all the States may secede, South and North, that new combinations may result, but this process will be one of time and uncertainty, and I cannot with my opinions await the subsequent development.
I have never been a politician, and therefore undervalue the excited feelings and opinions of present rulers, but I do think, if this people cannot execute a form of government like the present, that a worse one will result.
I will keep the cadets as quiet as possible. They are nervous, but I think the interest of the State requires them here, guarding this property, and acquiring a knowledge which will be useful to your State in after-times.
When I leave, which I now regard as certain, the present professors can manage well enough, to afford you leisure time to find a suitable successor to me. You might order Major Smith to receipt for the arms, and to exercise military command, while the academic exercises could go on under the board. In time, some gentleman will turn up, better qualified than I am, to carry on the seminary to its ultimate point of success. I entertain the kindest feelings toward all, and would leave the State with much regret; only in great events we must choose, one way or the other.
Truly, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN
January 19, 1881—Saturday.
Dr. S. A. Smith, President Board of Supervisors, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Dear Sir: I have just finished my quarterly reports to the parents of all the cadets here, or who have been here. All my books of account are written up to date. All bills for the houses, fences, etc., are settled, and nothing now remains but the daily tontine of recitations and drills. I have written officially and unofficially to Governor Moore, that with my opinions of the claimed right of accession, of the seizure of public forts, arsenals, etc., and the ignominious capture of a United States garrison, stationed in your midst, as a guard to the arsenal and for the protection of your own people, it would be highly improper for me longer to remain. No great inconvenience can result to the seminary. I will be the chief loser. I came down two months before my pay commenced. I made sacrifices in Kansas to enable me thus to obey the call of Governor Wickliffe, and you know that last winter I declined a most advantageous offer of employment abroad; and thus far I have received nothing as superintendent of the arsenal, though I went to Washington and New York (at my own expense) on the faith of the five hundred dollars salary promised.
These are all small matters in comparison with those involved in the present state of the country, which will cause sacrifices by millions, instead of by hundreds. The more I think of it, the more I think I should be away, the sooner the better; and therefore I hope you will join with Governor Moors in authorizing me to turn over to Major Smith the military command here, and to the academic board the control of the daily exercises and recitations.
There will be no necessity of your coming up. You can let Major Smith receive the few hundreds of cash I have on hand, and I can meet you on a day certain in New Orleans, when we can settle the bank account. Before I leave, I can pay the steward Jarrean his account for the month, and there would be no necessity for other payments till about the close of March, by which time the board can meet, and elect a treasurer and superintendent also.
At present I have no class, and there will be none ready till about the month of May, when there will be a class in "surveying." Even if you do not elect a superintendent in the mean time, Major Smith could easily teach this class, as he is very familiar with the subject-matter: Indeed, I think you will do well to leave the subject of a new superintendent until one perfectly satisfactory turns up.
There is only one favor I would ask. The seminary has plenty of money in bank. The Legislature will surely appropriate for my salary as superintendent of this arsenal. Would you not let me make my drafts on the State Treasury, send them to you, let the Treasurer note them for payment when the appropriation is made, and then pay them out of the seminary fund? The drafts will be paid in March, and the seminary will lose nothing. This would be just to me; for I actually spent two hundred dollars and more in going to Washington and New York, thereby securing from the United States, in advance, three thousand dollars' worth of the very best arms; and clothing and books, at a clear profit to the seminary of over eight hundred dollars. I may be some time in finding new employment, and will stand in need of this money (five hundred dollars); otherwise I would abandon it.
I will not ask you to put the Board of Supervisors to the trouble of meeting, unless you can get a quorum at Baton Rouge.
With great respect, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN.
By course of mail, I received the following answer from Governor Moore, the original of which I still possess. It is all in General Braggs handwriting, with which I am familiar—
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, January 23, 1861
MY DEAR SIR: It is with the deepest regret I acknowledge receipt of your communication of the 18th inst. In the pressure of official business, I can now only request you to transfer to Prof. Smith the arms, munitions, and funds in your hands, whenever you conclude to withdraw from the position you have filled with so much distinction. You cannot regret more than I do the necessity which deprives us of your services, and you will bear with you the respect, confidence, and admiration, of all who have been associated with you. Very truly, your friend,
Thomas O. Moore.
Colonel W. T. SHERMAN, Superintendent Military Academy, Alexandria.
I must have received several letters from Bragg, about this time, which have not been preserved; for I find that, on the 1st of February, 1861, I wrote him thus:
Seminary of Learning Alexandria, LOUISIANA, February 1, 1881.
Colonel Braxton BRAGG, Baton, Rouge, Louisiana.
Dear Sir: Yours of January 23d and 27th are received. I thank you most kindly, and Governor Moors through you, for the kind manner in which you have met my wishes.
Now that I cannot be compromised by political events, I will so shape my course as best to serve the institution, which has a strong hold on my affections and respect.
The Board of Supervisors will be called for the 9th instant, and I will cooperate with them in their measures to place matters here on a safe and secure basis. I expect to be here two weeks, and will make you full returns of money and property belonging to the State Central Arsenal. All the arms and ammunition are safely stored here. Then I will write you more at length. With sincere respect, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN.
Major Smith's receipt to me, for the arms and property belonging both to the seminary and to the arsenal, is dated February 19, 1861. I subjoin also, in this connection, copies of one or two papers that may prove of interest
BATON ROUGE, January 28, 1881. To Major SHERMAN, Superintendent, Alexandria.
My DEAR SIR: Your letter was duly receive, and would have been answered ere this time could I have arranged sooner the matter of the five hundred dollars. I shall go from here to New Orleans to-day or tomorrow, and will remain there till Saturday after next, perhaps. I shall expect to meet you there, as indicated in your note to me.
I need not tell you that it is with no ordinary regret that I view your determination to leave us, for really I believe that the success of our institution, now almost assured, is jeopardized thereby. I am sore that we will never have a superintendent with whom I shall have more pleasant relations than those which have existed between yourself and me.
I fully appreciate the motives which have induced you to give up a position presenting so many advantages to yourself, and sincerely hope that you may, in any future enterprise, enjoy the success which your character and ability merit and deserve.
Should you come down on the Rapides (steamer), please look after my wife, who will, I hope, accompany you on said boat, or some other good one.
Colonel Bragg informs me that the necessary orders have been given for the transfer and receipt by Major Smith of the public property.
I herewith transmit a request to the secretary to convene the Board of Supervisors, that they may act as seems best to them in the premises.
In the mean time, Major Smith will command by seniority the cadets, and the Academic Board will be able to conduct the scientific exercises of the institution until the Board of Supervisors can have time to act. Hoping to meet you soon at the St. Charles, I am,
Most truly, your friend and servant, S. A. Smith
P. S. Governor Moors desires me to express his profound regret that the State is about to lose one who we all fondly hoped had cast his destinies for weal or for woe among us; and that he is sensible that we lose thereby an officer whom it will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
S. A. S.
BATON ROUGE, February 11, 1881. To Major Sherman, Alexandria.
Dear Sir: I have been in New Orleans for ten days, and on returning here find two letters from you, also your prompt answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives, for which I am much obliged.
The resolution passed the last day before adjournment. I was purposing to respond, when your welcome reports came to hand. I have arranged to pay you your five hundred dollars.
I will say nothing of general politics, except to give my opinion that there is not to be any war.
In that event, would it not be possible for you to become a citizen of our State? Everyone deplores your determination to leave us. At the same time, your friends feel that you are abandoning a position that might become an object of desire to any one.
I will try to meet you in New Orleans at any time you may indicate; but it would be best for you to stop here, when, if possible, I will accompany you. Should you do so, you will find me just above the State-House, and facing it.
Bring with you a few copies of the "Rules of the Seminary."
S. A. Smith
Colonel W. T. SHERMAN.
Sir: I am instructed by the Board of Supervisors of this institution to present a copy of the resolutions adopted by them at their last meeting.
"Resolved, That the thanks of the Board of Supervisors are due, and are hereby tendered, to Colonel William T. Sherman for the able and efficient manner in which he has conducted the affairs of the seminary during the time the institution has been under his control—a period attended with unusual difficulties, requiring on the part of the superintendent to successfully overcome them a high order of administrative talent. And the board further bear willing testimony to the valuable services that Colonel Sherman has rendered them in their efforts to establish an institution of learning in accordance with the beneficent design of the State and Federal Governments; evincing at all times a readiness to adapt himself to the ever-varying requirements of an institution of learning in its infancy, struggling to attain a position of honor and usefulness.
"Resolved, further, That, in accepting the resignation of Colonel Sherman as Superintendent of the State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy, we tender to him assurances of our high personal regard, and our sincere regret at the occurrence of causes that render it necessary to part with so esteemed and valued a friend, as well as co-laborer in the cause of education."
Powhatan Clarke, Secretary of the Board.
A copy of the resolution of the Academic Board, passed at their session of April 1,1861:
"Resolved, That in the resignation of the late superintendent, Colonel W. T. Sherman, the Academic Board deem it not improper to express their deep conviction of the loss the institution has sustained in being thus deprived of an able head. They cannot fail to appreciate the manliness of character which has always marked the actions of Colonel Sherman. While he is personally endeared to many of them as a friend, they consider it their high pleasure to tender to him in this resolution their regret on his separation, and their sincere wish for his future welfare."
I have given the above at some length, because, during the civil war, it was in Southern circles asserted that I was guilty of a breach of hospitality in taking up arms against the South. They were manifestly the aggressors, and we could only defend our own by assailing them. Yet, without any knowledge of what the future had in store for me, I took unusual precautions that the institution should not be damaged by my withdrawal. About the 20th of February, having turned over all property, records, and money, on hand, to Major Smith, and taking with me the necessary documents to make the final settlement with Dr. S. A. Smith, at the bank in New Orleans, where the funds of the institution were deposited to my credit, I took passage from Alexandria for that city, and arrived there, I think, on the 23d. Dr. Smith met me, and we went to the bank, where I turned over to him the balance, got him to audit all my accounts, certify that they were correct and just, and that there remained not one cent of balance in my hands. I charged in my account current for my salary up to the end of February, at the rate of four thousand dollars a year, and for the five hundred dollars due me as superintendent of the Central Arsenal, all of which was due and had been fairly earned, and then I stood free and discharged of any and every obligation, honorary or business, that was due by me to the State of Louisiana, or to any corporation or individual in that State.
This business occupied two or three days, during which I staid at the St. Louis Hotel. I usually sat at table with Colonel and Mrs. Bragg, and an officer who wore the uniform of the State of Louisiana, and was addressed as captain. Bragg wore a colonel's uniform, and explained to me that he was a colonel in the State service, a colonel of artillery, and that some companies of his regiment garrisoned Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and the arsenal at Baton Rouge.
Beauregard at the time had two sons at the Seminary of Learning. I had given them some of my personal care at the father's request, and, wanting to tell him of their condition and progress, I went to his usual office in the Custom-House Building, and found him in the act of starting for Montgomery, Alabama. Bragg said afterward that Beauregard had been sent for by Jefferson Davis, and that it was rumored that he had been made a brigadier-general, of which fact he seemed jealous, because in the old army Bragg was the senior.
Davis and Stephens had been inaugurated President and Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, February 18, 1860, at Montgomery, and those States only embraced the seven cotton States. I recall a conversation at the tea-table, one evening, at the St. Louis Hotel. When Bragg was speaking of Beauregard's promotion, Mrs. Bragg, turning to me, said, "You know that my husband is not a favorite with the new President." My mind was resting on Mr. Lincoln as the new President, and I said I did not know that Bragg had ever met Mr. Lincoln, when Mrs. Bragg said, quite pointedly, "I didn't mean your President, but our President." I knew that Bragg hated Davis bitterly, and that he had resigned from the army in 1855, or 1856, because Davis, as Secretary of War, had ordered him, with his battery, from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, to Fort Smith or Fort Washita, in the Indian country, as Bragg expressed it, "to chase Indians with six-pounders."
I visited the quartermaster, Colonel A. C. Myers, who had resigned from the army, January 28, 1861, and had accepted service under the new regime. His office was in the same old room in the Lafayette Square building, which he had in 1853, when I was there a commissary, with the same pictures on the wall, and the letters "U. S." on every thing, including his desk, papers, etc. I asked him if he did not feel funny. "No, not at all. The thing was inevitable, secession was a complete success; there would be no war, but the two Governments would settle all matters of business in a friendly spirit, and each would go on in its allotted sphere, without further confusion." About this date, February 16th, General Twiggs, Myers's father-in-law, had surrendered his entire command, in the Department of Texas, to some State troops, with all the Government property, thus consummating the first serious step in the drama of the conspiracy, which was to form a confederacy of the cotton States, before working upon the other slave or border States, and before the 4th of March, the day for the inauguration of President Lincoln.
I walked the streets of New Orleans, and found business going along as usual. Ships were strung for miles along the lower levee, and steamboats above, all discharging or receiving cargo. The Pelican flag of Louisiana was flying over the Custom House, Mint, City Hall, and everywhere. At the levee ships carried every flag on earth except that of the United States, and I was told that during a procession on the 22d of February, celebrating their emancipation from the despotism of the United States Government, only one national flag was shown from a house, and that the houses of Cuthbert Bullitt, on Lafayette Square. He was commanded to take it down, but he refused, and defended it with his pistol.
The only officer of the army that I can recall, as being there at the time, who was faithful, was Colonel C. L. Kilburn, of the Commissary Department, and he was preparing to escape North.
Everybody regarded the change of Government as final; that Louisiana, by a mere declaration, was a free and independent State, and could enter into any new alliance or combination she chose.
Men were being enlisted and armed, to defend the State, and there was not the least evidence that the national Administration designed to make any effort, by force, to vindicate the national authority. I therefore bade adieu to all my friends, and about the 25th of February took my departure by railroad, for Lancaster, via Cairo and Cincinnati.
Before leaving this subject, I will simply record the fate of some of my associates. The seminary was dispersed by the war, and all the professors and cadets took service in the Confederacy, except Yallas, St. Ange, and Cadet Taliaferro. The latter joined a Union regiment, as a lieutenant, after New Orleans was retaken by the United States fleet under Farragut. I think that both Yallas and St. Ange have died in poverty since the war. Major Smith joined the rebel army in Virginia, and was killed in April, 1865, as he was withdrawing his garrison, by night, from the batteries at Drury's Bluff, at the time General Lee began his final retreat from Richmond. Boyd became a captain of engineers on the staff of General Richard Taylor, was captured, and was in jail at Natchez, Mississippi, when I was on my Meridian expedition. He succeeded in getting a letter to me on my arrival at Vicksburg, and, on my way down to New Orleans, I stopped at Natchez, took him along, and enabled him to effect an exchange through General Banks. As soon as the war was over, he returned to Alexandria, and reorganized the old institution, where I visited him in 1867; but, the next winter, the building took fire end burned to the ground. The students, library, apparatus, etc., were transferred to Baton Rouge, where the same institution now is, under the title of the Louisiana University. I have been able to do them many acts of kindness, and am still in correspondence, with Colonel Boyd, its president.
General G. Mason Graham is still living on his plantation, on Bayou Rapides, old and much respected.
Dr. S. A. Smith became a surgeon in the rebel army, and at the close of the war was medical director of the trans-Mississippi Department, with General Kirby Smith. I have seen him since the war, at New Orleans, where he died about a year ago.
Dr. Clark was in Washington recently, applying for a place as United States consul abroad. I assisted him, but with no success, and he is now at Baltimore, Maryland.
After the battle of Shiloh, I found among the prisoners Cadet Barrow, fitted him out with some clean clothing, of which he was in need, and from him learned that Cadet Workman was killed in that battle.
Governor Moore's plantation was devastated by General Banks's troops. After the war he appealed to me, and through the Attorney-General, Henry Stanbery, I aided in having his land restored to him, and I think he is now living there.
Bragg, Beauregard, and Taylor, enacted high parts in the succeeding war, and now reside in Louisiana or Texas.
APRIL AND MAY, 1861.
During the time of these events in Louisiana, I was in constant correspondence with my brother, John Sherman, at Washington; Mr. Ewing, at Lancaster, Ohio; and Major H. S. Turner, at St. Louis. I had managed to maintain my family comfortably at Lancaster, but was extremely anxious about the future. It looked like the end of my career, for I did not suppose that "civil war" could give me an employment that would provide for the family. I thought, and may have said, that the national crisis had been brought about by the politicians, and, as it was upon us, they "might fight it out" Therefore, when I turned North from New Orleans, I felt more disposed to look to St. Louis for a home, and to Major. Turner to find me employment, than to the public service.
I left New Orleans about the 1st of March, 1861, by rail to Jackson and Clinton, Mississippi, Jackson, Tennessee, and Columbus, Kentucky, where we took a boat to Cairo, and thence, by rail, to Cincinnati and Lancaster. All the way, I heard, in the cars and boats, warm discussions about polities; to the effect that, if Mr. Lincoln should attempt coercion of the seceded States, the other slave or border States would make common cause, when, it was believed, it would be madness to attempt to reduce them to subjection. In the South, the people were earnest, fierce and angry, and were evidently organizing for action; whereas, in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, I saw not the least sign of preparation. It certainly looked to me as though the people of the North would tamely submit to a disruption of the Union, and the orators of the South used, openly and constantly, the expressions that there would be no war, and that a lady's thimble would hold all the blood to be shed. On reaching Lancaster, I found letters from my brother John, inviting me to come to Washington, as he wanted to see me; and from Major Tamer, at St. Louis, that he was trying to secure for me the office of president of the Fifth Street Railroad, with a salary of twenty-five hundred dollars; that Mr. Lucas and D. A. January held a controlling interest of stock, would vote for me, and the election would occur in March. This suited me exactly, and I answered Turner that I would accept, with thanks. But I also thought it right and proper that I should first go to Washington, to talk with my brother, Senator Sherman.
Mr. Lincoln had just been installed, and the newspapers were filled with rumors of every kind indicative of war; the chief act of interest was that Major Robert Anderson had taken by night into Fort Sumter all the troops garrisoning Charleston Harbor, and that he was determined to defend it against the demands of the State of South Carolina and of the Confederate States. I must have reached Washington about the 10th of March. I found my brother there, just appointed Senator, in place of Mr. Chase, who was in the cabinet, and I have no doubt my opinions, thoughts, and feelings, wrought up by the events in Louisiana; seemed to him gloomy and extravagant. About Washington I saw but few signs of preparation, though the Southern Senators and Representatives were daily sounding their threats on the floors of Congress, and were publicly withdrawing to join the Confederate Congress at Montgomery. Even in the War Department and about the public offices there was open, unconcealed talk, amounting to high-treason.
One day, John Sherman took me with him to see Mr. Lincoln. He walked into the room where the secretary to the President now sits, we found the room full of people, and Mr. Lincoln sat at the end of the table, talking with three or four gentlemen, who soon left. John walked up, shook hands, and took a chair near him, holding in his hand some papers referring to, minor appointments in the State of Ohio, which formed the subject of conversation. Mr. Lincoln took the papers, said he would refer them to the proper heads of departments, and would be glad to make the appointments asked for, if not already promised. John then turned to me, and said, "Mr. President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who is just up from Louisiana, he may give you some information you want." "Ah!" said Mr. Lincoln, "how are they getting along down there?" I said, "They think they are getting along swimmingly—they are preparing for war." "Oh, well!" said he, "I guess we'll manage to keep house." I was silenced, said no more to him, and we soon left. I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, d—ning the politicians generally, saying, "You have got things in a hell of a fig, and you may get them out as you best can," adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it. John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went. At Lancaster I found letters from Major Turner, inviting me to St. Louis, as the place in the Fifth Street Railroad was a sure thing, and that Mr. Lucas would rent me a good house on Locust Street, suitable for my family, for six hundred dollars a year.
Mrs. Sherman and I gathered our family and effects together, started for St. Louis March 27th, where we rented of Mr. Lucas the house on Locust Street, between Tenth and Eleventh, and occupied it on the 1st of April. Charles Ewing and John Hunter had formed a law-partnership in St. Louis, and agreed to board with us, taking rooms on the third floor In the latter part of March, I was duly elected president of the Fifth Street Railroad, and entered on the discharge of my duties April 1, 1861. We had a central office on the corner of Fifth and Locust, and also another up at the stables in Bremen. The road was well stocked and in full operation, and all I had to do was to watch the economical administration of existing affairs, which I endeavored to do with fidelity and zeal. But the whole air was full of wars and rumors of wars. The struggle was going on politically for the border States. Even in Missouri, which was a slave State, it was manifest that the Governor of the State, Claiborne Jackson, and all the leading politicians, were for the South in case of a war. The house on the northwest corner of Fifth and Pine was the rebel headquarters, where the rebel flag was hung publicly, and the crowds about the Planters' House were all more or less rebel. There was also a camp in Lindell's Grove, at the end of Olive, Street, under command of General D. M. Frost, a Northern man, a graduate of West Point, in open sympathy with the Southern leaders. This camp was nominally a State camp of instruction, but, beyond doubt, was in the interest of the Southern cause, designed to be used against the national authority in the event of the General Government's attempting to coerce the Southern Confederacy. General William S. Harvey was in command of the Department of Missouri, and resided in his own house, on Fourth Street, below Market; and there were five or six companies of United States troops in the arsenal, commanded by Captain N. Lyon; throughout the city, there had been organized, almost exclusively out of the German part of the population, four or five regiments of "Home Guards," with which movement Frank Blair, B. Gratz Brown, John M. Schofield, Clinton B. Fisk, and others, were most active on the part of the national authorities. Frank Blair's brother Montgomery was in the cabinet of Mr. Lincoln at Washington, and to him seemed committed the general management of affairs in Missouri.
The newspapers fanned the public excitement to the highest pitch, and threats of attacking the arsenal on the one hand, and the mob of d—d rebels in Camp Jackson on the other, were bandied about. I tried my best to keep out of the current, and only talked freely with a few men; among them Colonel John O'Fallon, a wealthy gentleman who resided above St. Louis. He daily came down to my office in Bremen, and we walked up and down the pavement by the hour, deploring the sad condition of our country, and the seeming drift toward dissolution and anarchy. I used also to go down to the arsenal occasionally to see Lyon, Totten, and other of my army acquaintance, and was glad to see them making preparations to defend their post, if not to assume the offensive.
The bombardment of Fort Sumter, which was announced by telegraph, began April 12th, and ended on the 14th. We then knew that the war was actually begun, and though the South was openly, manifestly the aggressor, yet her friends and apologists insisted that she was simply acting on a justifiable defensive, and that in the forcible seizure of, the public forts within her limits the people were acting with reasonable prudence and foresight. Yet neither party seemed willing to invade, or cross the border. Davis, who ordered the bombardment of Sumter, knew the temper of his people well, and foresaw that it would precipitate the action of the border States; for almost immediately Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee, followed the lead of the cotton States, and conventions were deliberating in Kentucky and Missouri.
On the night of Saturday, April 6th, I received the following, dispatch:
Washington, April 6,1861.
Major W. T. Sherman:
Will you accept the chief clerkship of the War Department? We will make you assistant Secretary of War when Congress meets.
M. Blair, Postmaster-General.
To which I replied by telegraph, Monday morning; "I cannot accept;" and by mail as follows:
Monday, April 8, 1861. Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company.
Hon. M. Blair, Washington, D. C.
I received, about nine o'clock Saturday night, your telegraph dispatch, which I have this moment answered, "I cannot accept."
I have quite a large family, and when I resigned my place in Louisiana, on account of secession, I had no time to lose; and, therefore, after my hasty visit to Washington, where I saw no chance of employment, I came to St. Louis, have accepted a place in this company, have rented a house, and incurred other obligations, so that I am not at liberty to change.
I thank you for the compliment contained in your offer, and assure you that I wish the Administration all success in its almost impossible task of governing this distracted and anarchical people.
I was afterward told that this letter gave offense, and that some of Mr. Lincoln's cabinet concluded that I too would prove false to the country.
Later in that month, after the capture of Fort Sumter by the Confederate authorities, a Dr. Cornyn came to our house on Locust Street, one night after I had gone to bed, and told me he had been sent by Frank Blair, who was not well, and wanted to see me that night at his house. I dressed and walked over to his house on Washington Avenue, near Fourteenth, and found there, in the front-room, several gentlemen, among whom I recall Henry T. Blow. Blair was in the back-room, closeted with some gentleman, who soon left, and I was called in. He there told me that the Government was mistrustful of General Harvey, that a change in the command of the department was to be made; that he held it in his power to appoint a brigadier-general, and put him in command of the department, and he offered me the place. I told him I had once offered my services, and they were declined; that I had made business engagements in St. Louis, which I could not throw off at pleasure; that I had long deliberated on my course of action, and must decline his offer, however tempting and complimentary. He reasoned with me, but I persisted. He told me, in that event, he should appoint Lyon, and he did so.
Finding that even my best friends were uneasy as to my political status, on the 8th of May I addressed the following official letter to the Secretary of War:
Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company, May 8,1881.
Hon. S. Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
Dear Sir: I hold myself now, as always, prepared to serve my country in the capacity for which I was trained. I did not and will not volunteer for three months, because I cannot throw my family on the cold charity of the world. But for the three-years call, made by the President, an officer can prepare his command and do good service.
I will not volunteer as a soldier, because rightfully or wrongfully I feel unwilling to take a mere private's place, and, having for many years lived in California and Louisiana, the men are not well enough acquainted with me to elect me to my appropriate place.
Should my services be needed, the records of the War Department will enable you to designate the station in which I can render most service.
Yours truly, W. T. SHERMAN.
To this I do not think I received a direct answer; but, on the 10th of the same month, I was appointed colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry.
I remember going to the arsenal on the 9th of May, taking my children with me in the street-cars. Within the arsenal wall were drawn up in parallel lines four regiments of the "Home Guards," and I saw men distributing cartridges to the boxes. I also saw General Lyon running about with his hair in the wind, his pockets full of papers, wild and irregular, but I knew him to be a man of vehement purpose and of determined action. I saw of course that it meant business, but whether for defense or offense I did not know. The next morning I went up to the railroad-office in Bremen, as usual, and heard at every corner of the streets that the "Dutch" were moving on Camp Jackson. People were barricading their houses, and men were running in that direction. I hurried through my business as quickly as I could, and got back to my house on Locust Street by twelve o'clock. Charles Ewing and Hunter were there, and insisted on going out to the camp to see "the fun." I tried to dissuade them, saying that in case of conflict the bystanders were more likely to be killed than the men engaged, but they would go. I felt as much interest as anybody else, but staid at home, took my little son Willie, who was about seven years old, and walked up and down the pavement in front of our house, listening for the sound of musketry or cannon in the direction of Camp Jackson. While so engaged Miss Eliza Dean, who lived opposite us, called me across the street, told me that her brother-in-law, Dr. Scott, was a surgeon in Frost's camp, and she was dreadfully afraid he would be killed. I reasoned with her that General Lyon was a regular officer; that if he had gone out, as reported, to Camp Jackson, he would take with him such a force as would make resistance impossible; but she would not be comforted, saying that the camp was made up of the young men from the first and best families of St. Louis, and that they were proud, and would fight. I explained that young men of the best families did not like to be killed better than ordinary people. Edging gradually up the street, I was in Olive Street just about Twelfth, when I saw a man running from the direction of Camp Jackson at full speed, calling, as he went, "They've surrendered, they've surrendered!" So I turned back and rang the bell at Mrs. Dean's. Eliza came to the door, and I explained what I had heard; but she angrily slammed the door in my face! Evidently she was disappointed to find she was mistaken in her estimate of the rash courage of the best families.
I again turned in the direction of Camp Jackson, my boy Willie with me still. At the head of Olive Street, abreast of Lindell's Grove, I found Frank Blair's regiment in the street, with ranks opened, and the Camp Jackson prisoners inside. A crowd of people was gathered around, calling to the prisoners by name, some hurrahing for Jeff Davis, and others encouraging the troops. Men, women, and children, were in the crowd. I passed along till I found myself inside the grove, where I met Charles Ewing and John Hunter, and we stood looking at the troops on the road, heading toward the city. A band of music was playing at the head, and the column made one or two ineffectual starts, but for some reason was halted. The battalion of regulars was abreast of me, of which Major Rufus Saxton was in command, and I gave him an evening paper, which I had bought of the newsboy on my way out. He was reading from it some piece of news, sitting on his horse, when the column again began to move forward, and he resumed his place at the head of his command. At that part of the road, or street, was an embankment about eight feet high, and a drunken fellow tried to pass over it to the people opposite.
One of the regular sergeant file-closers ordered him back, but he attempted to pass through the ranks, when the sergeant barred his progress with his musket "a-port." The drunken man seized his musket, when the sergeant threw him off with violence, and he rolled over and over down the bank. By the time this man had picked himself up and got his hat, which had fallen off, and had again mounted the embankment, the regulars had passed, and the head of Osterhaus's regiment of Home Guards had come up. The man had in his hand a small pistol, which he fired off, and I heard that the ball had struck the leg of one of Osterhaus's staff; the regiment stopped; there was a moment of confusion, when the soldiers of that regiment began to fire over our heads in the grove. I heard the balls cutting the leaves above our heads, and saw several men and women running in all directions, some of whom were wounded. Of course there was a general stampede. Charles Ewing threw Willie on the ground and covered him with his body. Hunter ran behind the hill, and I also threw myself on the ground. The fire ran back from the head of the regiment toward its rear, and as I saw the men reloading their pieces, I jerked Willie up, ran back with him into a gully which covered us, lay there until I saw that the fire had ceased, and that the column was again moving on, when I took up Willie and started back for home round by way of Market Street. A woman and child were killed outright; two or three men were also killed, and several others were wounded. The great mass of the people on that occasion were simply curious spectators, though men were sprinkled through the crowd calling out, "Hurrah for Jeff Davis!" and others were particularly abusive of the "damned Dutch" Lyon posted a guard in charge of the vacant camp, and marched his prisoners down to the arsenal; some were paroled, and others held, till afterward they were regularly exchanged.
A very few days after this event, May 14th, I received a dispatch from my brother Charles in Washington, telling me to come on at once; that I had been appointed a colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry, and that I was wanted at Washington immediately.
Of course I could no longer defer action. I saw Mr. Lucas, Major Turner, and other friends and parties connected with the road, who agreed that I should go on. I left my family, because I was under the impression that I would be allowed to enlist my own regiment, which would take some time, and I expected to raise the regiment and organize it at Jefferson Barracks. I repaired to Washington, and there found that the Government was trying to rise to a level with the occasion. Mr. Lincoln had, without the sanction of law, authorized the raising of ten new regiments of regulars, each infantry regiment to be composed of three battalions of eight companies each; and had called for seventy-five thousand State volunteers. Even this call seemed to me utterly inadequate; still it was none of my business. I took the oath of office, and was furnished with a list of officers, appointed to my regiment, which was still, incomplete. I reported in person to General Scott, at his office on Seventeenth Street, opposite the War Department, and applied for authority to return West, and raise my regiment at Jefferson Barracks, but the general said my lieutenant-colonel, Burbank, was fully qualified to superintend the enlistment, and that he wanted me there; and he at once dictated an order for me to report to him in person for inspection duty.
Satisfied that I would not be permitted to return to St. Louis, I instructed Mrs. Sherman to pack up, return to Lancaster, and trust to the fate of war.
I also resigned my place as president of the Fifth Street Railroad, to take effect at the end of May, so that in fact I received pay from that road for only two months' service, and then began my new army career.
FROM THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN TO PADUCAH KENTUCKY AND MISSOURI
And now that, in these notes, I have fairly reached the period of the civil war, which ravaged our country from 1861 to 1865—an event involving a conflict of passion, of prejudice, and of arms, that has developed results which, for better or worse, have left their mark on the world's history—I feel that I tread on delicate ground.
I have again and again been invited to write a history of the war, or to record for publication my personal recollections of it, with large offers of money therefor; all of which I have heretofore declined, because the truth is not always palatable, and should not always be told. Many of the actors in the grand drama still live, and they and their friends are quick to controversy, which should be avoided. The great end of peace has been attained, with little or no change in our form of government, and the duty of all good men is to allow the passions of that period to subside, that we may direct our physical and mental labor to repair the waste of war, and to engage in the greater task of continuing our hitherto wonderful national development.
What I now propose to do is merely to group some of my personal recollections about the historic persons and events of the day, prepared not with any view to their publication, but rather for preservation till I am gone; and then to be allowed to follow into oblivion the cords of similar papers, or to be used by some historian who may need them by way of illustration.
I have heretofore recorded how I again came into the military service of the United States as a colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry, a regiment that had no existence at the time, and that, instead of being allowed to enlist the men and instruct them, as expected, I was assigned in Washington City, by an order of Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott, to inspection duty near him on the 20th of June, 1861.
At that time Lieutenant-General Scott commanded the army in chief, with Colonel E. D. Townsend as his adjutant-general,
Major G. W. Cullum, United States Engineers, and Major Schuyler Hamilton, as aides.-de-camp. The general had an office up stairs on Seventeenth Street, opposite the War Department, and resided in a house close by, on Pennsylvania Avenue. All fears for the immediate safety of the capital had ceased, and quite a large force of regulars and volunteers had been collected in and about Washington. Brigadier-General J. K. Mansfield commanded in the city, and Brigadier-General Irvin McDowell on the other side of the Potomac, with his headquarters at Arlington House. His troops extended in a semicircle from Alexandria to above Georgetown. Several forts and redoubts were either built or in progress, and the people were already clamorous for a general forward movement. Another considerable army had also been collected in Pennsylvania under General Patterson, and, at the time I speak of, had moved forward to Hagerstown and Williamsport, on the Potomac River. My brother, John Sherman, was a volunteer aide-de-camp to General Patterson, and, toward the end of June, I went up to Hagerstown to see him. I found that army in the very act of moving, and we rode down to Williamsport in a buggy, and were present when the leading division crossed the Potomac River by fording it waist-deep. My friend and classmate, George H. Thomas, was there, in command of a brigade in the leading division. I talked with him a good deal, also with General Cadwalader, and with the staff-officers of General Patterson, viz., Fitz-John Porter, Belger, Beckwith, and others, all of whom seemed encouraged to think that the war was to be short and decisive, and that, as soon as it was demonstrated that the General Government meant in earnest to defend its rights and property, some general compromise would result.
Patterson's army crossed the Potomac River on the 1st or 2d of July, and, as John Sherman was to take his seat as a Senator in the called session of Congress, to meet July 4th, he resigned his place as aide-de-camp, presented me his two horses and equipment, and we returned to Washington together.
The Congress assembled punctually on the 4th of July, and the message of Mr. Lincoln was strong and good: it recognized the fact that civil war was upon us, that compromise of any kind was at an end; and he asked for four hundred thousand men, and four hundred million dollars, wherewith to vindicate the national authority, and to regain possession of the captured forts and other property of the United States.
It was also immediately demonstrated that the tone and temper of Congress had changed since the Southern Senators and members had withdrawn, and that we, the military, could now go to work with some definite plans and ideas.
The appearance of the troops about Washington was good, but it was manifest they were far from being soldiers. Their uniforms were as various as the States and cities from which they came; their arms were also of every pattern and calibre; and they were so loaded down with overcoats, haversacks, knapsacks, tents, and baggage, that it took from twenty-five to fifty wagons to move the camp of a regiment from one place to another, and some of the camps had bakeries and cooking establishments that would have done credit to Delmonico.
While I was on duty with General Scott, viz., from June 20th to about June 30th, the general frequently communicated to those about him his opinions and proposed plans. He seemed vexed with the clamors of the press for immediate action, and the continued interference in details by the President, Secretary of War, and Congress. He spoke of organizing a grand army of invasion, of which the regulars were to constitute the "iron column," and seemed to intimate that he himself would take the field in person, though he was at the time very old, very heavy, and very unwieldy. His age must have been about seventy-five years.
At that date, July 4, 1861, the rebels had two armies in front of Washington; the one at Manassas Junction, commanded by General Beauregard, with his advance guard at Fairfax Court House, and indeed almost in sight of Washington. The other, commanded by General Joe Johnston, was at Winchester, with its advance at Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry; but the advance had fallen back before Patterson, who then occupied Martinsburg and the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
The temper of Congress and the people would not permit the slow and methodical preparation desired by General Scott; and the cry of "On to Richmond!" which was shared by the volunteers, most of whom had only engaged for ninety days, forced General Scott to hasten his preparations, and to order a general advance about the middle of July. McDowell was to move from the defenses of Washington, and Patterson from Martinsburg. In the organization of McDowell's army into divisions and brigades, Colonel David Hunter was assigned to command the Second Division, and I was ordered to take command of his former brigade, which was composed of five regiments in position in and about Fort Corcoran, and on the ground opposite Georgetown. I assumed command on the 30th of June, and proceeded at once to prepare it for the general advance. My command constituted the Third Brigade of the First Division, which division was commanded by Brigadier-General Daniel Tyler, a graduate of West Point, but who had seen little or no actual service. I applied to General McDowell for home staff-officers, and he gave me, as adjutant-general, Lieutenant Piper, of the Third Artillery, and, as aide-de-camp, Lieutenant McQuesten, a fine young cavalry-officer, fresh from West Point.
I selected for the field the Thirteenth New York, Colonel Quinby; the Sixty-ninth New York, Colonel Corcoran; the Seventy-ninth New York, Colonel Cameron; and the Second Wisconsin, Lieutenant- Colonel Peck. These were all good, strong, volunteer regiments, pretty well commanded; and I had reason to believe that I had one of the best brigades in the whole army. Captain Ayres's battery of the Third Regular Artillery was also attached to my brigade. The other regiment, the Twenty-ninth New York, Colonel Bennett, was destined to be left behind in charge of the forts and camps during our absence, which was expected to be short. Soon after I had assumed the command, a difficulty arose in the Sixty-ninth, an Irish regiment. This regiment had volunteered in New York, early in April, for ninety days; but, by reason of the difficulty of passing through Baltimore, they had come via Annapolis, had been held for duty on the railroad as a guard for nearly a month before they actually reached Washington, and were then mustered in about a month after enrollment. Some of the men claimed that they were entitled to their discharge in ninety days from the time of enrollment, whereas the muster-roll read ninety days from the date of muster-in. One day, Colonel Corcoran explained this matter to me. I advised him to reduce the facts to writing, and that I would submit it to the War Department for an authoritative decision. He did so, and the War Department decided that the muster-roll was the only contract of service, that it would be construed literally; and that the regiment would be held till the expiration of three months from the date of muster-in, viz., to about August 1, 1861. General Scott at the same time wrote one of his characteristic letters to Corcoran, telling him that we were about to engage in battle, and he knew his Irish friends would not leave him in such a crisis. Corcoran and the officers generally wanted to go to the expected battle, but a good many of the men were not so anxious. In the Second Wisconsin, also, was developed a personal difficulty. The actual colonel was S. P. Coon, a good-hearted gentleman, who knew no more of the military art than a child; whereas his lieutenant- colonel, Peck, had been to West Point, and knew the drill. Preferring that the latter should remain in command of the regiment, I put Colonel Coon on my personal staff, which reconciled the difficulty.
In due season, about July 15th, our division moved forward leaving our camps standing; Keyes's brigade in the lead, then Schenck's, then mine, and Richardson's last. We marched via Vienna, Germantown, and Centreville, where all the army, composed of five divisions, seemed to converge. The march demonstrated little save the general laxity of discipline; for with all my personal efforts I could not prevent the men from straggling for water, blackberries, or any thing on the way they fancied.
At Centreville, on the 18th, Richardson's brigade was sent by General Tyler to reconnoitre Blackburn's Ford across Bull Run, and he found it strongly guarded. From our camp, at Centreville, we heard the cannonading, and then a sharp musketry-fire. I received orders from General Tyler to send forward Ayres's battery, and very soon after another order came for me to advance with my whole brigade. We marched the three miles at the double-quick, arrived in time to relieve Richardson's brigade, which was just drawing back from the ford, worsted, and stood for half an hour or so under a fire of artillery, which killed four or five of my men. General Tyler was there in person, giving directions, and soon after he ordered us all back to our camp in Centreville. This reconnoissance had developed a strong force, and had been made without the orders of General McDowell; however, it satisfied us that the enemy was in force on the other side of Bull Run, and had no intention to leave without a serious battle. We lay in camp at Centreville all of the 19th and 20th, and during that night began the movement which resulted in the battle of Bull Run, on July 21st. Of this so much has been written that more would be superfluous; and the reports of the opposing commanders, McDowell and Johnston, are fair and correct. It is now generally admitted that it was one of the best-planned battles of the war, but one of the worst-fought. Our men had been told so often at home that all they had to do was to make a bold appearance, and the rebels would run; and nearly all of us for the first time then heard the sound of cannon and muskets in anger, and saw the bloody scenes common to all battles, with which we were soon to be familiar. We had good organization, good men, but no cohesion, no real discipline, no respect for authority, no real knowledge of war. Both armies were fairly defeated, and, whichever had stood fast, the other would have run. Though the North was overwhelmed with mortification and shame, the South really had not much to boast of, for in the three or four hours of fighting their organization was so broken up that they did not and could not follow our army, when it was known to be in a state of disgraceful and causeless flight. It is easy to criticise a battle after it is over, but all now admit that none others, equally raw in war, could have done better than we did at Bull Run; and the lesson of that battle should not be lost on a people like ours.
I insert my official report, as a condensed statement of my share in the battle:
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION FORT CORCORAN, July 25, 1861
To Captain A. BAIRD, Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division (General Tyler's).
Sir: I have the honor to submit this my report of the operations of my brigade during the action of the 21st instant. The brigade is composed of the Thirteenth New York Volunteers, Colonel Quinby's Sixty-ninth New York, Colonel Corcoran; Seventy-ninth New York, Colonel Cameron; Second Wisconsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Peck; and Company E, Third Artillery, under command of Captain R. B. Ayres, Fifth Artillery.
We left our camp near Centreville, pursuant to orders, at half-past 2 A. M., taking place in your column, next to the brigade of General Schenck, and proceeded as far as the halt, before the enemy's position, near the stone bridge across Bull Run. Here the brigade was deployed in line along the skirt of timber to the right of the Warrenton road, and remained quietly in position till after 10 a.m. The enemy remained very quiet, but about that time we saw a rebel regiment leave its cover in our front, and proceed in double-quick time on the road toward Sudley Springs, by which we knew the columns of Colonels Hunter and Heintzelman were approaching. About the same time we observed in motion a large mass of the enemy, below and on the other side of the stone bridge. I directed Captain Ayres to take position with his battery near our right, and to open fire on this mass; but you had previously detached the two rifle-guns belonging to this battery, and, finding that the smooth-bore guns did not reach the enemy's position, we ceased firing, and I sent a request that you would send to me the thirty-pounder rifle-gun attached to Captain Carlisle's battery. At the same time I shifted the New York Sixty-ninth to the extreme right of the brigade. Thus we remained till we heard the musketry-fire across Bull Run, showing that the head of Colonel Hunter's column was engaged. This firing was brisk, and showed that Hunter was driving before him the enemy, till about noon, when it became certain the enemy had come to a stand, and that our forces on the other side of Bull Run were all engaged, artillery and infantry.
Here you sent me the order to cross over with the whole brigade, to the assistance of Colonel Hunter. Early in the day, when reconnoitring the ground, I had seen a horseman descend from a bluff in our front, cross the stream, and show himself in the open field on this aide; and, inferring that we could cross over at the same point, I sent forward a company as skirmishers, and followed with the whole brigade, the New York Sixty-ninth leading.
We found no difficulty in crossing over, and met with no opposition in ascending the steep bluff opposite with our infantry, but it was impassable to the artillery, and I sent word back to Captain Ayres to follow if possible, otherwise to use his discretion. Captain Ayres did not cross Bull Run, but remained on that side, with the rest of your division. His report herewith describes his operations during the remainder of the day. Advancing slowly and cautiously with the head of the column, to give time for the regiments in succession to close up their ranks, we first encountered a party of the enemy retreating along a cluster of pines; Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, of the Sixty-ninth, without orders, rode out alone, and endeavored to intercept their retreat. One of the enemy, in full view, at short range, shot Haggerty, and he fell dead from his horse. The Sixty-ninth opened fire on this party, which was returned; but, determined to effect our junction with Hunter's division, I ordered this fire to cease, and we proceeded with caution toward the field where we then plainly saw our forces engaged. Displaying our colors conspicuously at the head of our column, we succeeded in attracting the attention of our friends, and soon formed the brigade in rear of Colonel Porter's. Here I learned that Colonel Hunter was disabled by a severe wound, and that General McDowell was on the field. I sought him out, and received his orders to join in pursuit of the enemy, who was falling back to the left of the road by which the army had approached from Sudley Springs. Placing Colonel Quinby's regiment of rifles in front, in column, by division, I directed the other regiments to follow in line of battle, in the order of the Wisconsin Second, New York Seventy-ninth, and New York Sixty-ninth. Quinby's regiment advanced steadily down the hill and up the ridge, from which he opened fire upon the enemy, who had made another stand on ground very favorable to him, and the regiment continued advancing as the enemy gave way, till the head of the column reached the point near which Rickett's battery was so severely cut up. The other regiments descended the hill in line of battle, under a severe cannonade; and, the ground affording comparative shelter from the enemy's artillery, they changed direction, by the right flank, and followed the road before mentioned. At the point where this road crosses the ridge to our left front, the ground was swept by a most severe fire of artillery, rifles, and musketry, and we saw, in succession, several regiments driven from it; among them the Zouaves and battalion of marines. Before reaching the crest of this hill, the roadway was worn deep enough to afford shelter, and I kept the several regiments in it as long as possible; but when the Wisconsin Second was abreast of the enemy, by order of Major Wadsworth, of General McDowell's staff, I ordered it to leave the roadway, by the left flank, and to attack the enemy.
This regiment ascended to the brow of the hill steadily, received the severe fire of the enemy, returned it with spirit, and advanced, delivering its fire. This regiment is uniformed in gray cloth, almost identical with that of the great bulk of the secession army; and, when the regiment fell into confusion and retreated toward the road, there was a universal cry that they were being fired on by our own men. The regiment rallied again, passed the brow of the hill a second time, but was again repulsed in disorder. By this time the New York Seventy-ninth had closed up, and in like manner it was ordered to cross the brow of, the hill, and drive the enemy from cover. It was impossible to get a good view of this ground. In it there was one battery of artillery, which poured an incessant fire upon our advancing column, and the ground was very irregular with small clusters of pines, affording shelter, of which the enemy took good advantage. The fire of rifles and musketry was very severe. The Seventy-ninth, headed by its colonel, Cameron, charged across the hill, and for a short time the contest was severe; they rallied several times under fire, but finally broke, and gained the cover of the hill.
This left the field open to the New York Sixty-ninth, Colonel Corcoran, who, in his turn, led his regiment over the crest; and had in full, open view the ground so severely contested; the fire was very severe, and the roar of cannon, musketry, and rifles, incessant; it was manifest the enemy was here in great force, far superior to us at that point. The Sixty-ninth held the ground for some time, but finally fell back in disorder.
All this time Quinby's regiment occupied another ridge, to our left, overlooking the same field of action, and similarly engaged. Here, about half-past 3 p.m., began the scene of confusion and disorder that characterized the remainder of the day. Up to that time, all had kept their places, and seemed perfectly cool, and used to the shell and shot that fell, comparatively harmless, all around us; but the short exposure to an intense fire of small-arms, at close range, had killed many, wounded more, and had produced disorder in all of the battalions that had attempted to encounter it. Men fell away from their ranks, talking, and in great confusion. Colonel Cameron had been mortally wounded, was carried to an ambulance, and reported dying. Many other officers were reported dead or missing, and many of the wounded were making their way, with more or less assistance, to the buildings used as hospitals, on the ridge to the west. We succeeded in partially reforming the regiments, but it was manifest that they would not stand, and I directed Colonel Corcoran to move along the ridge to the rear, near the position where we had first formed the brigade. General McDowell was there in person, and need all possible efforts to reassure the men. By the active exertions of Colonel Corcoran, we formed an irregular square against the cavalry which were then seen to issue from the position from which we had been driven, and we began our retreat toward the same ford of Bull Run by which we had approached the field of battle. There was no positive order to retreat, although for an hour it had been going on by the operation of the men themselves. The ranks were thin and irregular, and we found a stream of people strung from the hospital across Bull Run, and far toward Centreville. After putting in motion the irregular square in person, I pushed forward to find Captain Ayres's battery at the crossing of Bull Run. I sought it at its last position, before the brigade had crossed over, but it was not there; then passing through the woods, where, in the morning, we had first formed line, we approached the blacksmith's shop, but there found a detachment of the secession cavalry and thence made a circuit, avoiding Cub Run Bridge, into Centreville, where I found General McDowell, and from him understood that it was his purpose to rally the forces, and make a stand at Centreville.
But, about nine o'clock at night, I received from General Tyler, in person, the order to continue the retreat to the Potomac. This retreat was by night, and disorderly in the extreme. The men of different regiments mingled together, and some reached the river at Arlington, some at Long Bridge, and the greater part returned to their former camp, at or near Fort Corcoran. I reached this point at noon the next day, and found a miscellaneous crowd crossing over the aqueduct and ferries.. Conceiving this to be demoralizing, I at once commanded the guard to be increased, and all persons attempting to pass over to be stopped. This soon produced its effect; men sought their proper companies and regiments. Comparative order was restored, and all were posted to the best advantage.
I herewith inclose the official report of Captain Belly, commanding officer of the New York Sixty-ninth; also, fall lists of the killed, wounded, and missing.
Our loss was heavy, and occurred chiefly at the point near where Rickett's battery was destroyed. Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty was killed about noon, before we had effected a junction with Colonel Hunter's division. Colonel Cameron was mortally wounded leading his regiment in the charge, and Colonel Corcoran has been missing since the cavalry-charge near the building used as a hospital.
For names, rank, etc., of the above, I refer to the lists herewith.
Lieutenants Piper and McQuesten, of my personal staff, were under fire all day, and carried orders to and fro with as much coolness as on parade. Lieutenant Bagley, of the New York Sixty-ninth, a volunteer aide, asked leave to serve with his company, during the action, and is among those reported missing. I have intelligence that he is a prisoner, and slightly wounded.
Colonel Coon, of Wisconsin, a volunteer aide, also rendered good service during the day.
W. T. SHERMAN, Colonel commanding Brigade.
This report, which I had not read probably since its date till now, recalls to me vividly the whole scene of the affair at Blackburn's Ford, when for the first time in my life I saw cannonballs strike men and crash through the trees and saplings above and around us, and realized the always sickening confusion as one approaches a fight from the rear; then the night-march from Centreville, on the Warrenton road, standing for hours wondering what was meant; the deployment along the edge of the field that sloped down to Bull-Run, and waiting for Hunter's approach on the other aide from the direction of Sudley Springs, away off to our right; the terrible scare of a poor negro who was caught between our lines; the crossing of Bull Run, and the fear lest we should be fired on by our own men; the killing of Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, which occurred in plain sight; and the first scenes of a field strewed with dead men and horses. Yet, at that period of the battle, we were the victors and felt jubilant. At that moment, also, my brigade passed Hunter's division; but Heintzelman's was still ahead of us, and we followed its lead along the road toward Manassas Junction, crossing a small stream and ascending a long hill, at the summit of which the battle was going on. Here my regiments came into action well, but successively, and were driven back, each in its turn. For two hours we continued to dash at the woods on our left front, which were full of rebels; but I was convinced their organization was broken, and that they had simply halted there and taken advantage of these woods as a cover, to reach which we had to pass over the intervening fields about the Henry House, which were clear, open, and gave them a decided advantage. After I had put in each of my regiments, and had them driven back to the cover of the road, I had no idea that we were beaten, but reformed the regiments in line in their proper order, and only wanted a little rest, when I found that my brigade was almost alone, except Syke's regulars, who had formed square against cavalry and were coming back. I then realized that the whole army was "in retreat," and that my own men were individually making back for the stone bridge. Corcoran and I formed the brigade into an irregular square, but it fell to pieces; and, along with a crowd, disorganized but not much scared, the brigade got back to Centreville to our former camps. Corcoran was captured, and held a prisoner for some time; but I got safe to Centreville. I saw General McDowell in Centreville, and understood that several of his divisions had not been engaged at all, that he would reorganize them at Centreville, and there await the enemy. I got my four regiments in parallel lines in a field, the same in which we had camped before the battle, and had lain down to sleep under a tree, when I heard some one asking for me. I called out where I was, when General Tyler in person gave me orders to march back to our camps at Fort Corcoran. I aroused my aides, gave them orders to call up the sleeping men, have each regiment to leave the field by a flank and to take the same road back by which we had come. It was near midnight, and the road was full of troops, wagons, and batteries. We tried to keep our regiments separate, but all became inextricably mixed. Toward morning we reached Vienna, where I slept some hours, and the next day, about noon, we reached Fort Corcoran.
A slow, mizzling rain had set in, and probably a more gloomy day never presented itself. All organization seemed to be at an end; but I and my staff labored hard to collect our men into their proper companies and into their former camps, and, on the 23d of July, I moved the Second Wisconsin and Seventy-ninth New York closer in to Fort Corcoran, and got things in better order than I had expected. Of course, we took it for granted that the rebels would be on our heels, and we accordingly prepared to defend our posts. By the 25th I had collected all the materials, made my report, and had my brigade about as well governed as any in that army; although most of the ninety-day men, especially the Sixty-ninth, had become extremely tired of the war, and wanted to go home. Some of them were so mutinous, at one time, that I had the battery to unlimber, threatening, if they dared to leave camp without orders, I would open fire on them. Drills and the daily exercises were resumed, and I ordered that at the three principal roll-calls the men should form ranks with belts and muskets, and that they should keep their ranks until I in person had received the reports and had dismissed them. The Sixty-ninth still occupied Fort Corcoran, and one morning, after reveille, when I had just received the report, had dismissed the regiment, and was leaving, I found myself in a crowd of men crossing the drawbridge on their way to a barn close by, where they had their sinks; among them was an officer, who said: "Colonel, I am going to New York today. What can I do for you?" I answered: "How can you go to New York? I do not remember to have signed a leave for you." He said, "No; he did not want a leave. He had engaged to serve three months, and had already served more than that time. If the Government did not intend to pay him, he could afford to lose the money; that he was a lawyer, and had neglected his business long enough, and was then going home." I noticed that a good many of the soldiers had paused about us to listen, and knew that, if this officer could defy me, they also would. So I turned on him sharp, and said: "Captain, this question of your term of service has been submitted to the rightful authority, and the decision has been published in orders. You are a soldier, and must submit to orders till you are properly discharged. If you attempt to leave without orders, it will be mutiny, and I will shoot you like a dog! Go back into the fort now, instantly, and don't dare to leave without my consent." I had on an overcoat, and may have had my hand about the breast, for he looked at me hard, paused a moment, and then turned back into the fort. The men scattered, and I returned to the house where I was quartered, close by.