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Chapter 14:

Grant and Sherman

the intimacy between Grant and Sherman began at the battle of Shiloh. They had been together at West Point, but in different classes, for Sherman was two years the senior; and they never met afterward either in the army or in civil life till Grant went to Pittsburg Landing. The great struggle there in which they were so nearly worsted, and in which the splendid gallantry of the one so admirably supplemented the stubborn pluck of the other; the odium that came upon Grant afterward, which Sherman shared for a time, doubtless disclosed qualities in each to the other that the world had then not recognized; and the companionship under danger, responsibility, and detraction made them indeed brothers-in-arms.

Soon after this when Grant touched the lowest point in his career; when the press declared, and the country believed, that his course had precipitated defeat; when his superiors distrusted and disparaged him more profoundly even than the press or the country—the future General-in-Chief for once was despondent. He asked to be relieved from duty and to be sent to the rear. The order was given and the arrangements were made; camp chests and papers were ready. But Sherman discovered the intention and urged so strongly that Grant should remain that his advice and influence prevailed. It was thus he who kept Grant with that army which both were destined to lead to so many victories.

At Vicksburg it is well known that Sherman disapproved [117] the crowning strategy, but did his best to falsify the disapproval; and when success finally came and others attributed to him the conception of the campaign, he told the story of his own opposition which Grant had scrupulously concealed. The very letter that Sherman had written, urging a different movement, Grant had destroyed, but Sherman sent me a copy years afterward for my History of Grant's Campaigns, to testify that Grant was entitled to the credit of the victory. But for him the truth could never have been proved.

When Grant was made General-in-Chief he sent me with an extraordinary private letter to Sherman in which he declared: ‘How far your execution of whatever has been given you to do entitles you to the reward I am receiving you cannot know as well as I. ’ But Sherman was not to be outdone in magnanimity, and replied: ‘You do yourself injustice and us too much honor in assigning us too large a share in the merits which have led to your high advancement.’ Seldom in history have men holding such positions held to each other such words.

The words, however, were not meant for the world. They were the interchange of intimate sentiment between closest friends. But in November, 1864, after Sherman had started on his memorable march, and disappeared for a month from the country's eager gaze, I accompanied Grant on a visit to the North. He went to Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. Everywhere the most important people of the country crowded around him, all eager for his judgment of Sherman. Again and again I heard him declare to these makers of opinion that Sherman was the greatest soldier living. I remonstrated with him in private, but he repeated—that was his opinion.

Indeed, I always felt for years that Grant did not do himself justice in his own thought. He was so unconscious and so uncritical of himself that he could not properly compare himself with others. The peculiar character of Sherman's [118] genius fascinated him quite as absolutely as it did anybody in the country, and made him feel that Sherman had at least as much right to the first place as he. He almost seemed sorry at times that Sherman had not attained it.

But he became used to greatness. He began his career with a very modest idea of his own abilities, but as he grew up into prominence, he found that he could do at least as well as any one else, and he had no fear after I knew him to assume any place or undertake any task. But although he never felt overshadowed, for a long while when he looked at Sherman's achievements he was dazzled; and when he regarded Sherman's attainments and peculiar gifts, which were just those that he did not himself possess, he felt his own deficiencies. Sherman was eloquent, animated, magnetic, learned in military history, ready to quote the examples of other commanders; above all he was brilliant; Grant knew that he himself was none of these; and though never lacking in self-confidence he was often impressed by Sherman's splendid qualities till he forgot the weight due to his own soberer but more essential merits.

To these Sherman however was never blind. He appreciated fully Grant's remarkable poise, and that absolute confidence in success which he likened to the faith which a Christian has in the Saviour. He knew that Grant's very lack of imagination was sometimes an advantage in battle; for he once said: ‘When I go into battle I am always thinking what the enemy will do, but Grant don't care a damn.’ He reposed on the calm strength of his friend, and the two made a combination that served themselves and the country better than if they had been counterparts.

Sherman arrived triumphant at Savannah, and then the fickle crowd declared for a while that he ought to supplant Grant. The chief had lain for nearly a year in front of Richmond, and won not a single undisputed victory; while Sherman had fought his way to Atlanta and afterward marched [119] across the Confederacy to the sea. A bill was accordingly meditated to make Sherman Lieutenant-General and eligible to command the Army. But Sherman wrote to his brother in the Senate to prevent the plan, while to Grant he said: ‘I would rather have you in command than any one else. I should emphatically decline any command calculated to bring us into rivalry.’ To this Grant answered simply: ‘If you should be put in command and I put subordinate, it would not change our relations in the least. I would make the same exertions to support you that you have ever done to support me, and I would do all in my power to make our cause win.’ He so little thought he was saying anything remarkable when he wrote these lines that he was about sending the letter without retaining a copy. By good fortune he showed it to me, and I took a copy before it was forwarded, though he seemed to think this unnecessary. It was unofficial, he said.

At this period in his career Grant was always apparently unconscious when he did great things, either in an intellectual or a moral way. He seemed by nature utterly unobservant of the workings of his own mind and almost of the peculiarities of his own character. He never appeared to consider, much less to study, his own thoughts or emotions, unless something was done or said to call his attention to them—perhaps to disclose them to himself. One or two of his intimates were even able occasionally to utter or embody his feelings for him, so that he at once recognized and accepted them. Rawlins possessed this art, and to those who did not know all or see far, he sometimes seemed to put ideas into Grant. But he got them all first from Grant; and having a greater facility of expression could reveal them to him, or even impress them on their author. He never, however, claimed to originate them; nor did he ever discuss this singular power; he only exerted it; perhaps unconsciously, as Grant himself exerted his own faculties. The mirror in [120] which a man's features are reflected may sometimes make known to himself what manner of man he is. But the mirror does not therefore create the features.

Later in Grant's career, after he had seen much of the world and had passed through so marvelous an experience of life and men, he seemed to me to become more conscious. Yet it may be that it was I who grew, not he; that I got to know him better, and at last could see what had existed all along beneath the veil he kept so close about his intimacy. He was unwilling, it is true, that friendship, or even affection, should penetrate too far; nevertheless, the study of his character and deeds for twenty years revealed qualities and peculiarities which he acknowledged by his acts, if not his words; and he finally, I thought, became not only willing, but desirous, for me to know some of the workings of his spirit which few were permitted to perceive. If I tell any of his secrets now, when he cannot be pained, his silent shade will not reproach me, for it is to make him loved and honored by others as he was by me.

But to return to Sherman. When the terrible and unjust reaction came, and the Government and half the country in one harsh burst of passion forgot all that Sherman had done, and pronounced him a traitor, Grant was as deeply wounded almost as Sherman. I met him with this news in North Carolina, as he was returning from Sherman's headquarters after the second capitulation of Johnston. He knew, for he had heard them say, what the President and Stanton thought of Sherman's terms, and he disapproved those terms as fully and resolutely as they; but he had not dreamed that these censures would be made known. When he read Stanton's comments published to the world, his face flamed with indignation, his fist was clenched, and he exclaimed: ‘It is infamous—infamous!’ he repeated the word—‘After four years of such service as Sherman has done—that he should be used like this!’ On his return to Washington he was not chary in expressing his indignation, and when Sherman [121] arrived there with his army, to share in the Great Review, the tone of public feeling was already changed, partly, no doubt, by Grant's outspoken protestations for his friend.

But now came another serious trouble. Sherman was not appeased. He could not forgive the insult offered him before the country; and the situation of public affairs was still too critical for men like Stanton and Sherman to be at odds without creating anxiety. Sherman's army shared his feeling, and it was not thought wise to encamp it too near Washington. Grant did his best to bring the great patriots together, and Stanton was not averse; he doubtless felt that he had been unjust. But Sherman held off. Grant advised him, sympathized with him, and sought to soothe him. But Sherman refused in public, at the head of his army, and in the presence of the President and all the great functionaries of the nation, the hand that Stanton offered him.

He wrote, besides, two letters to Grant, one from Richmond and the other in Washington, which Grant gave me to keep, directing me to seal them up, and never show them to any human being without his leave. Years afterward, with Grant's sanction, I wrote to Sherman for permission to use them in my history. This he gave, adding fresh comments full of pathos and the softening influence of time. Grant had never answered the letters, but kept the secret, so that the contents remained unknown till one of the great actors had passed away and the other had forgiven the affront. Then Sherman wrote to me: ‘I fully concede to you the right to use anything I ever wrote, private or public, to give the world a picture of the feelings, even passions, of the time. . . . To-day I might act with more silence, with more caution, with more prudence, because I am twelve years older. But these things did occur, these feelings were felt, and inspired acts which go to make up history; and the question now is not, Was I right or wrong? but, Did it happen? and is the record worth anything as an historic example?’ [122]

And now the two men who had stood side by side since Shiloh, in good report and evil report, in disaster and trial and in final triumph, were to be tested on another field. Andrew Johnson conceived the idea of making them rivals, of pitting the friends against each other in politics. When he found that he could not win Grant to his purposes, he bethought him that Sherman's reputation and popularity might serve him almost as well. Sherman had lived out of the strife between Congress and the President, and could not know all that Grant knew of Johnson's cunning and designs. His subordination might be counted on, as Grant's had been. Then, too, Sherman had seemed to entertain notions in politics not entirely dissimilar to those with which Johnson himself had started; he might be inclined to act with the loyal men who had followed Johnson in his aberrations. Above all, he might be tempted by the chance to supplant his only superior in military position or possibly fame. So the scheme was laid to entrap Sherman and use him to further Johnsons views in antagonism to Grant.

General Sherman to General Badeau.

headquarters Army of the United States, Washington, D. C., June 27, 1877.
dear Badeau,—Your letter of June 13th catches me in the act of packing up for an absence of three months, and leaves me only time to say that the marked honors paid General Grant by all classes, from the sovereign down to the masses of England, touch our people, especially his old comrades, with great force. All the papers of every shade of politics chronicle his movements and furnish the minutest details. We all know that he and Mrs. Grant went up from London last evening at 5 P. M., and were the guests of her most gracious Majesty, Victoria, at Windsor Castle. I esteem these marks of favor, not as mere compliments to the General and his country, but as a foreshadowing of the judgment of history on his wonderful career. Now that he is untrammeled by the personal contests of partisans, all men look upon him as the [123] General Grant, who had the courage, with Lee at his front and Washington at his rear, to undertake to command the Army of the Potomac in 1864, to guide, direct, and push it through sunshine and storm, through praise and denunciation, steadily, surely, and finally to victory and peace; and afterwards, though unused to the ways and machinery of civil government, to risk all in undertaking to maintain that peace by the Constitution and civil forms of government. There have been plenty of people trying to sow dissensions between us personally, and I feel my conscience clear that, though sometimes differing on minor points, I never doubted his patriotism, firmness, and personal friendship. If the General and family be still with you, give them the assurance of my best love, and believe me,

Most truly, your friend,

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