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Chapter 10: Sherman's Army.

The day after the review of our Second and Fifth Corps of the Army of the Potomac was appointed for a review on the same ground of Sherman's famous Army of the West. A feeling of comradeship and admiration rather than anything of jealousy or disposition for invidious comparison took many of us over to witness that grand spectacle. It was well worth a day's devotion to see the men who had fought those tremendous battles of the West and had marched nearly two thousand miles, cutting through the midst of an enemy's country with such demonstration of power that all obstacles fled before them. And our admiration of the brilliant soldier who had the ability to plan and the resolution to execute a movement so masterly in strategy and tactics lent a certain awe to our emotion.

The preparations for the review and the formation of the column were much as they were for the Army of the Potomac. The sky was wonderfully beautiful and the earth gave good greeting under foot. As before, the streets were lined and thronged [365] with people, and the houses and especially the stands in the vicinity of the President's House were even more crowded than the day before. The prestige of this army that had marched from the Great River to the Sea, and thence up half the Atlantic coast, bringing the fame of mighty things done afar, stirred perhaps more the hearts and imaginations of the people than did the familiar spectacle of men whose doings and non-doings had been an every-day talk, and who so often had walked their streets in hurrying ranks or pitiful forlornness and thronged their hospitals, year after year, in service and suffering, unboastful and uncomplaining. But not a craven thought was in our spirits because these that came after us were preferred before us. We rejoiced in the recognition given them and led in the applause.

Down the avenue poured the shining river of steel, gay with colors and rippling with cascades of mounted staff and burnished cannon. At the head proud, stern Sherman, who with thoughtful kindness had brought brave Howard, now ordered to other important duty, to ride by his side in this pageant. Following next is swarthy John Logan, leading the Army of the Tennessee, and Hazen with the Fifteenth Corps. Each division is preceded by its corps of black pioneers, shining like polished ebony, armed with pick and spade, proud of their perfect alignment, keeping step to the music with inborn stress. Significant frontispiece. Almost equally interesting was the corps of foragers, familiarly known as Sherman's “bummers,” following [366] each brigade. These were characteristic representatives of the career of that army, and they tried to appear as nearly as possible like what they were in that peculiar kind of service. Their dress, and free and easy bearing, as well as their packmules and horses with rope bridles, laden with such stores as they had gathered from the country through which they passed, was a remarkable feature in a military review.

We were told that General Sherman witnessing our review had told his leading commanders that our military appearance and even marching could not be surpassed or even equalled by their own men, and it was resolved that they would not make the attempt to rival us in this regard but would appear as nearly as possible as they looked while “marching through Georgia.” But they did both. As was to be expected, their marching was superb, both steady and free, not as if forced for the occasion, but by habit or second nature: distances maintained; lines perfectly “dressed” on the “guide left” ; eyes steady to the front.

Further evidence of the liberality of their commanders in yielding something to the spirit of liberty, or at least to the instinct so significantly planted in man to establish relations with the kingdoms or subjects of nature supposed to be below him, appeared in the tokens of personal freedom allowed the men in the midst of their military discipline and the formalities of this occasion. The monotony of these formalities was strangely relieved by what seemed to us Army of [367] the Potomac men hazardous breach of discipline. A comical medley of pets had their part in the parade and the applause: in one of the regiments an eagle borne on a perch beside the colors; in others, a cat, or a coon, favorably mounted for reciprocal inspection, as well as the pack-mules, laden, as was their wont, with stores,--but mostly quite a variation upon those issued by the commissary or quartermaster, symbols of extinguished domestic dynasties, and lost civilizations. In another place, a genre picture of the farmyard: milch-cows, ponies, goats, and figuring proudly in the center Chanticleer, loudly defying his mates, --no longer rivals,--responding lustily from some corresponding elevation, whether allies or aliens. As a climax, with significance which one might ponder, whole families of freed slaves, as servants, trustfully leading their little ones, obedient to fate, silent, without sign of joy; more touching in some ways than the proud passing column; more touching in some deep ways than the spectacle of captive kings led in the triumph of imperial Rome.

So pass in due order of precedence all the corps of that historic army,--the men of Shiloh, of Corinth, of Vicksburg, of Missionary Ridge, of Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Altoona. We cannot name them familiarly, but we accord them admiration.

And now comes a corps which we of the Army of the Potomac may be pardoned for looking on with peculiar interest. It is the Twentieth Corps, led by Mower, the consolidation of our old Eleventh [368] and Twelfth (Howard's and Slocum's), reduced now to scarcely more than two divisions, those of Williams and Geary. We recognize regiments that had last been with us on the hard-pressed right wing at Gettysburg: the 2d Massachusetts; 5th and 20th Connecticut; 60th, 102d, 107th, 123d, 137th, 149th, 150th New York; the 13th New Jersey; the 11th, 28th, 109th, 147th Pennsylvania; the 5th, 29th, 61st, 66th, 82d Ohio; and the 3d Wisconsin. We also gladly see the 33d Massachusetts, with the gentle and chivalrous Underwood. Leading one of the brigades we recognize the manly Coggswell of Massachusetts. These were the men with Hooker on Lookout Mountain, in “the battle above the clouds,” whither also their fame has risen. Not cloyed nor stinted is the greeting we give to these returning men,--for them, as for those that have passed on. Strong is the brotherhood of a common experience,--the kinship of a new birth to the broader life of a regenerated country.

And now the shadows draw around us; for the long summer day is scarcely long enough for the mighty march of these far-marched men. General Sherman has told us he mustered in these armies when last gathered more than fifty-seven thousand men. Well might the passing of so many fill all the hours since the well advanced morning of the start.

The shadows deepen. It has passed,--the splendid pageant; it is gone forever,--the magnificent host that streamed from the mountains to the [369] sea; that flaming bolt which cut the Confederacy in two,--or shall we say that left its deep track upon the earth to mark the dark memories of those years; or to shine forever as a token of saving grace in the galaxy of the midnight sky?

The same high personages were on the reviewing stand with the President as on the day before,--a distinguished and august company. As General Sherman with Howard and Logan after saluting at the head of the column mounted the reviewing stand and exchanged warm greetings with all, Sherman took pains to make it manifest that he refused to take Stanton's offered hand. This was surprising to many, but those of us who while encamped along the Southside Railroad after Lee's surrender had occasion to know about the circumstances attending Sherman's negotiations with Johnston for surrender, could not wonder at it. When Sherman, supposing he was acting in accordance with the policy of the government as he had understood it from Lincoln, made terms for the surrender of Johnston's army, involving matters pertaining to the political status of the Southern people and a policy of reconstruction,--undoubtedly therein exceeding any prerogatives of a military commander,--the President disapproved of them and gave directions for hostilities to be resumed. But in carrying these into effect, Secretary Stanton took an equally unwarrantable course in his orders to Meade and Sheridan, and to Wright (then at Danville), to pay no attention to Sherman's armistice or orders, but to push forward and [370] cut off Johnston's retreat, while in fact Johnston had virtually surrendered already to Sherman. Halleck repeated this with added disrespect; and still more to humiliate Sherman, Stanton gave sanction by his name officially signed to a bulletin published in the New York papers entertaining the suggestion that Sherman might be influenced by pecuniary considerations to let Jeff Davis get out of the country. This was not short of infamous on Stanton's part. Sherman meant so to stigmatize it, and he did, in the face of all on a supreme public occasion. With our experience of discipline, we wondered what the next move of Stanton would be. Sherman might have declined the President's hand; but President Johnson had assured him that he knew nothing about the bulletins, as Stanton had not consulted anybody nor shown them to any member of the Cabinet. Had the President sanctioned them, I doubt not Sherman would have resented the act from whomsoever coming. Sherman was a “hale fellow well met,” but a hard fellow when unfairly treated.

For all General Sherman's compliments on the appearance of our army, he was quite sensitive about the comparison of the intrinsic merits of his army and ours. He did not hesitate to affirm that his army was superior to ours in drill and discipline. In precisely these points we could not agree with him. It is true that his troops in passing in review did keep their relative distances well, and their shoulders square and eyes steady to the front, [371] while it may be possible that some of our men may have turned their eyes towards the personages they were honoring,--as surely is the rule of courtesy in civil society, with which these men might be more familiar. But I think the General made too wide an inference from the narrow field of his observed instances. If comparisons are to be instituted, it may be that in marching his troops surpassed ours. That had been a large part of their business; our occupations had been more varied. We had done some running on several occasions, and a good deal of fighting. As to drill and discipline, the direct comparative evidence was scanty. But the probability that the Army of the Potomac would be deficient in these respects is negatived by the presumption from the nature of the case: in the military character of our commanders, and the exigency of the situation, which demanded that the men should be made proficient for their pressing need, and by every possible means drilled, instructed, and inured to the discipline of the field; as also our proximity to the capital and the eyes of exacting critics. Foreign military observers had pronounced our drill and discipline to be of the highest order.

It is possible that General Sherman may have felt the usefulness of bold assertion on this subject of his superiority in drill and discipline. We do not deem the decision a vital matter for our fame; but when invidious comparisons are announced by high authority, we may justly call attention to the evidence. In the qualities which make up human [372] nature our Western compatriots were certainly our equals.

After this review, things were not so pleasant as they might be in our big camps along the river. At first the greetings were such as good-fellowship and novelty of intercourse prompted. But we were soon made aware of a feeling we had not before suspected on the part of many of our comrades of the Western army. We certainly had never had an intimation of it among the many Western men in our own army. There seemed to be a settled dislike to us, latent at least, among Sherman's men. In a certain class their manner was contemptuous and bullying. They threatened to come over and “burst us up,” and “clean us out.” Some directed their objurgations upon the whole “East,” --the Yankees generally; and more against the Army of the Potomac in particular. “You couldn't fight.” --“You are babies and hospital cats.” --“We did all the marching and all the fighting.” --“We had to send Grant and Sheridan up to teach you how to fight.” --“Lee licked you, and was running away to get something to eat, poor fellow.” --“You wouldn't have caught him if we hadn't marched two thousand miles to drive him into the trap.” On some of these points we might be a little tender; though on the whole we thought the charge a perversion of fact.

But we had some “Bowery boys” and Fire Zouaves in our army too; and what they wanted was to get at these “Sherman's Bummers” and settle the question in their own Cossack and Tartar [373] fashion. In fact, so serious did the discord grow that the division commanders had to take positive measures for defense,--as thoroughly as before on the flanks of the Petersburg lines. We doubled all camp guards, and detailed special reserves ready for a rush; sleeping ourselves some nights in our boots, with sword and pistol by our sides. This was a serious condition of things. No wonder Sherman asked to move his army to the other side of the river. But the national authorities thought this would savor too much of recognition of a new secession, between the East and West. Such is the strange nature,--the human, likeness of interest holding masses together for the attainment of a great common cause, in which they show both loyalty and amity; but differences on a narrower scale, quickly throw men into an attitude quite antagonistic. It must be said that this hostile feeling towards the East was not a general sentiment among our Western comrades, but only of a certain class accustomed to put their individualistic sentiments into execution more frequently and energetically than their sense of loyalty to the country. For our part, surely, we had no dislike to Western men, but quite the contrary, as very many of them bore close relationship to our New England families; and as to the merits of Sherman's army we did not hesitate to do it justice or give it sincere and generous praise. The taunts thrown at us by men on that side met the retort from similar characters on our side that in their boasted march to the sea they met only fat turkeys and [374] sucking pigs. What little truth there might have been under this satire we were not disposed to inquire, but did our best to rebuke such expressions and cultivate all around a spirit of broad loyalty and common good-will; as to the claim that “Sherman's army did all the fighting,” we rested on the testimony of official figures, which showed the losses of Sherman's army from Chattanooga to Atlanta, 31,687 men; Meade's losses for the same period, from the Rapidan to Petersburg, 88,387. Time, however, soon settled these bickerings by separation and return to the duties of a common citizenship.

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