Chapter 1: Introductory.
is one of the most popular heroes of the late war. He has published his book after ten years of reflection upon events in which he bore most conspicuous and honorable part; During these years he has had uninterrupted access to the official records, including their most confidential papers; and in view of his high position, his opportunities for intimate knowledge and his popularity, what he has now written will, in spite of himself, be accepted as history by most readers who have not the means of testing his story by the records.
It is believed that the extracts from these, presented in this volume, will prove sufficient to thoroughly fortify General Sherman
in the claim that his book is not history, and so in part prevent the injustice which will be done to many distinguished officers and brave armies, if what he has written be received as accurate.
No criticisms of the strategy or the tactics of General Sherman
will be found in these pages, except such as are plainly called forth by the records produced.
High as is the position which he occupies, great as is the authority with which he speaks, there is nothing in either which should afford him the least protection in the eyes of his countrymen, if he be found detracting from the merit or the fame which belongs to his associates.
It might be pardoned in one who accomplished so much if he had contented himself with moderately magnifying his own achievements, but when he goes beyond this, and claims the
merit which belongs to others, and steps still beyond and attempts to belittle the deeds of men in no respect his inferiors' as generals or soldiers, and does cruel injustice to whole armies, the harmless vanity of the successful general becomes the gigantic wrong of the false historian.
In a broad and high sense, the merit of every man who bore a musket faithfully, and slept finally in the grave of the ‘unknown,’ is as great as his. His Memoirs arraign the dead as well as the living.
The files of the War Department afford an answer for both; These orders, letters, telegrams, and reports, written either before, at the time, or immediately after the occurrence of the events ordered, in progress, or accomplished, photographed the truth, and in these the living and the dead find just defense.
, and their companions, speak for themselves, and vindicate themselves from unjust aspersions.
Here, in short, truth is made manifest, and exact justice done.
The position which General Sherman
occupies now, and that which he held during the war, will naturally, and of necessity, give the force of history to what he has written, in spite of any disclaimer he may make, and this historical character will attach to these Memoirs so long as they remain uncorrected by the official record.
For the benefit of comrades living, who can not conveniently consult these records, and especially in vindication of such as are dead, it should be esteemed a duty by all who can reach the files, to search them carefully, with a view to overthrow error and establish truth.
So far as General Sherman
's book conforms to official papers, their production can only strengthen him; so far as it fails to agree with these, it not only deserves to be condemned, but its condemnation should be measured by the prominence of the author and his abundant facilities for obtaining accurate information.
Judged by the official record, the verdict must be that the work is intensely egotistical, unreliable, and cruelly unjust to nearly all his distinguished associates.
Our erratic General
thrusts his pen recklessly through reputations which are as dear to the country as his own. He detracts from what right fully belongs to Grant
; misrepresents and belittles Thomas
; withholds justice from Buell
, repeatedly loads failures for which he was responsible, now upon Thomas
, now upon Schofield
, now upon McPherson
, and again upon the three jointly; is unjust in the extreme to Rosecrans
; sneers at Logan
; insults Hooker
, and slanders Stanton
The salient points of the long story are readily found by those who either followed, or made themselves familiar by study with his campaigns.
The reader turns naturally for explanations of the surprise and attending disgrace at Shiloh
; the ill-judged and fatal assault at Chickasaw Bayou
; the protest against the move by which Vicksburg
was captured; his failure to carry the point assigned him at the battle of Chattanooga
; the escape of Johnston
; the terrible mistake of the assault on Kenesaw
; the plunging of his army, marching by the flank, into Hood
's line of battle under the supposition that Atlanta
was evacuated; the escape of the rebel army from Savannah
; the careless and inexcusable periling and narrow escape of his own army at Bentonville
; and lastly, the political surrender to Johnston
: these are points upon which every reader desires light.
But instead of gaining it, he finds that for most, the chief aim of the author seems to be to make the darkness more impenetrable.
The succeeding chapters will treat, in their order, of the prominent movements and battles which General Sherman
passes in review in his Memoirs, and in each of these the version of his book will be compared with the facts as disclosed by the records now on file in the War Department.