President Davis in reply to General Sherman.[In our last issue, we noticed a slander which General W. T. Sherman was pleased to make against the ex-President of the Confederacy, and Mr. Davis's emphatic denial, and his challenge of Sherman to produce the proof. The following letter, published in the Baltimore Sun, is not only an able and unanswerable reply to Sherman, but contains other matter which should have a place in our records, and be handed down for the use of the future historian. No wonder that General Sherman has thrown himself back on his dignity(?!), and declined to reply to this terrible but deserved excoriation.]
The letter of Mr. Davis.
The publication of the above letter attracted very general notice, and two interviews were had with General Sherman by reporters of the Globe-Democrat and from the St. Louis Chronicle. In the Globe-Democrat of November 25, 1884, General Sherman is reported as having said: ‘Whatever explanation I make will be made over my, own signature. I do not propose to get into a fight with Jeff. Davis. * * When a man makes a newspaper statement he is never sure of being quoted correctly, but when he makes a statement in his own handwriting, he is sure of being placed in the right place.’ The St. Louis Chronicle of November 24, 1884, reports General Sherman as saying: ‘This is an affair between two gentlemen. I will take my time about it and write to Mr. Davis himself. We will settle the matter between us.’ When asked by the reporter, ‘Have the papers misrepresented you in your remarks before the Frank Blair Post, G. A. R.?’ He replied, ‘I say nothing about that. My reply to Mr. Davis will not be through the newspapers. They are not the arbiters of this question, nor the go-between for any dispute. I have nothing more to say.’ It is hardly necessary for me to say that General Sherman did not write to me, and we have not settled the matter between us otherwise  than as I settled it by denouncing his statement as false and himself as a slanderer. There the matter would have rested so far as I was concerned, and anything that Sherman, on his own responsibility, might have afterwards said would have been treated by me with that silence which the mendacious utterings of an irresponsible slanderer deserved. But when the War Department of the United States was made the custodian of his slander, and the Republican Senators became its endorsers, and the statements made at the Frank Blair Post were lifted into official importance, it became a duty, alike to myself and to the people I represented, to follow the slanders with my denial, and to expose alike its author and his endorsers. The United States Senate, by resolution offered by Senator Hawley, and debated during January 12 and 13, 1885, called upon the President of the United States ‘to communicate to the Senate a historical statement concerning the public policy of the executive department of the Confederate States during the late war of the rebellion, reported to have been lately filed in the War Department by General William T. Sherman.’ It was by means of that resolution that the slander was revived, and its utterer enabled to mould together a pretended foundation for his baseless utterance at the Frank Blair Post. While the matter was fresh in the memory and under the searching inquiry of the newspaper reporters, General Sherman represented that he could not consistently give the name of the Senator to whom he said the letter had been written, and after every Senator from the Southern States had denied receiving any such letter, and many of them had expressed their belief that no such letter ever had been in existence, he failed to sustain his assertion by the production of proof of the existence of a letter from me such as he had alleged he had seen. After such full denial both by myself, the reputed writer, and by every Senator who could have been the receiver of that pretended letter, the Senate offered an opportunity to General Sherman to unload his slander deposited in the War Department, and to spread the vile mass on the files of the United States Senate. In the interval between the meeting at the Frank Blair Post in November, 1884, and January 6, 1885, Dr. H. C. Robbins, of Cresson, Ogle county, Illinois, loaned Sherman a letter, which he said had been written by the late Alexander H. Stephens to the late Herschel V. Johnson, both now dead. Sherman being unable to verify his authority for the assertion made by him at the Frank Blair Post, this Stephens-Johnson letter was to be substituted for the Davis letter, which, with the circumstantiality needful to one having little credibility,  Sherman said he had seen, knew to be mine from his acquaintance with my handwriting, and appended to which he identified my signature. In view of the peremptory demand made for the letter, and in the absence of any answer as to where or when or in whose possession it was seen, a gentleman might hesitate to decide whether subterfuge were more paltry or absurd. The next attempt at deception was to represent the war records in confusion, but this device failed as signally as had the other misrepresentations of General Sherman. On the 12th of December, five days after the publication of his certificate, the following press telegram swept that subterfuge away from him: Washington, D. C, December 12.—The statement that the rebellion archives, now in the War Department, are in confusion, and that if the Davis letter, to which General Sherman has referred, were there, it would take much time, and involve great search to find it, is erroneous. The archives have all been gone over thoroughly in the preparation of the War Records in progress of publication, and persons in charge of the archives, and who have a knowledge of their contents, say that no such letter as that spoken of by General Sherman is now there, or has ever been there. It is apparent, then, that Sherman never saw any such letter of mine as that which he said he had read and identified by my signature, and that the Stephens-Johnson letter was acquired after the speech had been made, and was seized upon to create a pretext upon which he could excuse his falsehood. The conclusive proof which had come to light by denials from Senators of having received from me any such letter, and by their denying that they had ever heard any such opinions expressed by me, placed Sherman in a dilemma from which to advance involved further falsehood, and from which retreat was only possible with humiliation and disgrace. He selected the easier course, and went forward with falsehood attending every step. In his letter to the War Department, of January 6, 1885, he says he found my letter at Raleigh, North Carolina, saying: ‘Among the books collected at the palace in Raleigh was a clerk's or secretary's copy-book, containing loose sheets and letters, among which was the particular letter of Mr. Davis to which I referred in my St. Louis speech, and notwithstanding,’ he said, ‘I gave it little attention at the time,’ yet he claimed twenty odd years after that he could recall its expressions and repeat its purport. He said that the  Stephens-Johnson letter was the letter, and here's the original, but he reported to the War Department that ‘the particular letter of Mr. Davis’ was found by him in Raleigh. Senator Vance, upon hearing of the alleged Raleigh letter, promptly denied all knowledge of it, and wrote to the Washington Post, under date of December 13, 1885, that: ‘Every letter ever written to me on a political topic by President Davis is to be found faithfully copied on the official letter-books of the executive department of North Carolina. Those letter-books were taken from me by General Sherman's troops at the closing of the war, and are now in possession of the War Department in this city. Aside from the letter-books, General Sherman never saw any letter addressed to me by President Davis. Although I have not seen those books and read their contents in almost twenty years, I am quite sure that no such letter can be found there. I could not have forgotten such a letter had it been received by me. The suggestion, therefore, that I am the person referred to in General Sherman's statement is entirely untrue. The attempt of some newspapers to give probability to this suggestion, by alleging that I was in bitter hostility whilst Governor of North Carolina to the administration of Mr. Davis, is based also upon a misrepresentation of the facts.’ Senator Vance at the same time sent to the Washington Post a copy of my letter to him of date November 1, 1862, which he said
contains no such expression as a threat against States attempting to secede from the Confederacy, but does contain this expression: I feel grateful to you for the cordial manner in which you have sustained every proposition connected with the public defence. This much is due to truth. I do not wish to pose as a martyr to the circumstances of those times, or as one ready to turn upon his associates after defeat. I desire to take my full share of responsibility for anything I did and said during those unhappy times. Great as were the abilities, and high as were the courage and faithfulness of Mr. Davis, I have no disposition to load him with all the misfortunes of defeat.Before the publication of the above letter from Senator Vance in the Washington Post, interviews with Senator Vance had developed the fact that a correspondence had taken place during the war between Governor Vance and myself, and at that General Sherman also grasped as the foundation for his slander. A St. Louis Republican reporter, on the 15th of December, 1884, asked General Sherman, ‘Was Senator Vance, the Senator referred to in your  speech at the opening of the new headquarters of the Frank Blair Post?’ ‘Well, sir,’ said General Sherman, very slowly, ‘I won't say that he wasn't.’ My alleged Raleigh letter has never been found. Sherman says it was sent to Nashville, Savannah, Washington and St. Louis, and may have been finally burned in Chicago in the great fire in 1871. But in all its travels no other person but Sherman saw it; not a single officer at any headquarters has been produced who read it, and it passes belief that in the excitement of the closing days of the war, and during my imprisonment, when every letter of mine was carefully examined to find evidence upon which to convict and destroy me, that not an officer at all those headquarters should have read that letter. Every fair-minded man must therefore conclude that General Sherman stated at the Grand Army Post a willful and deliberate falsehood, and that his motive had its inspiration in that mean malice which has characterized his acts and writings in other respects towards the Southern people. A man so lost to every sense of truth deserved to receive the contempt of every one who values veracity, but Senator Hawley, in offering the resolution above quoted, said: ‘Personally, however, he did not hesitate to say that in a controversy between Jefferson Davis and General Sherman he (Mr. Hawley) was on General Sherman's side all the time.’ High qualification that for an United States Senator, who may sit a judge in the Court of Impeachment, the highest tribunal of the land. I leave Mr. Hawley by General Sherman's side, with no desire whatever to have either one or the other on my side. Senator Conger denied my equal citizenship with Sherman until ‘something’ is done by me; if that ‘something’ to be done is to take such part as that filled by Sherman and his indorsers on this occasion, the described inequality must ever remain. Another Senator (Ingalls) evinced very great indignation because ‘the Democratic party had in debate in the Senate taken sides with Jefferson Davis,’ and that ‘they had always indorsed him, always approved his course, and had declared that there was nothing wrong in his record that would convince posterity that he was not a man of honor and a patriot,’ and that ‘the Senator from Alabama (Mr. Morgan) and the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Vest) had taken occasion to inform the Senate that there were millions of people in the United States to day who loved Jefferson Davis, and to whom Jefferson Davis was endeared by the memory of common hardships, common privations and common  calamities.’ It is not surprising that such expressions of confidence and regard should have been drawn out in a debate upon a resolution which had for its purpose the indorsement by the Senate of a mean slander, which was known to be unfounded in truth, and important only as covering with the mantle of the Senate the mendacity of a retired General of the army. The Senate having given vitality to Sherman's slander, a full reply to the opinions and expressions therein is made, so that hereafter it may derive no credit even from its official character. The so-called ‘historical statement concerning the public policy of the executive department of the Confederate States,’ as Sherman's letter to the War Department is headed in that ‘Ex. Doc.,’ opens with the following statement: ‘That I (Sheriman) had seen papers which convinced me that even Mr. Davis, the President of the Southern Confederacy, had, during the progress of the war, changed his State rights doctrines, and had threatened to use force-even Lee's army—should any State of the Confederacy attempt to secede from that government.’ With the mental process by which General Sherman is ‘convinced,’ I have no concern, but the ‘papers’ in which he alleged that I ‘threatened’ to use force against the States of the Confederacy, ought to be tangible and producible, and in an ‘historical statement,’ the Senate ought to have demanded the production of the proofs, and on the failure to produce them, and after denial by Senators who Sherman alleged had received them, such an ‘historical statement,’ already branded with falsehood and unsupported by evidence, ought to have been rejected with only wonder how it got before the Senate. In the absence of all authority for the statement, or of any creditable witness, General Sherman asserts that I abandoned my State rights doctrine, the unsupported assertion of a man whose reputation for veracity is not good, and who could have had no personal knowledge, must weigh light as a feather against all the testimony of my official life, as well as against the recollections of all those most intimately connected with me, not a few of whom criticised my strict adherence to the Constitution and laws. His reiteration, even ‘a thousand times,’ will fail to convince any reasonable man that he did not know he never had seen any ‘papers’ written by me threatening to use the army against any State of the Confederacy. In this connection, I may refer to my action when Kentucky was invaded by the United States army and her people prevented by military power from acting for themselves on the question of secession.  My personal friend and family physician, Dr. A. Y. P. Garnett, of Washington city, in a letter of the 17th of January last, recalls to my memory the application of himself and other friends to me to send military aid into Kentucky, there to support the friends of the Southern States. My letter of January 22d to Dr. Garnett, explains the principles that guided me on that occasion. In that letter I said:
Yours of the 17th instant has this day been received, and to your inquiry I reply that, though it is not in my power to recite the language employed in response to you and others who urged me to send Confederate troops into Kentucky to prevent the Federal government from intimidating the Legislature and people of that State by a military occupation, and thus to prevent Kentucky from passing an ordinance of secession, I do well remember that to you, as to others, I answered substantially that I would not do such violence to the rights of the State. No one could have felt a deeper interest or more affectionate regard for Kentucky than I did, and it may well be that I did not believe the people of Kentucky, the State especially distinguished in the early period of her history for the assertion of State rights and State remedies, could be driven from the maintenance of a creed which had ever been her point of pride. My answer, as correctly stated by you, shows that my decision was not based on expediency, and however reluctant I may have been to reject the advice of yourself and other friends, in whose judgment and sincerity I had implicit confidence, I would not, for all the considerations involved, disregard the limitations of our Constitution and violate the cardinal principle which had been the guiding star of my political life.The use made by General Sherman of an extract from a ‘Southern paper’ as evidence that I encouraged expressions of hostility to State sovereignty, and thus was preparing to subvert the very Confederacy of which I was President, has drawn forth from Mr. Nat. Tyler, the surviving editor of the Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, the following letter: