previous next

Chapter 21: administration of War Department

Immediately after Early had withdrawn to the south side of the Potomac, and left Washington to comparative quiet and safety, Dana resumed his routine duties as Assistant Secretary of War, and soon became as completely absorbed in them as he had been in those of the army in the field. While he and Watson divided the work between them according to their own convenience, Dana gave special attention and much of his time to the investigation of frauds against the government on the part of contractors, and in the supervision of the operations of the Secret Service agents, who were employed in learning what was going on within the enemy's lines. But with all his cares he still found time for correspondence with his friends.

On August 4, 1864, he wrote me from the War Department as follows:

I saw Rawlins on Sunday, and am sorry to notice the signs of increasing disease. I fear there is no hope for him.

To-day we got the news of Stoneman's reverse. It is [342] a small affair-only five hundred men lost, and very likely the story is much exaggerated. In ordinary circumstances the event would be of no influence, but as the main campaign has produced no decisive results yet, the public mind has developed an extraordinary sensitiveness, and this disaster will weigh far more than it ought.1

Why didn't you come down with the general on Sunday?

The general at first proposed to put either Sheridan or Meade in charge of the campaign in the Valley; next he sent word to leave Hunter in command if he had already taken the field, but to put Sheridan over the Sixth corps and the cavalry, and now Halleck has telegraphed to him to suggest that Sheridan had better be put in command of the whole, but no reply has been received.

It is dreadful to say that, with the large force assembled for this campaign, there is not a reasonable certainty as to what will be its result.

Sheridan says that cavalry is of no great value on the James River, because the country is so broken, and on the south side so swampy, that it cannot be used with effect. He suggests that another division be brought up to act from this direction.

I fall back on my faith in Providence. That will bring us out if human devices fail. ...

It was in pursuance of Sheridan's suggestion that my division of cavalry was also ordered from the James to Washington on August 4th, and a few days later to the Valley of Virginia.

On August 29th Dana, who had accompanied me in my march through Washington, wrote to me as follows:

... Affairs generally seem to be in a much better condition than when you were here. Farragut's success at Mobile [343] has done much to revive the public mind, and the pertinacity with which Grant holds the Weldon road against Lee's frantic efforts to retake it is of equal, if not greater, value. I am also expecting from Sherman news of importance. It is three days since he took the mass of his army to the south and southeast of Atlanta, abandoning his base on the Chattahoochee, leaving an army corps to hold his intrenchments there, all for the purpose of definitively cutting the connection between Hood and Macon, and forcing him to surrender for want of supplies. It will take some time to complete the operation, especially as it must involve a pretty elaborate destruction of both the West Point and the Macon railroads, but the fact that the Richmond papers make no report of the movement is greatly in favor of our success.

McClellan will be nominated at Chicago to-day or tomorrow.

I was in New York for ten days week before last, and was at Westport for one day. The loveliness of the place seemed to me something beyond imagination.

... I had a letter from Baldy Smith on Saturday. I told him in reply that it was very much his own fault, and that if he had had no tongue, and had never known how to write, I had no doubt he would now be commanding one of the large armies.

Although every request had been granted, Sheridan's accession to the command of the Middle Military Division was not followed by an immediate restoration of confidence. Many thought he was too young and inexperienced for the great responsibilities which were imposed upon him. Six weeks of marching and countermarching ensued. It began to look as though Sheridan was more prudent than was necessary with the great preponderance of troops which he had with him in presence of the enemy. The financial world became more and more uneasy, and when the price of gold, which was the great barometer of [344] the times, began to mount by rapid advances to the highest figures yet known, Grant himself took alarm and made a hurried visit to Sheridan to ascertain what was the matter. Fortunately, Sheridan had got his bearings, and when Grant arrived on the scene and learned the facts as they existed he wisely concluded that it was only necessary for him to say, “Go in!” The battle of the Opequan, or Winchester, was fought, and on the receipt of the news at Washington, September 21st, Dana wrote to me in enthusiastic terms as follows:

A thousand cheers for the great victory won by the Army of the Shenandoah! It is an event whose importance is not to be measured by the immediate results of the battle. It is like the battle of Chattanooga in its far-reaching consequence.

I am sorry McIntosh has had such bad luck.2

As for General Smith's proposition, I am in doubt. Four weeks ago Gillmore went to City Point after the same thing, and got a pretty decisive cold shoulder. Some officer is to have it, but I don't know who it is, and, since Rawlins and Bowers are both absent, there's nobody I can write to. I should like much to have it given to Smith. Perhaps I will write to the general.

Rawlins is getting well. Dr. Green, in New York, says nothing is the matter with his lungs. His throat only was in trouble, according to Dr. Green, and after some weeks of cutting and caustics the throat is pronounced cured. He goes back to duty next week.

I have just heard from New York of the burning of my library. It was insured, but the money can't replace the books.

At the conclusion of the first Valley campaign I was promoted and ordered West, and on the way to my new [345] field of duty I spent a day with Dana at Washington, arranging for his co-operation in supplying me with such remounts, equipments, and improved fire-arms as might be needed. It was through his assistance that I had a few weeks before been enabled to completely rearm the Third Cavalry Division with the Spencer repeating magazine carbine, and thus to give it the distinction of being the first division of troops in the world to carry a full supply of such arms. As the gun at Kearneyville and Winchester had abundantly proven itself to be easily the best cavalry fire-arm so far invented, my desire to have all that could be furnished by the Ordnance Bureau for the Western cavalry received Dana's hearty approval, and it was through his cordial assistance that I was enabled that winter to completely furnish three divisions with these admirable weapons. It is worthy of note that these divisions operated together as the Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, to the end of the war, and were the first army corps in the world to carry such arms. It may also be truthfully said that no part of that corps using these arms was ever repulsed or ever failed in attacking the enemy, whether he was in the open or behind intrenchments.

I had hardly got to my destination in upper Georgia when I received a note from Dana, dated October 10th, running as follows:

Perhaps you can suggest to General Sherman to ask for General Smith. It is a great pity that his eminent abilities should be left unemployed.

Everything going on well. Sheridan has perfectly devastated the Valley for a distance of ninety miles from Winchester south.

It is greatly to Dana's credit that, notwithstanding his clear perception of Smith's shortcomings, he had not lost [346] interest in his employment, but remained his friend to the end.

On October 19th Dana wrote me from the War Department as follows:

For four days I have been pretty busy, owing to the absence of Mr. Stanton, gone to confer with General Grant at City Point.

Sheridan was here to see General Halleck day before yesterday, and reached his army on Cedar Creek yesterday. This morning he has been fighting a battle, with what result we don't know yet. Augur, at Rectortown, reports that at noon the cannonade had ceased, and that the sounds had not indicated any falling back of Sheridan's forces. You will hear the result by telegraph before this reaches you.

Sheridan's sleeve-buttons reached me in time to send them to him just as he was getting into the cars to leave. They were very rich. I got them through George H. Boker, of Philadelphia, who has just written a splendid poem on Sheridan's glorification.

It rather looks here as if Sherman might have caught Hood, but I know the difficulties of the country. Sherman seems to have waited a day for his wagons, when he might possibly have been fighting.

It was only a few hours till the telegraph brought the news of Sheridan's complete victory over Early at Cedar Creek. His army had been surprised at dawn, attacked in flank, and driven pell-mell from its camps, but it had rallied of its own accord and formed a new line about two miles in the rear, and was ready to advance at the word. This was given as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made. Sheridan's victory was instant and complete. It was specially noticeable, not so much for the whirlwind promptitude with which it was gained, as for the fact that it was the only instance of the [347] kind afforded by the war. It was the only case on either side in which an army, surprised and driven from the field in the morning, had rallied and returned to the fight the same afternoon and gained a complete victory. Even without the dramatic incidents which the reporters and the poets have connected with it, the performance was a sufficiently notable one to entitle Sheridan to a special reward, and this the government at once determined to bestow upon him. To that end, it promoted him to the rank of major-general in the regular army, and, as an additional expression of its satisfaction, sent Dana to deliver the commission in person. The journey was made by special train over the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to Harper's Ferry, and thence on horseback with a cavalry escort to Sheridan's camp, some fifty miles farther up the Valley. After performing the agreeable duty intrusted to him, and riding through the enthusiastic army, Dana returned overland to Washington by the way of Manassas Gap. Throughout his journey along the Valley of Virginia, and from the Valley to Washington, although under escort, he was constantly in danger of capture by Mosby and his enterprising guerillas. Up to that time they had made that entire region most dangerous to all such parties, but Dana passed through it unmolested, and seems to have been scarcely conscious of the danger he was incurring.

Shortly after returning to Washington, he was sent to Indianapolis for the purpose of conferring with Governor Morton in reference to some new cavalry regiments for which horses, arms, and equipments were required. Having satisfied himself of the merits of the case, he returned to Washington and settled down for the winter at the routine work of the department.

On November 14th he wrote to me:

I don't believe General Grant is coming to Washington. [348] I judge that Meade is likely to be relieved and Hancock to be put in his place, but this is a mere private impression not to be repeated.

Sheridan seems to be likely to be kept where he is for the present. I don't see the possibility of any Rebel campaign being made in the Valley, when all supplies must be hauled from Stanton. It is all a desert there; nothing is left except what corn was standing in the fields. All barns and their contents have been destroyed, and all stacks of hay and grain. All the cattle have been driven out, big and little, horned, hairy, and woolly. This in the Luray and Moorefield valleys, as well as in the main valley. Sheridan has fallen back to the Opequan, and has fortified his position somewhere near Smithfield, with the railroad to supply him from Harper's Ferry. Under these circumstances, and with Loudon and Fauquier similarly devastated, I don't see how the Rebels can try it again in that direction this fall, and my judgment is clear that Crook with his force will be ample to do all that is needed. If I were the general, I would take the other two corps and two divisions of cavalry for use elsewhere.

Sheridan and Sherman are generals after the style I have always looked for in one respect at least — they devastate indeed.

The former of the two appears to me to be the first military genius whom the war has produced on either side. ...

On November 23d he wrote me again, as follows:

Immediately on the first report of Canby's misfortune an order was made assigning General Reynolds to the temporary command of the military division. We now learn that Canby is not likely to be long disabled.

I don't see any chance of Smith's being employed till General Grant desires to employ him.

Franklin is not likely to have a command anywhere. ...

Don't believe any of the reports about approaching changes in the cabinet. If Mr. Stanton is to be Chief-Justice, [349] I don't know it; and I do know that neither General Butler nor General Banks is to be Secretary of War. ...

As is well known, the Army of the Potomac and the forces under Sheridan maintained a strictly defensive attitude in Virginia during the entire fall and winter of 1864-65, while Sherman, without opposition worthy of the name, was “marching through Georgia.” Hood, with an undefeated army which Sherman had failed to bring to bay, had been left behind, free to make his way into middle Tennessee, except as he might be opposed by Thomas, with the fragments of the three armies which Sherman had not thought good enough to accompany him on his holiday march. Hood's campaign was well planned and well directed, and failed only because his columns lacked weight and resources. Fortunately, they were opposed by the steady and invincible Thomas, who could neither be rattled nor defeated. Rawlins alone seemed to properly understand the difficulties and dangers which surrounded Thomas from the time Sherman turned his face towards the sea-coast and Hood began his advance into middle Tennessee. So persistent had the far-sighted chief of staff become for the concentration of an invincible force at Nashville that he went in person to St. Louis to see that every available division and corps was gathered up and sent without delay to make Thomas's position absolutely secure.

As can be well understood, the circumstances of the case, as they actually existed, were much better known to Thomas and his officers than to the lieutenant-general or to the War Department. This naturally led to an active correspondence between the various parties concerned. As I was the junior corps commander under Thomas, and the condition of the cavalry had been an important factor in the problem to be solved, I naturally availed myself of [350] the first opportunity to write fully to Dana, as well as to Rawlins.

The first reply I received was from Dana. It was marked private, and, of course, has never been published. It was written from the War Department, January 4, 1865, and runs as follows:

I was absent in New York all last week, and found your most welcome letter on my table on Monday morning, the 2d instant, when I returned.

You are aware long ere this that General Thomas has been appointed to the vacant grade of major-general in the U. S. A. This was done on the recommendation of General Grant, or rather with his hearty concurrence, for the proposal came first from Mr. Stanton. I hope that it will obliterate all unpleasant feeling in the general's mind. In my judgment, while there are more brilliant and more fertile minds than his, a character more pure and noble and sure than his does not exist. There is no man in whom, in the long run, confidence can more safely be placed, nor one who would fill the highest station with superior dignity and wisdom.

The difficulty in General T[homas]'s case grew out of the fact that during the Atlanta campaign he was always a little too slow for the rapid and impatient spirit of Sherman. Then, after Hood had got to Nashville, he was long in getting ready to fight, and it was not surprising that both General Grant and the War Department should feel anxious at the delay. A sudden march to the north across the Cumberland might, as it seemed, place Hood's army in the centre of Kentucky, causing Thomas to follow him through a country rich in reinforcements and in supplies. General Grant desired him to be attacked at once, but General Thomas kept putting it off for reasons which no doubt were good, but which were too much like those so often urged by Buell and McClellan to be satisfactory. The truth is that Grant finally started for Nashville himself, but reached here with the news of the first day's successful battle. That, of course, stopped him [351] and changed all disposition to find fault into praise and admiration.

The fact that Sherman left Thomas with insufficient forces to fight the rebel army is indisputable, but yet I do not think that Sherman is to be blamed for it. He did not start for Savannah until he had positive information from Rawlins that A. J. Smith's troops would reach Paducah in four days, and from other quarters that the horses and equipments of your cavalry would be got forward in ample season. Those things being determined-and I do not see why he need have had any doubt with regard to them — there was no reason for him to wait any longer. That A. J. Smith should be thirty days instead of four is not astonishing, but Sherman had no cause to anticipate it.

But without looking too curiously into the past, let us admit that everything has turned out for the best. The delay to attack Hood, of which Grant, Stanton, and Halleck, in my judgment, quite justifiably complained, especially was of the most beneficial consequences. The ease with which the victory was gained was apparently due very much to the snow-storm, which froze the enemy and starved him, so that he fought at the greatest disadvantage. The only mistake I can now see in the campaign was the misdirection of the pontoon train. I wish you would tell me who is to blame for that. Very likely, however, it was not misdirected at all, for my information respecting it is derived from the newspapers alone.

With regard to the organization of your corps, and the probability of its being recognized by the President, I know nothing. The way to get it done is for General Thomas earnestly to request it, and to say that he regards it as indispensable to the future efficiency of his army. As for the Spencer carbines, everything will be done that is possible, but I doubt whether you can get the whole product of the armories now at work on that arm. But I will see General Dyer on the subject. You have perhaps noticed in the newspapers the appointment of a board consisting of Majors Laidley and Benton, Ordnance Corps; Major Maynardier and [352] Captain Kellogg, Infantry; and Captain Rodenbough, of the Cavalry, with Lieutenant Edlie, Ordnance Corps, to examine all breech-loading arms with a view to deciding which is best for infantry and which for cavalry service. This looks to the entire abrogation of muzzle-loaders for infantry. I find that Dyer is not disposed to adopt the Spencer for foot-soldiers, and that he also doubts whether it is the best arm for cavalry. But on this point experience will decide; the great point is to get rid of the ramrod.

Of Washington news there is not much to tell. The most interesting question just at this moment is whether the antislavery amendment of the Constitution will pass the House of Representatives next week. It is hoped that a sufficient number of Democratic members will now vote for it to pass it, and send it to the States for ratification; but I can't tell whether the hope is well founded. . . .

I came near leaving here about a fortnight ago to take the place of adjutant-general of the State of New York. The inducements were complete control of all military appointments among the troops of that State, the opportunity of great political usefulness, and an amount of pay on which I could live. But Mr. Stanton would not consent, and so I shall stay here for the present. But as soon as the war is so far over that I can properly leave, I shall attend to my own affairs. ...

From City Point I have no news. Joe Bowers was here a fortnight since, looking as well as ever. Dunn was up on Monday with a bundle of despatches for the secretary. He said all were well. Comstock accompanied Butler to Fort Fisher. That affair makes unpleasant feeling between army and navy. What is the real truth I don't know.

W. F. Smith has gone to New Orleans as the head of a board to investigate the Quartermaster's Department there, and everything else.

We have nothing of moment from Savannah since its surrender. Of course, Sherrman's army will not be idle there. The Rebels are in desperation. Jeff. Davis wants to make terms with France or England, and is willing to become colonially [353] dependent on either of those powers and to abolish slavery. A violent discussion is now going on in the Confederacy on this subject, and on others, as, for instance, on arming negroes. I don't see how they can keep themselves going for a great while longer. The capture of Richmond now would certainly end them, and that event I suppose is not far distant...

Rawlins was looking very well when I saw him last, a month ago. ...

Shortly after the close of the Nashville campaign it was decided to send Schofield's army corps from Tennessee to the Chesapeake Bay to assist in the closing operations in the Eastern theatre; and, as Dana had special charge of railroad transportation for the War Department, he was directed to make the necessary arrangements for the transfer, and not only managed all this business with consummate skill, but supervised the arrangements which were required in order to enable the soldiers to participate in the Presidential election.

On January 24, 1865, Dana wrote to me from the War Department as follows:

... With regard to horses and arms, I do not know what has been done. General Halleck has been of opinion that you were asking for more horses than could be well foraged, and that it was impossible to keep mounted in the field so large a force of cavalry as you have desired. I judge that the views of General Halleck will be likely to prevail, and that you cannot count on the regular supply of horses to keep more than fifteen thousand cavalry constantly mounted in connection with General Thomas's command.

The Ordnance Bureau is sending forward for you all the Spencer carbines that can be spared, and, as the number furnished will soon be increased by the large contributions to be expected under the contract of the Burnside Company, I presume that you will soon be able to arm all your command with this weapon. [354]

You inquire what changes are probable in the new cabinet. The only change that is absolutely certain as yet is that which will result from the return of Mr. Fessenden to the Senate, to which the legislature of Maine last week elected him. Who will be his successor is as yet entirely undetermined. The prominent candidates for the office, just now, are Mr. Hooper, of Boston, and Governor Boutwell, of Massachusetts, both members of the House of Representatives. As far as my judgment goes, I should be well satisfied with either, though I am more intimate with Mr. Boutwell, and consider him the superior man of the two. At the same time, Mr. Hooper is a person of the most solid character and capacity, and of very great experience in commercial affairs.

Whether any other members of the present cabinet will retire is at this time only a matter of speculation. I have supposed that Mr. Welles would not be likely to remain, and also that Mr. Usher's transfer to some other position of usefulness was probable. But these things are still without any sure indication, and I should not be surprised if all the present cabinet should be retained with the exception of Mr. Fessenden. I especially regard it as certain that Mr. Stanton will continue in the War Department, and Governor Denison in the General Post-Office. Mr. Speed will also no doubt remain as Attorney-General.

There has been a good deal of talk about Mr. Seward's withdrawal from the State Department, but I cannot find that it rests on any good grounds. Mr. Seward is certainly a candidate for the Presidency, and might think it prudent to retire for a time from public life, and to avoid the responsibilities which will be imposed upon him in office during the coming four years. But, on the other hand, he is an old and practised office-holder, and I have observed that men once used to power are very loath to resign it. For that reason I judge that he will lay the consideration of policy aside, and take any chances for nomination and election to the Presidency which may belong to Mr. Lincoln's Secretary of State ....

I suppose that the advance of Schofield's corps is here by this time, although it has not yet been reported to me.


During the cavalry campaign through Alabama and Georgia, in March and April, 1865, I was necessarily cut off from all communication with the North. No letters reached me from any quarter, and the only news I received came through the Confederates or the “intelligent contraband.” I knew that the spring campaign would begin “all along the line” as soon as the weather would permit, but I had no word from the time I left the Tennessee River till I arrived at Macon, Georgia, as to what had actually taken place in Virginia and the Carolinas; and after the armistice it took several days to re-establish telegraphs, and several weeks to open railroad communication and the postal service with the North. It was not till that was done that it became possible to learn the particulars of the great events that had taken place.

After the defeat and dispersion of Hood's army, the conviction became wide-spread that the Confederacy was doomed to an early collapse. Sherman had met with no resistance in his march to Savannah. While the moral effect of dividing the Confederacy in two again was very great, it is true that Sherman's divergent or eccentric movement made it practicable for Johnston to join Lee before Showman's army could possibly form a junction with Grant's. This was a strategic mistake, which might have turned the scale for good against the National forces had the Confederate authorities been able to keep their people in the ranks. But desertion, quite as much as fighting, had done its work. The Southern soldiers were certainly tired of the war, for, in spite of the conscription, the woods were full of them. True, the leaders yet showed an undaunted front, but it seemed to be rather for the purpose of securing terms than with any well-founded hope of gaining a substantial victory. They made a brave stand at Bentonville, and another at Averysborough, but the odds against them were overwhelming. With all they [356] could do, they were forced to yield, though not till Lee's surrender made Johnston's inevitable. Even then they bore themselves with such confident assurance as enabled them to hoodwink Sherman and to secure their own terms of capitulation from that enterprising but credulous leader.3

After standing on the defensive in front of Petersburg for ten solid months, Grant began his own forward movement, late in March, 1865, with an overwhelming superiority of force. Sheridan's victorious army had rejoined Meade south of the James. Schofield's corps from the West had been directed towards the heart of North Carolina. Fort Fisher had fallen. Thomas had annihilated Hood. Sherman was marching northward, leaving a wide swath of ruin and desolation behind him. Canby was now sure of Mobile, while Wilson with his cavalrymen was marching through the heart of the Confederacy, destroying its last arsenals, armories, factories, and depots, and breaking up its last line of transportation. The end was at hand! The final and greatest of all Grant's turning movements had been well started. The battles of Dinwiddie Court-House and Five Forks crowned it with success. Lee's right flank had been finally turned, his line of intrenchments had been broken, and Petersburg and Richmond had been abandoned. Davis and his cabinet were in flight, and the debacle had begun. Even Lincoln had gone to the front, with the hope of being in at the death.

At this juncture the impatient Stanton asked his assistant to “go down at once,” for the special purpose of reporting the condition of affairs and gathering up the Confederate archives. On the morning of April 3d it was known that Richmond had fallen, but details were lacking, and Dana set out for the James River as soon as a steamer [357] could be got ready for his use. His son Paul and his friend Roscoe Conkling went with him, but the party did not reach City Point till the morning of the 5th, by which time the excitement was all over and there was but little to learn at that place. Lincoln had also become impatient, and had gone to Richmond the day before, and this left Dana and his party nothing to do but to follow him. They reached the captured capital of the Confederacy early that afternoon, and after walking about the town and learning what they could from General Weitzel, who had occupied it on the 3d, Dana began his search for the records and documents of the Confederate government. In this he was but partly successful, for the most valuable papers had been sent off to the South, while the others had been badly disarranged and scattered. Dana gathered up such as could be found, and sent them to Washington, where they became the nucleus of the great collection now in the possession of the government.

During his stay at Richmond Dana saw much of the President, and was in constant conference with him in reference to the conditions which they found prevailing about them, the questions which were coming up for solution, and the measures of government which it might be advisable to adopt. With both Lincoln and Andrew Johnson the Vice-President, on the ground to see for themselves, and with Grant in hot pursuit of Lee some sixty or seventy miles to the southwest, there was but little of importance that the Assistant Secretary could send to the Secretary of War at Washington; but he was, as usual, alert and industrious. He sent a number of despatches which will be found in the Official Records. It was always a source of regret to him, however, that his attendance on the President had made it impracticable for him to join Grant in time to be present at the surrender. Events were crowding rapidly on each other in that field, and it was [358] largely a matter of chance where any of them might meet the civil officers of the government. Grant and Lee now occupied the centre of the stage, while the Secretary of War, the Assistant Secretary of War, and even the President himself, were anxious spectators at a distance. Not one of them seems to have expected the curtain to drop when it did, and even after it had closed the final scene the secretary wanted a fuller account than he had received, and directed Dana to proceed to Grant's headquarters and gather up such details as might appear to be of interest; but Grant was not one to tarry long on the scene of his chief glory. He was as glad as the lowest private in the ranks that the war was ended, and made haste to leave the field. Dana joined him en route, and accompanied him to Washington, where they arrived on April 13, 1865.

The next day Dana had an interesting interview with Lincoln at the White House, in regard to the arrest of Jacob Thompson, a Confederate commissioner, who was trying to make his way from Canada through Maine to Europe. Stanton thought he ought to be caught, but sent Dana to refer the matter to the President. As soon as the latter understood the question to be answered, he said, “No, I rather think not. When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run!” Dana, Recollections of the Civil War. D. Appleton & Co.

That night, while at the play, Lincoln received his death wound at the hand of an assassin. Humanity and the country stood appalled; but Stanton, who had been from the day of his appointment as Secretary of War the strong man of the government, at once took charge. His first thought was to send for Dana, and it was to him that he dictated all the orders and telegrams that were sent out [359] that night. They closed their work and parted with each other at about three o'clock the next morning. The President was still alive, but unconscious and breathing heavily. He died a few hours later, and almost immediately afterwards the secretary sent an order to Dana directing him to arrest the commissioner who had been the last object of the good man's solicitude.

Dana at once put the machinery under his control in motion for that purpose, but this was far from being his most important duty in that emergency. He made every effort not only to apprehend the murderer of the President, but to detect and bring to justice all persons suspected of having co-operated with him in the accomplishment of his crime. It was from the first believed that the terrible tragedy was the result of a conspiracy of many persons. Through the preliminary measures set on foot by the War Department, and largely carried into effect under Dana's direction, the conspiracy was developed, and the conspirators were arrested and brought to trial. Dana had gathered many letters and much information showing the details of the conspiracy, and on May 18th gave his testimony in the case. Shortly afterwards private business took him to Chicago, whence he was recalled to Washington to identify the key of the Confederate secret cipher, which he had found at Richmond in the office of Mr. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State.

Having completed this duty, the Secretary of War sent him to Fort Monroe to see that the commanding officer should take every necessary precaution to prevent the suicide or the escape of the prisoners of state about to be confined at that place; and it was under this specific injunction that Dana wrote the order of May 22, 1865, authorizing and directing General Miles to place manacles and fetters upon the hands and feet of both Jefferson Davis and Clement C. Clay, Jr., whenever he might think [360] it advisable. The crime with which they were charged was one of extraordinary gravity. It had not only turned the nation's joy into a feeling of grief and resentment, but had horrified the civilized world. It should not, therefore, be thought altogether strange that the precautions taken were in excess of any real danger, and that it took several months to dispel the illusions upon which they were based. Fortunately, the charges finally gave way to a calmer and more dispassionate consideration of the evidence, and the prisoners were discharged without trial or further humiliation.

In a telegram dated Fort Monroe, May 21, 1865-1 P. M.,4

1 Stoneman surrendered his entire command to an inferior force of Confederates, mostly militia, while on a raid in the vicinity of Macon, Georgia.

2 This gallant brigade commander lost a leg in the battle.

3 Gorham, Life and Public Services of Edwin M. Stanton, vol. II., pp. 170 et seq.

4 See Official Records. Dana gave a full description of the landing and confinement of the prisoners, and the precautions taken for their security. He commented upon the haughty bearing, composed features, and firm step of Davis, in contrast with the more modest demeanor of Clay. He described the dress and appearance of both, and the manner in which each took leave of his family and friends. Notwithstanding the vicissitudes of politics and the mellowing influence of time, Dana evidently felt to the end of his career that no great injustice or unnecessary indignity had been inflicted upon Davis while a prisoner at Fort Monroe. His Recollections4 contain his final statement on that subject-namely:

I believe that every care was taken during Mr. Davis's imprisonment to remove cause for complaint. Medical officers were directed to superintend his meals and give him everything that would excite his appetite. As it was complained that his quarters in the casemate were unhealthy and disagreeable, he was, after a few weeks, transferred to Carroll Hall, a building still occupied by officers and soldiers. That Davis's health was not ruined by his imprisonment at [361] Fort Monroe is proved by the fact that he came out of the prison in better condition than when he went in, and that he lived for twenty years afterwards, and died of old age.

Having performed the duties which took him to Fort Monroe, Dana returned to Washington in time to witness the great review of Meade's and Sherman's armies, and of Sheridan's cavalry. This took place on May 23d and 24th, and on May 30, 1865, he sent to me at Macon a letter which has not been heretofore published. It runs as follows:

I have received a good many letters from you, but have not answered them for the fear that during the meanderings of your eventful campaign they might never reach you. Now, however, that you seem to have made a settlement, and to be within reach of the mails, I take the first moment at my command to reply to all your kind communications.

First, let me congratulate you on the brilliant success of your campaign. You can understand the reasons why I have enjoyed this especially. I have been delighted to find you putting down in this decisive manner all the criticisms and objections which certain friends of ours have been in the habit of making occasionally. I am delighted, too, that you have not fallen into any mistake growing out of the political complications connected with the peculiar termination of the war, and with the remarkable situation in which the State of Georgia is left by it.

Second, let me inform you that the report which you probably have seen in the newspapers, that I have left the department, is only partly true. I have not yet left it, but propose to do so about July 1st. I have agreed to go to Chicago to undertake there the editorship of a new daily journal which is about to be established. As you are aware, it has not been my wish to return to my old profession on retiring from office, but to find some sphere of practical or industrial activity; but as nothing of this kind offered itself, [362] and as the inducements to take this place at Chicago were satisfactory, I have waived all scruples and made an agreement to go there. The prospects of pecuniary success seem to me to be very encouraging. Many of the leading politicians of the State, and a great number of the most prominent business men of Chicago, have assured me that no efforts will be wanting on their part to establish the prosperity of the new concern, and I see no reason to doubt that I shall be able not only to make a livelihood there, but to gain a political position in many respects agreeable as well as useful. At any rate, if this anticipation is not realized, it will not be for want of exertion and industry on my part. As I said, I shall go to Chicago soon after July 1st; the family, however, will not move there before September or October. Their design is to spend the summer somewhere in Vermont or New Hampshire, though this is still vague and partly undetermined, except in the case of Zoe, who is going to Conway, near the White Mountains, to spend the month of July with some friends from New York. Of course we shall take a house in Chicago, and when you go there, there will always be a room ready for you.

The great event here has been the grand review of last week. The Army of the Potomac was reviewed on Tuesday, and Sherman's two armies on Wednesday. Everything passed off with great brilliancy. The Army of the Potomac exceeded the other two armies in numbers, although the Sixth army corps was not present, it being at the time on the road between here and Richmond. The old Army of the Tennessee, however, bore off the palm in appearance and in discipline. Its men were finer, its marching better, and its general effect much more soldierly and impressive. This great display of military power has had a deep influence upon the minds of the foreign diplomatists who were present, and they will now distinctly understand that, as a warlike people, the Americans are not to be despised.

The most interesting incident at this review was, perhaps, the meeting between General Sherman and Mr. Stanton. A good deal of excited feeling had been caused beforehand [363] on account of the decided condemnation by the secretary of General Sherman's agreement with General Johnston, and by the publication by General Halleck of orders to General Wright and to General Stoneman to pay no regard to orders from Sherman, and not to stop hostilities until they had received instructions to that effect from Washington. Sherman was intensely grieved and disturbed by this publication, and is reported to have insulted Halleck while passing through Richmond.5 I imagine, however, that this insult was by no means so extreme as has been reported in the newspapers. General Halleck told me that the letter which Sherman wrote him on the occasion had never been seen by any one but himself, and I am sure that its substance has been exceedingly exaggerated by those who have attempted to report it. Before General Sherman came here, his brother Charles had been very active in stirring up a quarrel, and all the politicians who are in league with Mr. Blair, and whose special object is to turn Mr. Stanton out of office, were assembled here on that occasion in order to effect their great purpose. Nothing, however, has come of their efforts, and nothing will. When Sherman met Mr. Stanton on the President's stand, it was noticed by everybody that they merely bowed to each other, but did not shake hands. A day or,two after a letter from Sherman to Colonel Bowman was published, very indiscreet in its expressions, and quite bitter in its spirit, assailing the Secretary of War for having suppressed General Sherman's reports and letters. To this charge the secretary has made no reply, nor has he in any way taken any notice of the quarrel which has thus been attempted to be forced upon him. The difficulty, however, seems to be dying out of itself. Sherman's more discreet friends perceive and understand that he can gain nothing by attempting to make a controversy with the secretary, either for the reason of his condemnation of the treaty with Johnston, or because the reports of Sherman have not been published. With regard to these reports it appears that only one has failed to be [364] published, and that by an accident of which the secretary was entirely unaware. Nor do I yet know whether this report has been withheld by General Grant, or has otherwise failed to reach the adjutant-general. It is the report of that part of the campaign between Atlanta and Savannah, and anybody can see that the secretary, instead of wishing to withhold it from the public, would only have been too anxious to lay before the people the definite account of military movements so remarkable and interesting.

With regard to Sherman's letters, the suppression of which is also charged by his friends, there are some of these, I am sorry to say, which instead of doing him credit and increasing his reputation with the public, would injure it very seriously. In one of them, for instance, addressed to General Grant, he says that if the secretary desires Jeff Davis to be arrested, he must send his bailiffs and detectives to do the job, because his soldiers are not to be employed on such business, but also adds that if the soldiers were to try to do it, they could not succeed, because Jeff has already got beyond their reach. Of course this was written some time before your troops had succeeded in taking him a prisoner. I presume, however, that nothing will come of all the excitement and discussion upon the question except that the public will become confirmed in the idea that Sherman, however brilliant as a soldier, is not to be trusted as a public man of sound and safe judgment. I am sorry for it on his account; but I cannot say that I really regret, on account of the country, the events which have taken him out of the category of possible candidates for the presidency.

I went down to Fortress Monroe the other day to see your prisoner committed to the casemate in which he is confined. He was marched ashore in the midst of a guard at the head of which were the troopers of Colonel Pritchard. General Miles, formerly of the Second corps, who has been sent to the fortress to take command during Jeff's incarceration, led him along by the left arm. Davis marched with as haughty and defiant an air as Lucifer, Son of the Morning, bore after he was expelled from heaven, and I was rather [365] surprised not to find in his mien or step the signs of that physical exhaustion and that mental depression which all persons had represented him as having fallen into. General Miles, however, tells me that this was merely a piece of acting for that special occasion, and that he has since either exhibited signs of the greatest weakness, or of a sort of intense and imbecile fury. When and how he is to be tried is, so far as I know, not yet determined. He has been indicted by the grand jury of this city for participation in the raid which Breckenridge and Early made here last summer, it being necessary to have some overt act with which to sustain the charge of treason. Possibly, however, owing to the great difficulty of being certain about a jury, it may be determined to try him by a military court, in which case the trial will take place at Fortress Monroe.

General Grant is quietly established here in the discharge of his official duties as commander-in-chief. He has the same office which General Halleck occupied, and Rawlins and Bowers keep their desks in the room on the other side of the hall. I think that they find it rather dull work and pretty hard. The mass of papers that is sent there is no joke.

Mr. Seward is recovering,6 and will no doubt entirely regain his strength. His fractured jaw must be nearly united by this time. For the last month he has worn one cap on the top of his head, and another under his chin, the two being united by bands of steel, and connected with a gutta-percha apparatus fitting to his jaws inside his mouth, and all rendering him, in connection with the wounds about his face and neck, one of the most horrible spectacles that the human eye ever beheld. He will, however, soon be able to lay aside this apparatus. His son, it is probable, will never recover. So far every active exertion has been soon followed by a hemorrhage from the broken artery in the top of the brain, and the number of fractures of the skull is so great that, however he may seem to regain his strength, his life must always be exceedingly faint and precarious. ... [366]

... Of course you get all the common run of news from Badeau, who I suppose has not much to do except to write private letters. I notice that your old aide-de-camp Hudson7 now wears the straps of a lieutenant-colonel. It is rather astonishing to see what an enormous crop of brigadier-generals has sprung up within the last few months. I should say that there were more officers of that rank than of any lower grade.

Merritt and Custer have both gone with Sheridan, whose command embraces the States of Arkansas and Texas alone, leaving Pope to command Missouri and the Northwest, and Canby to command Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Sherman's troops are now all camped just outside of Washington north of the Potomac, it having been found advisable to separate them from the Army of the Potomac, whose camps are all on the south side of the river. A good many fights have occurred between the private soldiers of the two armies. I have heard of one or two men who have been killed, and one or two who have been seriously wounded. Sherman's men are also pretty troublesome to the farmers and other quiet people where they are. He will, however, begin to move away at once. The first detachment of seven thousand is to leave to-morrow for Louisville, where it will be stationed for the present as a reserve, and the regiments which are to be mustered out will begin to proceed to their respective States, day after to-morrow. As soon as they arrive at the capitals of those States they will be paid and disbanded, so that they can go home and go to work again. ...

As the foregoing was written when the events described were fresh in Dana's mind, his account of the meeting between Stanton and General Sherman, and what actually took place on the reviewing stand may be considered as conclusive, though it is but fair to add that the incident, whatever may have been its exact nature, was a purely [367] personal one, the principal effect of which was to emphasize the general's resentment towards the secretary for the part the latter had taken in the rejection of the agreement between Sherman and Johnston for the capitulation of Johnston's army, and for the re-establishment of peace east of the Mississippi.

During the remaining weeks of his life in Washington, Dana assisted in all the business of the department incident to the arrest and trial of the President's assassins, and to the discharge of the great army of volunteers, but as this was mostly routine work which the permanent bureaus disposed of in the usual manner, he made but little record of the part which fell to his lot. While he worked on to the last with unabated industry, his task was really done, and his mind was henceforth naturally more concerned with his own future as affected by the offer he had received from Chicago to re-enter the profession of journalism.

On June 2d he wrote to me as follows:

... Noyes has been here with your letter, but I was out and did not see him.

Governor Brown is now at large by order of the President, but on what terms I don't know.

The war being over, the army is rapidly being reduced, and new military divisions will at once be created, and lots of general officers and staff-officers will be mustered out. Very likely you may go with the rest, but I know that you will descend as gracefully and probably more cheerfully than you went up. But General Grant will take care of you in one way or another.

I suppose Halleck will command the Pacific coast; Sheridan west of the Mississippi; Thomas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Northern States between the mountains and the Mississippi; Sherman, the South; and Meade, the Atlantic coast from the southern boundary of South Carolina to Canada, with a district commander in every State. [368]

Mr. Seward continues to get better. Sherman's excitement is cooling off, and I suppose he begins to think he has gone too far. The President is as lenient as was his predecessor; I think he even beats him in pardoning. They inform me from Chicago that my new paper is very successful at the start. I send you the first number, in the making of which I have had no share; if, however, I can make twenty thousand dollars a year by it, while I exert a wholesome and honest influence on the politics of the country, and on its general progress, I shall be content.

This was followed by a note dated June 18th, part of which is here inserted:

Though I didn't have the good-fortune to see Captain Noyes, I got the saddle, and have used it regularly ever since. It is very good, indeed, as I can testify from experience. It was not needed to keep you ever fresh in my memory, but I can assure you that it is not valued any the less because it came from you.

... The President's proclamation appointing James Johnson provisional governor of Georgia was issued this morning. I dare say you know a great deal better than I do who he is. I never heard of him before. ...

... I shall remain [here] till July 1st, and then shall go to New York on my way to Chicago, where I expect to arrive about the middle of next month.

Major Eckert is to be my successor in office. ...

Having been delayed in his departure for Chicago, he wrote his last letter to me from the War Department, on July 4th, as follows:

Your very interesting letter of June 23d reached me this morning by way of Chicago. As you will see by the date of this letter, I have not yet set out to go there. I expected to leave last Saturday, and actually handed in my resignation [369] and had my trunk packed, but at the last moment Mr. Stanton asked me to stay another week, and I consented, though at considerable inconvenience to myself ....

I am sorry you have sent to subscribe for my paper, for I intended to send it to you myself, as soon as I got to work upon it — that is to say, about three weeks from now.

About brevets for your officers, I suppose the fact is just the same as with everybody else, Mr. Stanton has been too busy to sign the papers. There is a pile of them about two feet high now lying upon his table, and I presume, though I don't know, that yours are in with the rest.

... I propose to show your letter to General Grant, but to no one else.

Rawlins has gone to Galena with his wife. General Grant has gone to Albany to celebrate the Fourth. General Halleck is here on his way to San Francisco. Slocum is assigned to command Mississippi, and I suppose Steedman will have Georgia.

A heap of generals will be mustered out very soon, but you are not in the lot.

Poe is here getting up his engineer's work from Sherman's campaigns, but I haven't seen him. Ulffers is with him. He came to see me the other day.

Peter Hains got his leave of absence about three weeks since to take command of a New Jersey regiment, so that he is a colonel in spite of everything. ...

5 Dana, Recollections of the Civil War, p. 287.

6 See Sherman, Memoirs.

7 From the injuries inflicted upon him by the assassin who attempted to kill him at the time the President was murdered.

8 In the Knoxville expedition.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Chicago (Illinois, United States) (12)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (7)
Savannah (Georgia, United States) (4)
Edgefield (Tennessee, United States) (4)
City Point (Virginia, United States) (4)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (3)
Meadow Mills (Virginia, United States) (2)
Maine (Maine, United States) (2)
Macon (Georgia, United States) (2)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (2)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (2)
Canada (Canada) (2)
Atlanta (Georgia, United States) (2)
Weldon, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Vermont (Vermont, United States) (1)
United States (United States) (1)
Thomas, Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (1)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
San Francisco (California, United States) (1)
Rectortown (Virginia, United States) (1)
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
Paducah (Kentucky, United States) (1)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (1)
New York State (New York, United States) (1)
New Hampshire (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (1)
Milton (Missouri, United States) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Louisville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Indianapolis (Indiana, United States) (1)
Galena (Illinois, United States) (1)
France (France) (1)
Five Forks (Virginia, United States) (1)
Europe (1)
Bentonville (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Arkansas (Arkansas, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
T. W. Sherman (40)
Sheridan (27)
U. S. Grant (26)
Herr Dana (22)
Richmond Dana (17)
Edwin M. Stanton (16)
Thomas (13)
Hood (11)
Halleck (11)
John A. Rawlins (9)
Jefferson Davis (9)
Abraham Lincoln (7)
Baldy Smith (6)
R. E. Lee (6)
Meade (5)
William H. Seward (4)
Joseph E. Johnston (4)
Canby (4)
U. S. G. Stoneman (3)
Schofield (3)
Miles (3)
Early (3)
Joe Bowers (3)
James Harrison Wilson (2)
A. J. Smith (2)
Official Records (2)
Noyes (2)
McClellan (2)
J. E. Johnston (2)
Jeff (2)
Hooper (2)
Green (2)
Fessenden (2)
Dyer (2)
Clement C. Clay (2)
Benjamin Franklin Butler (2)
George S. Boutwell (2)
Zoe (1)
Elizur Wright (1)
West (1)
Welles (1)
Weitzel (1)
Watson (1)
George Washington (1)
Usher (1)
Jacob Thompson (1)
Steedman (1)
Spencer (1)
Speed (1)
William F. Smith (1)
Slocum (1)
Rodenbough (1)
Richmond (1)
Reynolds (1)
Pritchard (1)
Pope (1)
Edgar A. Poe (1)
Paul (1)
Mosby (1)
Morton (1)
Merritt (1)
McIntosh (1)
Maynardier (1)
Lucifer (1)
Loudon (1)
Laidley (1)
Kellogg (1)
James Johnson (1)
Andrew Johnson (1)
Hunter (1)
Frederick Hudson (1)
Hancock (1)
Peter Hains (1)
Gorham (1)
Gillmore (1)
Franklin (1)
Fauquier (1)
Farragut (1)
Edlie (1)
Eckert (1)
Dunn (1)
Ann Denison (1)
Custer (1)
Crook (1)
Conway (1)
Roscoe Conkling (1)
Comstock (1)
Buell (1)
John Brown (1)
Breckenridge (1)
Bowman (1)
George H. Boker (1)
Frank P. Blair (1)
Benton (1)
Benjamin (1)
N. P. Banks (1)
Badeau (1)
Augur (1)
D. Appleton (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: