back to Washington
without allowing his presence to be known to the enemy.
He had assumed no command, received no surrender, and manifested, as he felt, no diminution in his respect and regard for Sherman
Before reaching the capital, however, he found that the Secretary of War
had published a remarkable document, denouncing Sherman
, and that an intense excitement prevailed among the loyal people at the North
made it his especial duty to vindicate his great lieutenant, throwing around his friend the shield of his own reputation, and assuring every one that Sherman
's loyalty was as unquestionable as his own. The indignation of the country, however, was at first extreme, and nothing but Grant
's own popularity, and the persistency with which he defended Sherman
, saved that illustrious soldier from insult, and possibly degradation.
Before long, however, the feeling changed, and Sherman
resumed his natural and appropriate place in the estimation and affection of the people whom he had so nobly served.
The country and posterity will doubtless always hold that Sherman
erred in judgment at this crisis.
But it was from the generous impulse of a soldier, who sees his enemy defeated and in his power, and would blush to strike a fallen foe. He doubtless also felt a noble ambition to avert any further misery from the land that had suffered so much, and to restore at once to a united country the longab-sent benefits of peace.
He had the knowledge of Grant
's clemency at Appomattox
, and was aware of the charity which had animated Lincoln
's great heart.
Everything conspired to make him accede too readily