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Chapter XVIII

  • Transfer of the Twenty
  • -- third Corps to North Carolina -- Sherman's plan of marching to the rear of Lee -- the surrender of J. E. Johnston's army -- authorship of the approved terms of surrender -- political reconstruction -- Sherman's genius -- contrast between Grant and Sherman -- Halleck's characteristics -- his attempt to supplant Grant -- personal feeling in battle -- the Scars of War.

upon the termination of the campaign of 1864 in Tennessee, General Grant ordered me, with the Twenty-third Corps, to the coast of North Carolina, via Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Washington, and the sea. Under the direction of the Assistant Secretary of War, Charles A. Dana, and the personal management of Colonel Lewis B. Parsons of the quartermaster's department, that movement was made without any necessity for the exercise of direction or control on my part, in respect to routes or otherwise. I enjoyed very much being a simple passenger on that comfortable journey, one of the most remarkable in military history, and exceedingly creditable to the officers of the War Department who directed and conducted it. I did not know at the time anything about the details of the arrangements made for transportation, nor who made them; but I have always thought it an excellent illustration of the good results to be obtained by a judicious distribution and division of duty, authority, and responsibility in military operations on a large scale. This being done [346] under one common, competent head, to whom all subordinates are alike responsible, the military system becomes as nearly perfect as possible.

While the transports were detained by an ice blockade in the Potomac, I joined General Grant at Fort Monroe, and went with him on the war-steamer Rhode Island to Cape Fear River, where we met General Terry and Admiral Porter, discussed the military situation, and decided on the general plan of operations for the capture of the defenses of Cape Fear River and the city of Wilmington, and subsequent operations. On our return to Fort Monroe, I proceeded to Washington, and sailed with the advance of the Twenty-third Corps, arriving at the mouth of Cape Fear River on February 9, 1865, where we joined General Terry, who with two divisions had already captured Fort Fisher. I was then assigned to command the new department of North Carolina. We turned the defenses of Cape Fear River by marching round the swamps, and occupied Wilmington with little loss; then we captured Kinston, after a pretty sharp fight of three days, and occupied Goldsboroa on March 21, within one day of the time indicated by Sherman, from Laurel Hill, N. C., March 8, for our junction at Goldsboroa. General Sherman, who had been delayed by his battle at Bentonville, did not reach Goldsboroa until the 23d, but the sound of his guns on the 20th and 21st informed me that he was near, and I put a bridge across the Neuse River, so as to go to his assistance if necessary. After the junction at Goldsboroa, I commanded the ‘center,’ one of the three grand divisions of Sherman's army.

For the elucidation of some things in this campaign which have seemed obscure, and some acts of General Sherman which have been severely criticized, it is necessary to know the ruling ideas which actuated him. As Sherman says, in his own estimate of the relative importance [347] of his march through Georgia and that through the Carolinas, the former was only a change of base preparatory to the latter, the great final campaign of the war, which had for its end the defeat and capture of Lee's army. Sherman and his army expected to share the glory of capturing Richmond and Lee's army, which had baffled the Eastern troops for four years. This feeling in the army was very general and very manifest at the time.

After the concentration at Goldsboroa, Sherman's plan was to march straight for Lee's rear at Petersburg, and he expected Johnston to keep ahead of him and to unite with Lee for the final struggle at or near Richmond. Grant's idea was quite different: he wanted Sherman to keep between Lee and Johnston and prevent their union, as well as to cut off Lee's retreat if he should escape before Grant was ready to move, the latter alleging that he had ample force to take care of Lee as soon as the necessary preparations were made and the roads would permit him to move. It was this important difference of plan that occasioned Sherman's visit to City Point, where he hoped to gain Grant's acquiescence in his own plans. The result was the movement ordered by Sherman on his return to Goldsboroa, which was substantially the same as that which Grant had before proposed. Grant's immediate army proved to be, as he predicted it would, amply sufficient for the capture of the whole of Lee's army. Hence it is difficult to see in what respect Sherman's campaign of the Carolinas was essential to that great result, or proved to be more important than his march through Georgia. Each was a great raid, inflicting immense damage upon the enemy's country and resources, demoralizing to the people at home and the army in Virginia, cutting off supplies necessary to the support of the latter, possibly expediting somewhat the final crisis at Richmond, and certainly [348] making the subjugation more complete of those of the Southern people who were thus made to ‘feel the weight of war.’ Considered as to its military results, Sherman's march cannot be regarded as more than I have stated—a grand raid. The defeat and practical destruction of Hood's army in Tennessee was what paved the way to the speedy termination of the war, which the capture of Lee by Grant fully accomplished; and the result ought to have been essentially the same as to time if Sherman's march had never been made. The capitulation of Johnston was but the natural sequence of Lee's surrender; for Johnston's army was not surrounded, and could not have been compelled to surrender. Indeed Sherman could not have prevented that army from marching back into the Gulf States and continuing the war for a time. In military history Sherman's great march must rank only as auxiliary to the far more important operations of Grant and Thomas. Sherman at the time saw clearly enough this view of the case; hence his undeviating bent toward the final object of his march, disregarding all minor ends—to take part in the capture of Lee's army.

During General Sherman's interviews with the President and General Grant at City Point, his mind must have been absorbed with this one idea which was the sole reason of his visit. Terms of surrender and the policy to be pursued toward the conquered South must have been referred to very casually, and nothing approximating instructions on the subject can have been received or asked for by General Sherman. Else how is it possible that the very pointed and emphatic instructions of the President to General Grant, dated March 3, 1865,1 were not made known to him or the spirit of them conveyed to him in conversation?

The question of the abstract wisdom of the terms of the [349] Sherman-Johnston ‘memorandum’ has little to do with that of Sherman in agreeing to it. Any person at all acquainted with the politics of the dominant party at that time would have known that it was at least unwise to introduce political questions at all. Besides, he had the example of his superior, the general-in-chief, who had just accepted the surrender of the principal Confederate army from the Confederate generalissimo without any political conditions; and the knowledge of President Lincoln's assassination, which must have made the country unwilling to consent to more liberal terms than had before been granted. Yet, however unwise Sherman's action may have been, the uproar it created, and the attacks upon his honor and integrity for which it was made the excuse, were utterly inexcusable. They were probably unexampled as an exhibition of the effect of great and unusual excitement upon the minds of men unaccustomed to such moral and mental strain.

The most charitable view of this matter seems also to be the most just-namely, that the high officers of government were completely unnerved and lost their heads under the terrible strain produced by President Lincoln's assassination, increased somewhat, perhaps, by a natural apprehension of what might come next. The contrast between this state of excitement in Washington and the marked calm that prevailed throughout the army was very instructive, and it was difficult for any soldier to understand at that time the state of mind in Washington. No part of the people could have felt more deeply or with greater indignation the loss the country had suffered, and the infamous crime by which it had been accomplished. Yet not a ripple of excitement could be seen anywhere in the army. The profound calm which pervades the atmosphere surrounding a great, disciplined, self-confident army is one of the most sublime exhibitions of human nature. [350]

That Sherman felt ‘outraged beyond measure,’ was natural and indeed inevitable. He had committed an error of judgment arising from political inexperience and a failure to appreciate the difference between Mr. Lincoln's humane purposes toward individual Confederates and his political policy. But the error was of the least possible practical consequence, and there was not the slightest excuse for making it public at the time, in violation of all rules of official courtesy. All that it was necessary or right to do was to tell Sherman to correct his error.

While the effect of these ferocious bulletins received some time later was such as General Sherman fully describes, the first effect of the simple disapproval of the convention, both upon Sherman and Johnston, not referred to by either in their published narratives, may be interesting to the readers of history. General Sherman was manifestly much disappointed and mortified at the rejection of his terms, although he had been prepared somewhat by expressions of opinion from others in the interval, and both he and Johnston at their last meeting seemed sad and dejected.

To understand this, it must be remembered that Johnston's army was not surrounded, and its surrender could not have been compelled. Unless the terms of capitulation could be made such as the troops themselves would be willing to accept, they would, it was apprehended, break up into guerrilla bands of greater or less strength and carry on the war in that way indefinitely. So strongly was I impressed at the time with General Johnston's apprehension, that I was often thereafter haunted in my dreams with the difficulties I was actually encountering in the prosecution of military operations against those remnants of the Confederate armies, in marshy and mountainous countries, through summer heats and winter storms. It was several years after the war that [351] I became fully satisfied, at night, that it was really over.

At the time of Sherman's first interview with Johnston I hinted that I would like to accompany him; but he desired me to remain in immediate command, as I was next in rank, and we could not tell what might happen. He took some others with him, but I believe had no one present in the room to assist him in his discussion with Johnston and Breckinridge. At his last interview I accompanied him, by his special request. On meeting at Bennett's House, after the usual salutations Generals Sherman and Johnston retired to the conference room, and were there a long time with closed doors. At length I was summoned to their presence, and informed in substance that they were unable to arrange the terms of capitulation to their satisfaction. They seemed discouraged at the failure of the arrangement to which they had attached so much importance, apprehensive that the terms of Grant and Lee, pure and simple, could not be executed, and that if modified at all, they would meet with a second disapproval. I listened to their statements of the difficulties they had encountered, and then stated how I thought they could all be arranged. General Johnston replied, in substance, ‘I think General Schofield can fix it’; and General Sherman intimated to me to write, pen and paper being on the table where I was sitting, while the two great antagonists were nervously pacing the floor. I at once wrote the military convention of April 26, handed it to General Sherman, and he, after reading it, to General Johnston. Having explained that I, as department commander, after General Sherman was gone, could do all that might be necessary to remove the difficulties which seemed to them so serious, the terms as written by me were agreed to, as General Sherman says, ‘without hesitation,’ and General Johnston, ‘without difficulty,’ and [352] after being copied without alteration were signed by the two commanders. Johnston's words, on handing the paper back to Sherman, were: ‘I believe that is the best we can do.’ It was in pursuance of this understanding that I made with General Johnston the ‘supplemental terms,’ and gave his disbanded men the two hundred and fifty thousand rations, with wagons to haul them, to prevent the troops from robbing their own people, for which, in his ‘Narrative,’ he very properly credits General Sherman.

But I also gave to the troops from each State arms enough to arm a guard to preserve order and protect citizens en route, the arms so used to be turned over to United States officers after the troops got home. This was one of the things most bitterly condemned in Sherman's first agreement. Yet not a word was said when I did it! It would be difficult for a soldier to imagine anything more monstrous than the suggestion that he could not trust the officers and men whom he had been fighting four years to go home and turn in their arms after they had voluntarily surrendered and given their parole of honor to do so. Yet there seem to be even in high places some men who have no conception of the sense of honor which exists among brave men.

When that second ‘convention’ was handed to General Grant the same evening, he said that the only change he would have made would have been to write General Sherman's name before General Johnston's. So would I if I had thought about it; but I presume an unconscious feeling of courtesy toward a fallen foe dictated the order in which their names were written.

It seems to me a little singular that neither General Sherman nor General Johnston thought the circumstances above referred to worthy of being preserved in memory, and I am not quite willing that General Breckinridge shall carry off all the honor of assisting the great [353] commanders to make ‘memoranda’ and ‘military conventions’ at ‘Bennett's House.’ But Sherman and Johnston were writing their own defense, and it was natural that they should omit matter not pertaining thereto. Besides, I was General Sherman's subordinate, and owed him all the help I could give in every way. He may have regarded my services, and perhaps justly, as little more than clerical, after it was all over, even if he thought of the matter at all.2

The Confederate troops were promptly furnished with all needed supplies of food and transportation and sent in comfort to their homes, freed from the necessity of taxing the slender resources of the impoverished people on their routes. The surplus animals and wagons remaining with the army were given to the people of North Carolina in large numbers, and they were encouraged at once to resume their industrial pursuits. In the meantime, all who were in want were furnished with food.

It may not be possible to judge how wise or unwise Sherman's first ‘memorandum’ might have proved if it had been ratified. It is always difficult to tell how things that have not been tried would have worked if they had been. We now know only this much—that the imagination of man could hardly picture worse results than those wrought out by the plan that was finally adopted—namely, to destroy everything that existed in the way of government, and then build from the bottom on the foundation of ignorance and rascality.

The de facto State governments existing at the time of the surrender would have been of infinite service in restoring order and material prosperity, if they had been recognized by the military authority of the United States [354] and kept under military control similar to that exercised by the district commanders under the ‘reconstruction acts.’ And such recognition would in no manner have interfered with any action Congress might have thought it wise to take looking to the organization of permanent governments and the admission of senators and representatives in Congress. After two years of ‘reconstruction’ under President Johnson's ‘policy,’ the Southern State governments were no better than those he had destroyed. Then Congress took the matter in hand, and after years of labor brought forth State governments far worse than either of those that had been torn down.

Party ambition on the one hand, and timidity on the other, were the parents of these great follies. The presidential succession was the mainspring of the first movement and of the opposition thereto, while that and party majority in Congress were the motives of the later ‘reconstruction.’ Both ingloriously failed, as they deserved to do. How much stronger the Republican party would have been if it had relied upon the loyal States which had sustained it through the war, instead of timidly distrusting them and trying to bolster itself up by the aid of the negro and ‘carpet-bag’ governments in the South!

Political reconstruction ought not to have been thought of at the close of the war. What was then needed was local civil government under such military control as might be necessary, restoration of order, industry, and material prosperity, leading to a gradual reorganization of the society which had been completely broken up by the war. After this had been done, and Congress had decided upon the conditions of full restoration, it would have been time enough to inaugurate political reconstruction. This was clear enough at the time to those who had studied the subject and knew by personal observation the real condition and feeling of the Southern people. But the leading politicians of either party do [355] not appear to have had the wisdom and moral courage to advocate such a policy. Both were impatient to see their party represented on the floors of Congress by members from the South.

It was something of the kind above suggested which was aimed at by Generals Sherman and Johnston, and which was deemed wise by the leading generals both North and South. There were several conditions in the memorandum that were clearly inadmissible, though easy of correction without changing the essential features of the document. This was to be expected from a hasty effort to solve a great political problem by a man without political education or experience. Sherman's failure was not unlike that of great politicians who undertake to command armies. Their general ideas may be very good, but they have no knowledge of details, and hence make mistakes resulting in failure.

As now seen, projected upon the dark background of the political history of the Southern States during the twelve years from 1865 to 1877, and compared with the plans of political doctrinaires in 1865, under the light of experience and reason, the Sherman-Johnston memorandum and Sherman's letters of that period seem self-luminous with political wisdom. Sherman needed only the aid of competent military advisers in whom he had confidence to have made him one of the greatest generals of any age, and he would have needed only the aid of competent political advisers to have made him a great statesman. But he looked almost with contempt upon a ‘staff,’ and would doubtless have thought little better of a ‘cabinet.’

The efforts of political leaders to establish an absolutely impossible popular government in the South seem to show the necessity of general political education, no less than the military blunders of the war show the necessity of general military education. If our schools would drop [356] from their course of studies some of the comparatively unimportant ‘ologies,’ and substitute the qualifications for good citizenship, the change would be greatly for the better.

General Sherman was one of those rare actors in historic events who require no eulogy. All his important acts were so unqualifiedly his own, and so emphatically speak for themselves, that it is only necessary to judge of the quality and merits of those acts. There is no question of division of honors between him and any other respecting any of his important operations. It is not meant by this that he was disdainful of the advice or opinions of others. On the contrary, although naturally impulsive and self-reliant, his acquired habit was to study carefully and consult freely with his subordinate commanders respecting all important movements. Yet discussion resulted almost if not quite invariably in the adoption of his own original plans. As to details, he was wont to leave them very much to his subordinates, and, I think, did not estimate very accurately the possibilities or probabilities of the accomplishment of the details necessary to the success of his general plans. It is certainly not too much to say that his expectations in this regard were very frequently unrealized. But of this it must be observed that the character of the theater of war made the handling of a large army extremely difficult, precision of movements impossible, and any accurate estimate of the time in which projected operations could be accomplished by no means easy. Criticism of General Sherman, or of his subordinates, based upon military experience in other countries or upon the success of his able antagonist General Johnston, to whom Sherman's difficulties were corresponding advantages, is likely to be extremely unjust. In short, Sherman's campaigns stand alone, without a parallel in military history; alike unique in their conception, execution, and final results; [357] in most respects among the highest examples of the art of war. Plans so general and original in conception and successful in execution point unmistakably to a very high order of military genius.

In the order of nature, comparison with those that follow as well as those that precede is needed to establish the merits of any individual. A commander may be a great captain compared with his military predecessors, and yet some of his operations be regarded as very faulty by more modern commanders.

Some future historian, with the example before him of a later chieftain who, on a similar field and under similar but improved conditions, may have won more brilliant successes, may be able to determine Sherman's rank among the commanders of past, present, and future ages.

Sufficient is not yet known in this country of the credit due any one individual for the success achieved in the recent campaigns in Europe to furnish the means of just comparison between the European and American commanders of this generation. And even between Grant and Sherman there are so few points of resemblance in military character or methods, that they must be judged by contrasts rather than by comparison. Hence it may always be difficult to determine their exact relative merits as military leaders. Upon this point I forbear, for the present, to express any opinion.

In some other respects Grant and Sherman were hardly less in contrast than in their military characteristics. At the close of the Atlanta campaign, in his letter of September 12, 1864, Grant paid to Sherman the following generous and glowing tribute: ‘In conclusion, it is hardly necessary for me to say that I feel you have accomplished the most gigantic undertaking given to any general in this war, and with a skill and ability that will be acknowledged in history as unsurpassed, if not [358] unequaled. It gives me as much pleasure to record this in your favor as it would in favor of any living man, myself included.’

To this Sherman replied, September 20: ‘In the meantime, know that I admire your dogged perseverance and pluck more than ever.’

There has been much learned discussion of the relative merits of McClellan's, Grant's, and other plans for the ‘capture of Richmond,’ as if that was the object of the campaign. In fact, though the capture of Richmond at any time during the war would have produced some moral effect injurious to the rebellion and beneficial to the Union in public opinion, it would have been a real injury to the Union cause in a military sense, because it would have given us one more important place to garrison, and have increased the length of our line of supplies, always liable to be broken by the enemy's cavalry.

The worst form of operations in such a war is ‘territorial’ strategy, or that which aims at the capture and occupation of territory as a primary object. The best is that which aims at the destruction or capture of the opposing armies as the first and only important object. Grant at Donelson, Vicksburg, and in Virginia best illustrated this kind of strategy.

Halleck was probably the chief of the ‘territorial’ strategists of our Civil War period. In the winter of 1861– 1862 the counties of north Missouri bordering on the Missouri River were infested with guerrillas. Halleck sent Pope, with a force of all arms amounting to a considerable army, to ‘clear them out.’ Pope marched in triumph from one end of that tier of counties to the other, and Halleck then informed me with evident satisfaction that north Missouri was cleared of rebels, and that the war was ended in that part of the State! In fact, the guerrillas, ‘flushed’ like a flock of quail by Pope's advance-guard, had taken to the bush until the rear-guard had [359] passed out of sight, and then were found ‘feeding’ again on their old ground.

I felt greatly complimented when Halleck, on his return from Corinth to St. Louis, en route to Washington to take command of the army, gave me a full explanation of his ‘siege of Corinth,’ including his application of the standard European tactics of a former generation, with its rule of 10,000 men to the mile in line and regular approaches.

I was many years younger than Halleck, Thomas, Sherman, Grant, and the other chief commanders, and hence had much more to learn than they. Perhaps I was also, on account of comparative youth, more teachable. At any rate, the two lessons from Halleck above referred to, and later experience, caused me to do ‘a world of thinking’; so that I was amazed beyond expression when, in the winter of 1863-64, just before Grant was made lieutenant-general, Halleck told me that his plan for the next campaign was to send west of the Mississippi River force enough to finish the war in all that region of country, and then return and clear up the States east of that river! I said nothing, but could not help thinking that it was, sure enough, time to have another general-in-chief of the army. But accepting his strategic theory of operations in the American Civil War,—territorial conquest,—his plans of campaign were unquestionably sound.

Halleck was, I believe, a man of great ability and of high military education, though with little practical experience in war; yet his peculiar views, and still more singular action, have seemed to me very remarkable. He remained in Washington, practically inert, while one of the great armies of which he was general-in-chief was suffering sore reverses, almost in sight of the Capitol, and the country's cause greatly imperiled for want of a competent commander for that army. How could a soldier [360] resist the impulse to ‘do or die’ at the head of that army? But General Halleck must have known better than any one else at that time the limits of his own capacity. He probably knew that even his great ability and education did not suffice to qualify him for the command of an army in the field. If so, his action afforded a patriotic example which some others would have done well to imitate.

As I have before stated, General Halleck was always kind and just to me, so far as I ever knew, and I was much indebted to him for support when it was needed. Now I find in the records the following letter:

Richmond, Va., May 10, 1865, 10:30 A. M.
Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
I beg leave to withdraw for the present my recommendation of Schofield as military governor of North Carolina. It is represented to me that he and General Blair were the principal advisers of Sherman in his armistice with the rebel General Johnston. If so, he is not a proper person to command in North Carolina. I therefore suspend my recommendation for further developments.

H. W. Halleck, Major-General.

The fact was that I had not been present when Sherman's memorandum was agreed upon, had not been consulted about it in any way, and knew nothing of its character until after it had been sent to Washington. All of this Halleck could have learned at once if he had inquired, which he did not. So far as I know, he left on record, without any subsequent explanation or correction, a report which was without the slightest foundation in fact, and which he understood to be very damaging to my reputation. Hence it seems necessary for me to record the fact that there was no foundation for that report. Beyond this I will only say that I think General Halleck, in this slight matter, as in his far more serious [361] conduct toward General Sherman, was inexcusably thoughtless respecting the damage he might do to the reputation of a brother soldier. The least a true man can do is to make suitable public reparation if he has for any reason done publicly a personal injustice.

I knew personally at the time the exact truth respecting the action of General Halleck toward General Grant before the battle of Shiloh, especially in ordering Grant to remain in the rear while General C. F. Smith was sent with the advance of the army to Pittsburg Landing, as described by General Grant in his ‘Memoirs.’ Halleck hoped Smith might fight a battle and win a victory in Grant's absence, which would naturally be followed by an order putting Smith in command in place of Grant. But Halleck had not anticipated Grant's soldierly action in applying to be relieved, and was not prepared to face that emergency. As soon as Grant's application reached St. Louis, Halleck abandoned that line of action, but he did not abandon his purpose to supersede Grant in some way until some time later. Whatever excuse there may have been at that time for Halleck's opinion of Grant, nothing can be said in favor of the method he adopted to accomplish his purpose to supersede him.

The action of Grant in this case well foreshadowed that which occurred when he was tendered the commission of lieutenant-general and the command of all the armies. Grant would not hold any commission or command without full authority to perform the duties belonging to it. In his ‘Memoirs’ he modestly refrains from relating the most important part of that action, as he told it to me on the war-steamer Rhode Island the next January. Before accepting the commission from President Lincoln, as Grant describes, he said in substance that if it meant that he was to exercise actual command of all the armies, without any interference from the War Department, he was willing to accept it, [362] otherwise he could not. To illustrate what he meant, Grant said to me that when he was coming East to accept that commission he determined that he would not be ‘McClellanized.’

The personal observation, experience, and emotions of an individual soldier may perhaps be interesting to the reader. I have never been a lover of war or strife, and have never been disposed to seek a fight or quarrel. But when once engaged in or challenged to battle all the combativeness in human nature is at once aroused. It is then difficult, if not morally impossible, to decline the challenge. At all events, that question is not even thought of at times. One of the most difficult lessons a commander has to learn is when to offer or accept battle, and when to refrain or decline—that is, to be complete master of his own natural combativeness. That courage which is the highest quality of a private or a subordinate officer may become extremely dangerous in a commander, unless dominated by that higher moral courage which is undisturbed by excitement or passion. Grant probably possessed this higher quality in a greater degree than any other commander of our time. Sherman and Thomas also possessed it in a very high degree. In Sherman it was the more remarkable because he was naturally impulsive, and often manifested this trait, especially in minor matters. He acquired the power of absolute self-command in battle. With Thomas this quality appeared to be perfectly natural, as it did with Grant.

Since I had to fight, I sometimes regretted that I could not have a chance with a musket in the ranks (behind a good parapet and ‘head-log,’ of course!), for I was a remarkably good shot in my youth. But I never had a chance to fire a shot in battle except once, and that was with my artillery at Fredericktown, Missouri, where not an officer or man in the battery had any idea how to [363] point a field-piece and give it proper elevation according to the distance. I quickly found the proper elevation by the means well known to artillerists, and then directed the battery to go on firing at that elevation, while I was called upon by the commanding officer to devote myself to some men with muskets. I have seen this passion so strong that a major-general commanding an army corps would dismount and act the part of gunner to a fieldpiece, apparently oblivious to the battle raging all along the line of his corps.

Personal feeling in battle is sometimes remarkable, even to the person himself. In my own experience, the degree of danger was not often entirely unthought of; and in the comparatively few cases where it was, the actual danger was much the greatest ever experienced by me. That such should be the experience of a general in chief command, under the responsibilities of a great battle, is natural enough; but that the same should occur when there is little or no responsibility seems worthy of remark in reference to its apparent cause. In my first battle,—that of Wilson's Creek,—where I was a staff officer under a soldier of great experience, ability, and unsurpassed courage,—General Lyon,—I felt for a long time no sense of responsibility whatever. I had only to convey his orders to the troops. Yet the absorption of my mind in the discharge of this simple duty, and in watching the progress of the battle, was so complete that I absolutely had no thought whatever of self. Even after Lyon had been twice wounded, both of our horses killed, the troops on our left given way in disorder, leaving us standing in the line, only a few feet to the left of Totten's battery, under a murderous fire, it did not occur to me that I also might possibly be hit. I had not even thought for a moment that the commanding general ought not to be in such an exposed position, or that his wounds ought to have surgical treatment! [364] My absolute confidence in my chief left no room in my mind for even such thoughts as those. It was not until wounds had produced discouragement in the bravest soul I ever knew that I was aroused to some sense of my own responsibility as his senior staff officer, and spontaneously said: ‘No, general; let us try it again.’ I was so much absorbed in the battle itself at that time, and even after Lyon's death, that it did not occur to me that wounds and death, even of the commanding general himself, were of any consequence except as they might influence the progress and final result of the battle. This is the feeling that must dominate the action of every successful commander. It is remarkable only because of its early development in one not then under any such responsibility.

It may not be a proper subject for criticism at this time, and certainly is not for any that might seem harsh or unkind, yet it is an instructive lesson which ought never to be forgotten, that feeling and passion sometimes more than reason, sound military principles, or wise statesmanship, dictated military as well as political policy during and long after the Civil War.

No doubt all are now ready to admit this in respect to the political measures which wrought so much evil in the South during the so-called reconstruction period. But those who are not familiar with the facts will, I think, be amazed when they see the evidences of this influence in military operations, and perhaps at no time more strikingly than during the last period of the Civil War. It would seem that the official correspondence of that period ought to be a sufficient warning to deter any future generation from bringing the country into a condition where even some of the most distinguished citizens, statesmen, and soldiers seem to be governed more by passion than by reason in the conduct of public affairs. The inevitable horrors of war are bad enough in any [365] case, but they are vastly increased when the passions begotten of civil strife become dominant. While all parts of the United States have reason for pride in the manhood and valor of American soldiers, and in the patriotic devotion of citizens to the cause which they believed to be right, and profound gratitude for the restoration of the Union of the States, the people of this entire country should bow their heads in humiliation when they think of the general low state of civilization which made such a war possible, and much of its conduct the dictate of passion and hate rather than of reason or regard for the public good. Even if it is true, as some soldier-statesmen have said, but which I do not believe, that occasional wars are necessary to the vitality of a nation,—necessary to keep up the fires of patriotism and military ardor upon which the national life depends,— let them be foreign and not civil wars. It is a great mistake, though apparently a common one, to suppose that a country benefits ultimately, in some mysterious way, by civil war, in spite of all its losses during the war. That able scientist General M. C. Meigs demonstrated years ago that this country had, in accordance with a general law, suffered permanent national injury, irreparable in all future time, by its Civil War, and showed very closely the amount of that injury.

It is, no doubt, true that the body politic, like the natural body, may in extreme cases be so diseased either by inheritance or from violation of natural laws, as to require the surgeon's knife to remove the diseased part. But in such a case there is little cause for pride except in the skill of the surgeon, and little cause for rejoicing except in the fact that the operation was successful, that neither the disease nor the surgeon's knife killed the patient.

While the great Von Moltke and others were unquestionably right in their views of the necessity for thorough [366] preparation for war at all times, I believe that indispensable preparation can be made in a way vastly more satisfactory than by actual war. And this can be done with only a trifling expenditure of treasure, and at no cost whatever in blood and sorrow, nor in suspension of peaceful pursuits, nor in burdensome debts, nor in enormous disbursements for pensions. Let the schools of all kinds and all grades teach patriotism, respect for law, obedience to authority, discipline, courage, physical development, and the rudiments of practical military manoeuvers; let the national and State military schools be fostered and perfected, and the volunteer citizen soldiery given material aid proportionate to their patriotic military zeal. Let the fortifications of the sea-coasts and the fleets of battle-ships and cruisers on the ocean be commensurate with the vast national interests and honor intrusted to their protection and defense; let the standing army be sufficient to discharge the duties which require long and scientific education and training, and to serve as models and instructors for the millions of young citizens: then will the United States, by being always ready for war, insure to themselves all the blessings of peace, and this at a cost utterly insignificant in comparison with the cost of one great war. It is a source of profound gratification to an old soldier who has long worked toward this great end to know that his country has already, in his short lifetime, come so near this perfect ideal of a peace-loving yet military republic. Only a few more years of progress in the direction already taken, and the usual prolongation of natural life will yet enable me to witness the realization of this one great object of my earthly ambition.

1 War Records, Vol. XLVI, part II, p. 802.

2 For the military convention of April 26, 1865, signed by Sherman and Johnston, and the supplemental terms, signed by Johnston and Schofield, see War Records, Vol. XLVII, part III, pp. 313, 482.

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