MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps_
NOVEMBER 1863-JUNE 1865
cabinet meeting--Formal opinions approving the "Basis"--"The Confederacy is conquered"--Grant brings disapproval from the Johnston administration--Sherman gives notice of the termination of the truce--No military disadvantage from it--Sherman's vindication of himself--Grant's admirable conduct--Johnston advises Davis to yield--Capitulation assented to, but a volunteer cavalry force to accompany Davis's flight--A new conference at Durham--Davis's imaginary treasure--Grant's return to Washington--Terms of the parole given by Johnston's army--The capitulation complete--Schofield and his army to carry out the details--The rest of Sherman's army marches north--His farewell to Johnston--Order announcing the end of the war--Johnston's fine reply--Stanton's strange dispatch to the newspapers--Its tissue of errors--Its baseless objections--Sherman's exasperation--Interference with his military authority over his subordinates--Garbling Grant's dispatch--Sherman strikes back--Breach between Sherman and
Halleck--It also grew out of the published matter--Analysis of the facts--My opinion as recorded at the time.
When Grant reached Sherman's headquarters on the morning of the 24th of April, Johnston had not yet been notified of the action of the Confederate government as to the agreed "Basis" of surrender. Having got Sherman's dispatch of the evening before, he telegraphed to General Breckinridge, the Secretary of War at Greensborough, that there must be immediate readiness to act. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 834.] Breckinridge, however, had gone to Charlotte, about eighty miles down the road, near the South Carolina line, where Mr. Davis held the last meeting of his cabinet, and procured from each of them his formal, written opinion and advice. Davis himself now telegraphed the result to Johnston, saying: "Your action is approved. You will so inform General Sherman, and if the like authority be given by the Government of the United States to complete the arrangement, you will proceed on the 'Basis' adopted." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 834.] He added that further instructions would be given as to the subordinate details which, by common consent, must be added to the "Basis" to perfect it.
The cabinet opinions were unanimous in favor of approving the "Basis." Benjamin's, Reagan's, and Attorney-General Davis's were dated the 22d, Breckinridge's the 23d, and Mallory's the 24th. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 821, 823, 827, 830, 832.]
In varying words they all admitted what Mallory put most tersely, in saying "The Confederacy is conquered." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 833.] Several of them discussed the possibility of carrying on a guerilla warfare, but could see in it no useful result. They agreed that if Johnston retreated to the Gulf States, the troops would disperse spontaneously. Virginia and North Carolina would separately withdraw from the Confederacy, and the other States would follow. Benjamin expressed the common opinion that the terms of the convention "exact only what the victor always requires,--the relinquishment by his foe of the object for which the struggle was commenced." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 822.] He also well formulated their judgment that, as political head, Davis could not make peace by dissolving the Confederacy; but as commander-in-chief he could ratify the military convention disbanding the armies. "He can end hostilities. The States alone can act in dissolving the Confederacy and returning to the Union according to the terms of the convention." [Footnote: _Ibid._] Reagan alone spoke of hopes that by submission the States might procure advantages not mentioned in the "Basis," and found comfort in the fact that it contained "no direct reference to the question of
slavery." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 824.] Taken together, these important documents contain the strongest possible admission of the utter ruin of the Confederacy and of the simple truth that there was nothing left for them but to surrender at discretion, with such dignity as they might. Of themselves the cabinet opinions changed the situation, and made it impossible to resume plans of further resistance after the convention was rejected at Washington. With them the Confederate Government vanished.
For it was a disapproval that Grant had brought. On receiving the "Memorandum, or Basis," from Sherman, on the 21st, he had at once seen that the latter had acted in ignorance of the facts: first, that
Mr. Lincoln had himself, two days before his death, withdrawn the permission for the Virginia legislature to assemble; and second, that he had, a month before Lee's surrender, directed that military negotiations should not treat of any subject of civil policy. In view, therefore, of the tendency to severity which followed the
assassination, it was evident that the convention would not be approved, and, as soon as action had been taken by the President in cabinet meeting, Grant wrote a calm and friendly letter to Sherman, in explanation of the rejection of the "Basis," inclosing Stanton's formal notice and order to resume hostilities. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 263, 264.] These were intrusted to Major Hitchcock, but, as we have seen, Grant accompanied the messenger in person.
Sherman having, only the day before, learned of the change of policy with regard to Virginia, and notified Johnston of its probable effect, was prepared in part for the disapproval, and was personally glad to be rid of political negotiation. He made no objection or remonstrance, but even before discussing the subject with Grant, wrote his notice to Johnston of the termination of the truce within forty-eight hours, as agreed. With this he sent a note stating his orders "not to attempt civil negotiations," and demanding surrender of Johnston's own army "on the same terms as were given General Lee at Appomattox." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 293, 294.] These dispatches were dated at six in the morning of the 24th, a few minutes after Grant's arrival. [Footnote: Grant to
Stanton, _Id_., p. 293.]
Sherman then explained to the General-in-Chief the military situation, the position of his several corps, his readiness to make the race with Johnston for Charlotte, the completed repair of the railroad through Raleigh to Durham, the accumulation of supplies, and the improved condition of the country roads. The truce had worked him no disadvantage from a military standpoint, but the contrary. The only thing which annoyed him in the dispatches from Washington was the last sentence in Mr. Stanton's communication to Grant, saying, "The President desires that you proceed immediately to the headquarters of General Sherman and direct operations against the enemy." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 263.] The implication in this was a distrust of him which was wholly unjust, and he replied to it, "I had flattered myself that by four years' patient, unremitting, and successful labor I deserved no such reminder." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 302.] In a letter to Grant of the same date he put upon record the fact that he had reason to suppose that his "Memorandum" accurately reflected Mr. Lincoln's ideas and purposes, and that he was wholly uninformed of the instructions in regard to negotiating upon civil questions. He stood by his opinions on the propriety of using the _de facto_ governments in the separate States as agents of submission for their people. He pointed out that the military convention did not meddle with the right of the courts to punish past crimes, and stated that he admitted the need of clearer definition as to the guaranty of rights of person and property. [Footnote: _Ibid._] The points he thus discussed were those he got from Grant orally, for he had, as yet, no other knowledge of the criticisms made by
President Johnson or his cabinet.
Grant's sincere friendship and his freedom from the least desire to exhibit his own power had made him act as a visitor rather than a commander. He appreciated Sherman's perfect readiness to accept the methods dictated by the civil authorities, and saw that his zeal was as ardent as it was at Atlanta or
Savannah. The results of the honest frankness of the dealings between Sherman and Johnston were speedily seen. The Confederate general perfectly understood the meaning of the notice to end the truce, and that his great opponent would do his military duty to the uttermost. Whilst ordering his army to be ready to move at the expiration of the truce, he also declared to Mr. Davis, in asking for instructions, that it were better to yield than to have Sherman's army again traverse the country. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 835.] Davis suggested, through Breckinridge, that the infantry and artillery might be disbanded, but the cavalry and horse-batteries brought off to accompany the high civil officers who would try to reach the Southwest. [Footnote: _Ibid._] Johnston replied that this would only provide for saving these functionaries from captivity. This might be done by Mr. Davis moving with a smaller cavalry escort, without losing a moment. To save the people, the country, and the army, an honorable military capitulation ought to be made before the expiration of the armistice. He said that his subordinate commanders did not believe their troops would fight again, and that news was received of the
fall of Mobile, with 3,000 prisoners, and the capture of Macon, with a number of prominent generals. [Footnote: _Id._, P. 836.] Early on the 25th Breckinridge assented to the capitulation, but directed that General
Wade Hampton, with the mounted men who chose to follow him, might join the President. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 837.] Upon this, Johnston wrote Sherman, asking that instead of a surrender and disbanding in the field, his army might have the arrangement for going home in organizations which had been made by the Memorandum of the 18th, giving as a reason that Lee's paroled men were already afflicting the country, collecting in bands which had no means of subsistence but robbery. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 304.] Sherman then appointed a new conference at Durham, for the 26th, at noon. [Footnote: _Ibid_.] He had learned from Grant that it was believed at Washington that Davis had with him a large treasure in specie, making for Cuba by way of
Florida, and sent at once a dispatch to
Admiral Dahlgren, naval commander at Charleston, asking that officer to try to intercept him. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 310.]
General Grant's complete satisfaction with Sherman's personal attitude and readiness to accept the action of the President was shown in his wish to return at once to Washington. He prepared to start from Raleigh on the morning of the 26th, taking a steamer from New Berne on arriving there. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 309.] He expected, of course that the surrender would be completed and the result telegraphed him by the time his vessel was ready to start, but he was also moved by delicacy toward Sherman and the desire to relieve him from every appearance of supervision which his stay at Raleigh might give. Sherman, however, was also chivalrous, and requested Grant not to leave till he should see the capitulation finally signed. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 312.] All this, it must be remembered, was in entire ignorance of the follies perpetrated at the War Department during those days.
The hour fixed for the new conference at Durham was the same at which the armistice would expire; but Sherman, having the troops in readiness to start at a moment's notice, ordered that no movement should be made till his return. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 314.] An accident to his railroad delayed Johnston two or three hours, but on his arrival a brief conference satisfied him that the only course to pursue was to surrender on the terms given to Lee, and to trust to Sherman's assurance that such arrangements would be made in executing the capitulation as would guard against the evils of the dispersion of his army without means of subsistence, which both officers justly feared. As in Lee's case the language used avoided terms which implied being prisoners of war even momentarily, but provided that after delivering the arms to an ordnance officer at Greensborough (excepting side-arms of officers) and giving an "individual obligation not to take up arms against the Government of the United States, . . . all the officers and men will be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 313.]
At half-past seven in the evening Grant was able to write his dispatch to Stanton, Secretary of War, that the surrender was complete, and by using the telegraph to New Berne and Morehead City, and from
Fort Monroe to Washington, the news reached Washington at ten in the morning of the 28th. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 311.] The same evening, and by same means of transmittal, he also informed
Halleck at Richmond of the surrender, and recalled all his troops out of Sherman's theatre of operations. [Footnote: On April 16th
Halleck had been assigned to command the Department of Virginia, thus relieving him of duty as chief of staff of the army in which General Rawlins succeeded him. On April 19th his command was made the Military Division of the James, including besides Virginia such parts of North Carolina as Sherman should not occupy. (Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt, iii. pp. 230, 250.) In reading the Official Records of this period, it must be borne constantly in mind that from two to four days was required to convey dispatches from Sherman to the War Department and _vice versa_,--the longer time in case they were sent by mail, and the shorter when use was made in part of the telegraph lines.] After hearing the details of Sherman's conversations with Johnston, and approving the suggestions of liberal arrangements looking to getting the Confederate troops quickly and quietly back to peaceful industry at their homes, Grant parted with us at Raleigh on the 27th, and returned as rapidly as possible to Washington, where the influence of his calm judgment and executive ability was sorely needed.
The orders for National forces in North Carolina except Schofield's troops to march homeward were issued on the 27th. Kilpatrick's division of cavalry was attached to Schofield's command, and the Army of the Ohio thus reinforced was left to garrison the Department of North Carolina. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 323.] To General Schofield was also intrusted the preparation of the printed paroles for all the troops included in the capitulation, so that there might be uniformity. To him also was committed the conclusion of the supplementary terms needed for the liberal execution of the convention, as had been discussed at the personal meeting of the commanders, at which he had been present. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 320, 322.] Johnston sent in a draft of what he had understood to be thus informally arranged, the most important items of which were the "loan" to the Confederates of their army animals and wagons for farming purposes, the retention of a portion of their arms to enforce order and discipline till the separate organizations should reach their homes, and the extension of the privileges of the convention to naval officers of the Confederacy. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 321.] With slight modifications these were accepted by General Schofield and carried out. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 350, 355, 482.] A large issue of rations to Johnston's troops had been voluntarily added without any request or stipulation. [Footnote: Schofield's Forty-six Years in the Army, p. 352, etc.; Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii. pp. 362, 363; Johnston's Narrative, pp. 412-420. General Schofield's recollection is that he wrote the convention of the 26th, Johnston and Sherman being unable to agree: but as it was in substance a transcript of the Grant-Lee terms of April 9th, according to Sherman's note to Johnston of the 24th demanding their acceptance "purely and simply" (Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 294), the account I have given seems to me best supported by all the evidence.] Both parties understood that Johnston's command included all Confederate troops east of the Chattahoochee, though this is not stated in the terms. [Footnote: Grant to
Halleck, Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 312; Johnston to York, _Id._, p. 854; Do. to Governor Brown, _Id._, p. 855. Sherman's Field Order No. 65, _Id._, p. 322.] At the earnest request of the Confederate general, none of our troops were sent up to Greensborough, where his headquarters and principal camp were, until the printing of the paroles was completed and staff officers sent to issue them on April 30th. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 349, 350, 35l. 483.] Sherman wrote a farewell letter to Johnston on the 27th, telling of his instructions to General Schofield to give him ten days' rations for 25,000 men, "to facilitate what you and I and all good men desire, the return to their homes of the officers and men composing your army." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 320.] He spoke also of his directions to "loan" to them enough animals fit for farming purposes to insure a crop. Concluding, he said: "Now that war is over, I am as willing to risk my person and reputation as heretofore, to heal the wounds made by the past war, and I think my feeling is shared by the whole army. I also think a similar feeling actuates the mass of your army, but there are some unthinking young men who have no sense or experience, that unless controlled may embroil their neighbors. If we are forced to deal with them, it must be with severity, but I hope they will be managed by the people of the South." [Footnote: _Ibid._] His Field Order No. 65, announcing the end of war east of the Chattahoochee, referred to the same purpose "to relieve present wants and to encourage the inhabitants to renew their peaceful pursuits and to restore the relations of friendship among our fellow-citizens and countrymen." He directed that "great care must be taken that all the terms and stipulations on our part be fulfilled with the most scrupulous fidelity, whilst those imposed on our hitherto enemies be received in a spirit becoming a brave and generous army." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 322]
A copy of this order was enclosed in Sherman's letter to Johnston, and the latter replied in a similar noble tone. "The enlarged patriotism manifested in these papers," he said, "reconciles me to what I had previously regarded as the misfortune of my life--that of having had you to encounter in the field. The enlightened and humane policy you have adopted will certainly be successful. It is fortunate for the people of North Carolina that your views are to be carried out by one so capable of appreciating them. I hope you are as well represented in the other departments of your command; if so, an early and
complete pacification in it may be expected.... The disposition you express to heal the wounds made by the past war has been evident to me in all our interviews. You are right in supposing that similar feelings are entertained by the mass of this army. I am sure that all the leading men in it will exert their influence for that object." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 336.]
Down to this moment the progress of events had been full of satisfaction to Sherman, and of gratification to his noble ambition. If the implication contained in the order sending Grant in person to his headquarters had pained him, Grant's perfect handling of the situation had prevented the wound being deep, and Sherman was pleased, on the whole, to be relieved of negotiations on all civil questions. But the day after Grant had left him,--when he had issued his admirable Order No. 65, and exchanged chivalrous sentiments with Johnston,--when he had completed his work in his great campaign and, leaving to Schofield the finishing of the administrative task in North Carolina, was turning his face homeward full of anticipation of rejoining family and friends, with his great career in a retrospect which was altogether gratifying--at this culmination of his glory as a soldier and his pride as a patriot, he received the sorest blow and the deepest wound he ever knew.
The mail, on the 28th, brought a copy of the "New York Times," containing Mr. Stanton's now famous dispatch to
General Dix dated the 22d, sent for the purpose of general publication, in which he made known the fact that Sherman had entered into a convention with Johnston, that it was disapproved by the President, and that Sherman was ordered to resume hostilities. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 285.] Had the newspaper publication stopped here, it would still have been a grave indiscretion, for the news of what was done in Washington usually reached the enemy more promptly than it came to our officers at the front, and the enterprising spies at the capital would have thought their fortunes made by getting on the 22d orders which did not reach Sherman, in fact, till the 24th, with official comments of which the general was ignorant till the 28th. But this was the least of the faults of this curious document. It said that Sherman had entered into "what is called a basis of peace." No such name was given the paper, and the manner of attributing it misled the public as to its character. It suppressed the fact that the "Memorandum" was by its terms wholly without binding effect if not approved by the President. Without saying so, it persuasively led the reader to believe that Sherman had violated instructions issued by Mr. Lincoln on March 3d, which in fact were never published till it was done in this dispatch, and were wholly unknown to the general, who believed he was acting in accordance with President Lincoln's wishes given him orally at the end of March. It spoke of orders sent by Sherman to
Stoneman "to withdraw from Salisbury and join him" as opening "the way for Davis to escape to Mexico or Europe with his plunder, which is reported to be very large." Only complete ignorance of the actual military situation could account for so erroneous a statement. Davis was in the midst of Johnston's whole army, most of which was halted by the truce at Greensborough. Stoneman, on a brilliant cavalry raid, passed rapidly from the North near Greensborough a week before, had struck Salisbury on the 13th, and immediately marched northwest, on his return to East Tennessee, whence he had started. He was at Statesville, forty miles on his way, when Sherman and Johnston made the armistice on the 18th, of which he did not hear a word till he was over the mountains on the 23d. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. i. pp. 334, 335.] Sherman first heard of Davis's "plunder" from Grant on the 24th, and immediately asked the navy to frustrate any efforts to take it out of the country. [Footnote: _Ante_, p. 494.] Davis did not leave the protection of Johnston's army till he knew that Stoneman was far away and his road was clear. In fact, it was only when, after the rejection of the first convention, Johnston had begun negotiations for the separate surrender of his own forces, and further delay would have made him a prisoner. As to the "plunder of the banks" thus published by the Secretary, it turned out that officers of Carolina banks who had taken their assets to Richmond for protection against the perils of war, had taken advantage of the protection of Mr. Davis's escort to carry them home when Richmond fell. As to the specie treasure, rumored to be many millions, about forty thousand dollars was at Greensborough paid to Johnston's soldiers at the rate of $1.17 to each, and the remainder, except a small sum, seems to have been distributed to the cavalry escort, about 3000 strong, which protected Mr. Davis to the
Savannah River and then dispersed; the sum was thirty-five dollars per man, given as part of their arrears of pay. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 801, 803, 820, 850; _Id._, vol. xlix. pt. i. pp. 548, 551, 552, 555; Davis's Rise and Fall, vol. ii. pp. 691, 695; Johnston's Narrative, p. 408; Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 373.] The statement in Mr. Stanton's dispatch regarding this "plunder," copied from one received from
Halleck, which in turn was based on anonymous rumor, was so couched as to give credit to the imputation that Sherman was to be duped or bribed to allow Davis with his effects, "including this gold plunder," to escape. Not only did the form of the publication give this impression, but that it was in fact so understood and treated is simple matter of history.
Even this was not all. There were appended to this nine enumerated criticisms, most of which were baseless. The first declared that both Sherman and Johnston knew the former had no power to do what was done in the Memorandum. What was done in fact was to transmit to the government, for its acceptance or rejection, Johnston's offer to disband all the remaining armies of the Confederacy, wherever situated, on the terms which were stated. The "Memorandum" itself said that the generals lacked power "to fulfil these terms;" but that they had power to make a truce till the government of the United States considered the proposal, is too plain for serious dispute. Yet Mr. Stanton's criticism implied that the arrangement had not been merely proposed, but had been actually concluded, for the strictures otherwise had no meaning.
The second said that "it was a practical acknowledgment of the rebel government." On the other hand, Sherman had utterly refused to deal with or acknowledge that government in any way. The effect of ratification of the terms would have been its silent disappearance without being named. If the argument were worth anything, it would have been much more potent against the exchanges of prisoners which had been carried on through commissioners of both governments. But the next clause had the added bugbear that the arms when deposited at the State capitals might be "used to conquer and subdue the loyal States." This suppressed the fact that by the "Memorandum" the arms were "to be reported to the chief of ordnance at Washington City subject to the future action of the Congress of the United States." The allowance of arms to local authorities to preserve order was a necessity so self-evident that, in the face of this objection by Mr. Stanton, General Schofield, in supplementary terms of the final surrender, allowed Johnston's troops to retain part of the arms in this way, and no whisper of further objection was made. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 482.]
The third objection was that "it undertook to re-establish the rebel State governments that had been overthrown." This was untrue in fact. It proposed that the executive should recognize actually existing governments _de facto_ in the States, for the purpose of renouncing the Confederacy and acknowledging under oath their allegiance to the United States. For the purpose of such submission, it would seem clear that it would be an advantage to have it made by Vance, and Magrath, and Brown, and the rest who had been the real rebels, rather than by new men whose essential representative character might be denied. The subsequent history of reconstruction gives small support to the opinion that anything was gained which might not have been got more effectively by dictating the civil changes and terms of peace to these old State governments rather than to such provisional makeshifts as were afterward used. But the objection was, after all, not against Sherman, but against the dead Lincoln under whose oral authority Sherman was acting, and who had put the same in clearest written terms in his correspondence with General Weitzel and Judge Campbell after Richmond was in our possession. [Footnote: Dana to Stanton, April 5th: "Judge Campbell and Mr. Meyer had an interview with the President here this morning to consider how Virginia can be brought back to the Union. All they ask is an amnesty and a military convention to cover appearances. Slavery they admit to be defunct," etc. (_Id_., vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 575.) Lincoln to Grant, April 6th, says he had put into Judge Campbell's hands "an informal paper" repeating former propositions and adding "that confiscations shall be remitted to the people of any State which will now promptly and in good faith withdraw its troops and other support from resistance to the government. Judge Campbell thought it not impossible that the rebel legislature of Virginia would do the latter if permitted, and accordingly I addressed a private letter to General Weitzel with permission for Judge Campbell to see it, telling him that if they attempt this, to permit and protect them, unless they attempt something hostile to the United States," etc. (_Id._, p. 593.) Lincoln to Weitzel, April 6th. (_Id._, p. 612.) Dana to Stanton, April 7th. (_Id._, p. 619.) Dana to Stanton, April 8th, with enclosures of papers by Judge Campbell giving the contents of Mr. Lincoln's written memorandum to him. (_Id._, pp. 655-657.) When Mr. Lincoln got back to Washington, Lee having surrendered with the Virginia troops and the rebel legislature of Virginia not having assembled or acted, the President withdrew his permission for them to meet, saying he had dealt with them as men "having power de facto" to do what he wished but which was already done. Lincoln to Weitzel, April 12th. (_Id._, p. 725.)]
The fourth criticism was that by the terms proposed the State governments "would be enabled to re-establish slavery." Apart from the admissions of leading men of the South, and the facts already collated, [Footnote: _Ante_, pp. 481, 485.] Mr. Stanton, in saying this, ignored the Proclamation of Emancipation, on which, in his conversation with Judge Campbell, Mr. Lincoln had been entirely willing to rest. The Southern jurist had recognized the solidity of the legal ground "that if the proclamation of the President be valid as law, it has already operated and vested rights." This the judge had stated to his fellow-citizens as a fact in the situation not to be ignored, and had repeated it in his letter of April 7th to General Weitzel in a stronger form, if possible, saying, "The acceptance of the Union involves acceptance of his proclamation, if it be valid in law." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvi. pt. iii. pp. 656, 657.] The condition of its legal validity was not an insertion by Campbell--it was the expression of Mr. Lincoln himself, conceding the authority of the courts to pass upon the question as he had done in his amnesty proclamation. [Footnote: Gorham's Stanton, vol. ii. p. 235.] Mr. Stanton had these things before him, hardly a fortnight old, when he made his singular publication. They add no little to the difficulty of determining the true motives of his appeal to the public.
The fifth objection was the possibility of resulting liability for the rebel debts, which could hardly have been seriously meant.
The sixth was that it put in dispute the loyal State governments and the new State of West Virginia. As to the latter, the "Memorandum" was based on Mr. Lincoln's action in Virginia, and assumed that question to have been determined, so far as the executive was concerned. The criticism, like some of the rest, was aimed at what Mr. Lincoln had done, which was thus flogged over Sherman's shoulders; for the latter was, as we have to reiterate, ignorant that on Mr. Lincoln's return to Washington he had been induced to cancel what he had done. From any point of view but that of a momentary party advantage, it is hard to see the evil of submitting contesting State governments to the decision of the Supreme Court. Those of Louisiana and Arkansas were swept away very soon by Congressional action, and they were the only ones intended to be reached by the Sherman-Johnston "Memorandum."
The seventh declared that it "practically abolished the confiscation laws and relieved the rebels of every degree, who had slaughtered our people, from all pains and penalties for their crimes." Those who had "slaughtered" were primarily the officers and soldiers of the armies, and no fault was found with Grant's extension of amnesty to them by the Appomattox terms. It was true, besides, that the whole male population of the South, of military age, was part of the army, and that even State officers were "furloughed" to enable them to perform public duties of a civil nature. We have seen that Sherman carefully limited immunity to the action of the executive, that he meddled with no laws, and said that all the people were still liable to what the judicial department of the government might do. But he had also acknowledged, upon reflection, that clearer definition would be desirable in this respect, and had asked Johnston to be ready to act upon this. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 266.] It is our privilege, moreover, judging after the fact, to note how little Stanton's objection practically meant, and how much better Sherman represented the deeper purpose of the American people, since neither Mr. Davis nor any of his chief counsellors suffered "the pains and penalties for their crimes."
The eighth criticism was that the "Memorandum" offered terms "that had been deliberately, repeatedly, and solemnly rejected by President Lincoln, and better terms than the rebels had ever asked in their most prosperous condition." Mr. Stanton could hardly have forgotten, when writing this, that they were in fact not only based on what Sherman had learned of his policy from Mr. Lincoln himself, as we have seen, but they were what President Lincoln had repeatedly offered and the Confederates had repeatedly rejected, the last rejection being after the Hampton Roads conference in the first days of February. [Footnote: Nicolay and Hay's "Lincoln," vol. x. pp. 122, 123, 128]
Exactly what was meant by the ninth criticism it is hard to say. It is said that the "Memorandum," if adopted, would "relieve the rebels from the pressure of our victories" and leave them "in condition to renew their efforts to overthrow the United States government and subdue the loyal States whenever their strength was recruited and any opportunity was offered." As it provided for the disarming and disbanding of every Confederate company, left our victorious troops free to garrison every State, and gave protection to individuals only so long as they were obedient to the National government, we must regard the apprehension of new efforts to subdue the loyal States as fantastic and not serious.
It was inevitable that such a manifesto to the public should be greatly exasperating to Sherman. Seeing also the manner in which it was interpreted by the newspapers, he believed that it was purposely so worded as to imply what it did not explicitly assert, and to hold him up to the nation as one little better than a traitor. He was very emphatic in saying that being overruled did not trouble him; it was the public perversion of what he had done, attributing to his "Memorandum" what the publication of its text would have contradicted, which outraged his feelings. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 335, 345.] Grant frankly adhered to his opinion that in the actual condition of affairs he could not himself advise the ratification of the terms proposed; yet he saw the injustice done Sherman, and condemned it. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 410, 531.] Their relations continued as cordial as ever, and his influence was potent in preventing further ill results from following the quarrel.
The publication was followed by other acts of Mr. Stanton which increased the irritation. On the 27th of April he informed
Thomas that "Sherman's proceedings" were disapproved, and ordered them to direct their subordinates "to pay no attention to any orders but your own or from General Grant." [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlix. pt. ii. p. 484; vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 321.] This was a day after Johnston had made his final surrender under the second convention, and when Grant had been two days with Sherman. It led to
Meade to pay no attention to the truce, even after the surrender of Johnston was signed, and might have caused serious results if Grant had not been very prompt in giving counter-orders to
Halleck. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 312.] All the department commanders naturally understood Stanton's language in sending Grant to North Carolina, as superseding Sherman in command, though in fact this was not done. They concluded that if any new terms were made with Johnston the action would be in Grant's name, and his signature would verify the truce. But as Grant did not do this, and everything remained in Sherman's hands as before, the actual surrender was ignored and credit refused, by order of the Secretary of War, to the armistice declared while the paroles were being issued. Stanton took no steps to correct this, and for two weeks the strange muddle continued in the Southwest. This came to such a pass that on May 8th Sherman inquired of Grant whether "the Secretary of War's newspaper order" had taken Georgia out of his command. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 434.] Grant replied, "I know of no order which changes your command in any particular," and, in his patient role of peacemaker, suggested that the necessity of prompt communication when Sherman was not in telegraphic communication with Washington had caused some irregularities. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 445.]
One of the minor incidents in Stanton's course of action throws so strong light on his methods and was so irritating an example of the _suppressio veri_ that it must be mentioned. Immediately after his interview with Sherman in the early morning of the 24th, Grant had sent a dispatch to Stanton, which the latter sent to General Dix for publication in the following form: "A dispatch has just been received by this department from General Grant, dated Raleigh, 9 A. M., April 24th. He says: 'I reached here this morning, and delivered to General Sherman the reply to his negotiations with Johnston. Word was immediately sent to Johnston, terminating the truce, and information that civil matters could not be entertained in any convention between army commanders.'" [Footnote: _Id_., p. 311.] Taken in connection with the previous publication, this was naturally interpreted to mean that Grant had sent the "word" to Johnston, and it strengthened the current against Sherman. The dispatch as sent by Grant was this: "I reached here this morning and delivered to General Sherman the reply to his negotiations with Johnston. _He was not surprised, but rather expected their rejection_. Word was immediately sent to Johnston terminating the truce, and information that civil matters could not be entertained in any convention between army commanders. _General Sherman has been guided in his negotiations with Johnston entirely by what he thought was precedent authorized by the President. He had before him the terms given by me to Lee's army and the call of the rebel legislature of Virginia authorized by General Weitzel, as he supposed with the sanction of the President and myself. At the time of the agreement General Sherman did not know of the withdrawal of authority for the meeting of that legislature. The moment he learned through the papers that authority for the meeting had been withdrawn, he communicated the fact to Johnston as having bearing on the negotiations had_." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 293.] I have italicized the omitted parts to show how absolutely essential they were to a true statement of Sherman's attitude, and how grave was the offence against fair dealing to suppress them after the appeal to the public had been made by the first publication. The dispatch is also historically important as proof of the ideal character of Grant's disinterestedness and frank friendship for Sherman in this juncture.
Mr. Stanton's habit of impetuous action without reflection, upon first impressions and imperfect knowledge, was notorious, as was his constitutional inability to admit that he had been in the wrong. Once aroused, he was a fierce combatant, using any weapon that came to hand, inquiring only whether it would hurt his opponent. When obliged to see that he had judged wrongly, his silence was the only confession: he was seldom equal to a candid apology. If a tacit retreat was accepted by the other party, he might endeavor to compensate for the wrong in some other manner. [Footnote: On this subject General E. D. Townsend, as adjutant-general, is a most competent and conclusive witness. (Townsend's Anecdotes of the Civil War, p. 137.) Two little matters occurring at nearly the same time with the Sherman quarrel perfectly illustrate this characteristic in Stanton. General Townsend was in charge of the
funeral escort of Lincoln's body, and in New York a photograph was taken of the coffin, in state, in the City Hall, with the drapery of the alcove formed of national flags and crape, with Admiral Davis and General Townsend as guard of honor at head and foot. Stanton read of it in a newspaper, and without further knowledge sent a violent and undignified reprimand to Townsend, ordering him to relieve and send back to Washington the officers on duty, and to seize and destroy the plates. A telegraphic correspondence followed, bringing in the photographers, Henry Ward Beecher, H. J. Raymond, and the military officers, with the proof that there was nothing to find fault with, but rather the desirable preservation of a memento of a memorable scene. There was a retreat, but no apology by the Secretary. (Official Records, vol. xlvi. pt. iii. pp. 952, 965, 966). The other was the permission given the Episcopal clergy in Richmond to continue Divine service in the churches if they omitted the prayer for the Confederate President in their liturgy, that being treated as a demonstration in favor of the insurgent government. General Weitzel was in command, and Mr. Lincoln was in the city when the question first arose whether, in addition to the above prohibition, the clergy should be required to insert, affirmatively, a prayer for the President of the United States. Weitzel supposed he was acting in accordance with Mr. Lincoln's direction not to be sticklish in little things, stopped at the prohibition, as was generally done by commanders in the field, on the ground that to order a form to be inserted in any liturgy where it did not exist, would be ridiculous for a government based on total separation of church and state. Stanton, hearing of it through Mr. C. A. Dana, informed Weitzel that his action was "strongly condemned," and that he was "unwilling to believe that a general officer of the United States, commanding in Richmond, would consent to such an omission of respect to the President." Weitzel asked whether the direction would apply to Roman Catholics, Hebrews, and other churches having a prescribed liturgy, and Stanton replied _ex cathedra_, in the affirmative, repeating his reprimand. Weitzel now appealed to the President, and the absurd controversy was stopped. Stanton seems to have acted at first in ignorance that individual ministers had no power to insert a prayer into the formal liturgy; but he could not yield when better informed, and a temperate memorial of the local clergy stating the canonical difficulty and their earnest intention to have the change made with all speed possible, is in the Records, "disapproved by order of the Secretary of War"! (_Id_., pp. 619, 677, 678, 684, 696, 711, 737). Perhaps the nearest historical parallel is Napoleon's order to the Russian clergy to pray for him instead of the Czar in 1812. (Fezensac, Souvenirs Militaires, 4th ed., liv. 2, chap. i. p. 233.)]
Sherman was not the man to submit to what he considered and called an outrage, and when made aware of it, he struck back with all his force. He exposed and denounced the perversions of fact and misstatements of what he had done, and demanded the publication of the original "Memorandum" with his statement of its relations to Mr. Lincoln's policy and wishes as stated by the dead President himself. Grant advised him to omit some of the expressions of his official report, but he refused and courted an official investigation, whilst he clearly stated his duty and his purpose to obey without question such orders as were given by competent authority. He was quite too large a man to be made the victim of a manifest wrong, and when once the case was fairly presented, the purity of his motives and the reasonableness of his belief that he was acting under highest authority were generally acknowledged, even by those who supported a severer policy toward the Southern States. The President and nearly all the members of the Cabinet assured him that the published bulletins had been without their knowledge, and cordially strove to soothe his wounded feelings. [Footnote: For the correspondence, see Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 302, 334, 345, 371, 410, 476, 515, 547, 576, 581, 582, 586, 662; _Id_., pt. i. p. 40. See also Sherman's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 375; Conduct of the War, vol. vi. p. 3.] The genuineness of character, patriotism, and subordination tempered by proper self-respect, which he exhibited, did not diminish the public regard, but rather heightened it. As to the debatable questions of policy involved in his first convention, he proudly left them to the judgment of time.
The breach of friendship between Sherman and Halleck, which was also caused by Mr. Stanton's bulletins, was especially to be regretted. Their early close relations as young officers going "around the Horn" to California have already been mentioned, as well as the warm personal correspondence between them during the Atlanta campaign. [Footnote: _Ante_, pp. 174-176.] He had been grateful also for Halleck's friendly conduct toward him in his period of depression in 1861, and expressed it strongly in a long letter when Atlanta had fallen and he had won his commission as major-general in the regular army. "I confess I owe you all I now enjoy of fame," he said, "for I had allowed myself in
1861 to sink into a perfect 'slough of despond.'" Halleck's friendship and encouragement had put him in the way of recovering from this. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxxviii. pt. v. p. 791.] But now his faith in human nature was rudely shocked by finding, apparently, this friendly hand joining in the hardest blows at his fame and honor.
In the first of Stanton's bulletins concerning him, Sherman found copied the dispatch from Halleck giving the rumor of Davis's great "plunder," and the hope of the Confederate leaders to "make terms with Sherman or some other commander," by which they would be permitted to escape out of the country with this treasure. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 286.] The sting of this was in the apparent insinuation that Sherman might be bought. It naturally roused him to explosive wrath. Had Mr. Stanton quoted the final sentence of Halleck's dispatch, it would have shown that the latter intended no such thing. It concluded, "Would it not be well to put Sherman and all other commanding generals on their guard in this respect?" [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 887.] The apparent insinuation was in the Secretary's bulletin by the omission of this sentence from the quoted dispatch. Had Sherman seen the dispatch as
Halleck wrote it, he would not have been angered by it.
But on the 28th there appeared in the New York papers another dispatch of
Halleck to Stanton, dated the 26th, and saying that his subordinates were ordered "to pay no regard to any truce, or orders of General Sherman suspending hostilities, on the ground that Sherman's agreements could bind his own command and no other." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 953.] This was upon receipt of a dispatch from
Beauregard stating "that a new arrangement had been made with Sherman." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 953.] In the same dispatch Halleck suggested that orders be telegraphed through
General Thomas to
General Wilson, at the head of a strong cavalry column in Georgia, to mind no orders of Sherman, but, with other commanders in the Gulf States, to "take measures to intercept the rebel chiefs and their plunder," now estimated, rather indefinitely, at "from six to thirteen millions."
The folly of such publications was egregious, and justified Sherman's sarcasm that if anybody was conniving at Davis's escape, it was the officer who gave them to the public. It was, however, the direction to disregard his new truce, embracing Johnston's troops alone and based on their actual surrender, that stirred anew his indignation. He had made a short inspection tour down the coast after starting his columns northward, and saw the dispatch in newspapers he received at Morehead, May 4th, on his return there by steamer from Savannah. In writing General Grant, he characterized Halleck's action as an insult. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 388.] Fortunately, he had met at Savannah an officer of General Wilson's staff, Captain L. M. Hosea, who had made an adventurous journey across half Georgia to open communications, [Footnote: _Id_., p. 371.] and in sending a steamboat up to Augusta with supplies for Wilson, he had hurried Captain Hosea back with such full information as enabled Wilson to observe scrupulously the final convention with Johnston whilst vigorously pushing his efforts to capture Davis. These efforts were successful on the 10th. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlix. pt. i. pp. 515, 526.]
Sherman's sense of military honor was violated and shocked by the orders disregarding his truce, which were "cordially approved" by the Secretary of War. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 967.] Grant suggested that Halleck's action was so connected with Mr. Stanton's orders that it might not seem so bad on fuller information, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 410.] but Sherman's sense of injury was such that in passing Richmond on the 8th he refused Halleck's offered hospitality, saying that after the dispatch of the 26th of April friendly intercourse was impossible. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 435.] Halleck's was the "soft answer which turneth away wrath," and it is due to him to remember it. "You have not had during this war, nor have you now, a warmer friend and admirer than myself. If, in carrying out what I knew to be the wishes of the War Department in regard to your armistice, I used language which has given you offence, it was unintentional and I deeply regret it. If fully aware of the circumstances under which I acted, I am certain you would not attribute to me any improper motive. It is my wish to continue to regard and receive you as a personal friend. With this statement I leave the matter in your hands." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 454.]
But what had occurred seemed to Sherman to be so ingeniously fitted together as parts of a malignant plan, that he replied, "I cannot consent to the renewal of a friendship I had prized so highly till I can see deeper into the diabolical plot than I now do." [Footnote: _Ibid_.] His words were all the bitter expression of a heart wounded beyond endurance by wrongs which seemed too palpable and plain for discussion or explanation. In the distribution of commands on the peace establishment made soon afterward, Halleck went to the Pacific coast and did not live long. It is to be feared that no opportunity for a full understanding between him and Sherman occurred, though the latter was as placable as he was impetuous; and when he found, as he soon did, that his fame and reputation had not suffered permanent injury, he ignored the past so far, at least, as to show that he harbored no lasting enmity.
Yet Halleck was probably right in saying that he had done nothing but what he deemed his duty, and with no unfriendly purpose toward Sherman. His dispatch of the 26th of April was only one of a series, and it was made to have a different effect, taken by itself, from what it would have had if read in its connection with the others. There is no reasonable doubt that Stanton's angry purpose had been to humiliate Sherman by practically superseding him in command. Halleck knew this and went to Richmond, where he assumed command on the 22d, with full knowledge of the sentiment which then ruled the War Department. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 891.] In the afternoon of the same day, Grant, on his way to North Carolina, telegraphed him that the truce would be ended as soon as he could reach Raleigh, and ordered him to send
Sheridan with the cavalry toward Greensborough, sending also a corps of infantry along as far as Danville. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 888.] This assumed that by the time these troops could enter Sherman's theatre of operations the truce would have been terminated; for Sheridan was then at
Petersburg, and the Sixth Corps at Burke's Station. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 895.] The cavalry could not be ready to march before the 24th (at the earliest) and did not start in fact till the 25th or 26th. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 931, 947.] Neither it nor the infantry got beyond Danville or entered North Carolina before they were halted by Grant's order to Halleck of the 26th, received in the morning of the 28th. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 954, 997.] No interference with Sherman's truce, either the first or the second, actually occurred. Halleck knew that the first truce would be ended as soon as the two days' notice could expire after Grant reached Raleigh, and long before his troops could come into contact with Johnston's. But he was also moving them by Grant's order, and must not only obey, but must assume that the first truce was no longer in question. It was not necessary or proper for him to explain fully to his subordinates all he knew of Grant's journey and purpose. For their direction it was enough to say they were not to regard the truce which had been made on the 18th and was currently spoken of as "Sherman's truce." Had Sherman known of Grant's order to Halleck and the assumed situation on which it was based, he would not have regarded Halleck's language an insult. Without such knowledge it looked very much like it.
Halleck, however, had to face the question how his subordinates must act if, on coming near the enemy, Johnston should claim a new armistice. He shared the War Department opinion that the negotiation was not sincere on the part of the Confederates, but was a ruse to gain time for Davis's escape with the imaginary "plunder." A pretended armistice is an old and familiar stratagem in warfare. It would seem that Halleck fully believed that Grant would assume actual command, on reaching Sherman (as he had commanded when with Meade during the past campaign), and concluded that any real armistice again made would be in Grant's name. Any other would be a sham or would have been made before Grant was present. Under such circumstances he could not be blamed for telling his subordinates that only Grant's authority or his own must bind them. He was mistaken, in fact, for Grant's arrival was not even known to Johnston, and Sherman concluded the final convention as if Grant had still been in Washington. The curtness of telegrams often creates ambiguities, and when Sherman saw in print Halleck's dispatch of the 26th separated from the rest of the series, he naturally gave to it the meaning which hurt him so. Had he known the rest of the story, he would have seen no treachery to old friendships. The sin was in the unprecedented publications which embroiled everything. In truth, Halleck's order to Meade was more guarded in form than the language of his dispatch to Stanton, for Meade was only told to ignore "any agreements made by General Sherman before the arrival of Lieutenant-General Grant." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 941.]
A curious theoretic question was raised by Halleck's incidental statement that an armistice by Sherman could only bind his own army. Sherman said he must defend his truce at all hazards till it was duly terminated. Each was right in a sense, but fortunately the laws of war and military regulations would prevent practical difficulty arising. If Sheridan had advanced to Greensborough, Sherman would have met him there, and by virtue of his superior rank would have assumed command and responsibility for the united forces. Besides the orders and instructions from the President he already had, he would have to act in view of any authentic instructions or information which Sheridan might bring. On the other hand, if Halleck had accompanied his own forces, his seniority would have made Sherman his subordinate in the common field of operations; but as commander, he would have to respect, at his own peril, all the rights which Johnston had acquired under the principles of international law. The situation had perplexities only so long as the generals were playing at cross-purposes by reason of imperfect knowledge. Their intelligence and character were such that duty would have been plain to both as soon as they came together.
Stanton made no public explanation of his conduct, but in a conversation with
General Howard, he asserted that Sherman's order to his troops announcing the armistice, by saying that when ratified it would "make peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande," had put the government on the defensive, and made it seem proper to publish reasons for disapproving the terms. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 476.] This does not touch the question of the wisdom or folly of the matter published, or of its form. Sherman's reason for mentioning the prospect of a general and speedy peace was that the condition of his army under the news of
Lincoln's assassination was such that he felt it necessary to soothe his excited soldiery with the hope of soon marching home in triumph, thus turning their thoughts from the vengeance which would have been inevitable if fighting were to be resumed. Instead of appreciating this, Mr. Stanton seems to have jumped to the conclusion that it was an act of vanity or of political ambition which was to be squelched _per fas aut nefas_, and in his passionate and hasty action he compromised the whole administration.
We who were Sherman's subordinates in the field knew so well his integrity and patriotism that we sympathized strongly with his indignation at the appeal to popular sentiment against him. Yet the sense of duty to the country and to the government prevented thoughtful men from being blind partisans of our chief. Without full means of judging of the possible effect of the first convention, if carried out, some of us were disposed to believe that there must have been a mistake on his part, since we were not able to believe that the Secretary of War would publish his "nine reasons" if they had no solid support and were not approved by the President and Cabinet. My personal opinion I wrote in my diary at the time, and I reproduce it to show the contemporaneous sentiment of one who was both a warm supporter of the government and a warm friend of the general. What I have written above will also show how far further investigation and fuller knowledge have modified my judgment. "Friday, April 28th.... Some of the Northern papers are very bitter on Sherman for the terms first offered by him, and it is manifest from the dispatches sent by the Secretary of War to New York to be published there, that the new administration is willing to give Sherman a hard hit. He made a great mistake in offering to Johnston the terms he did, but he has done the country such service that the administration owed it to him to keep the thing from the public and to come kindly to an understanding with him, instead of seeming to seek the opportunity to pitch upon him as if it desired to humble him. In conversation this morning he showed that he felt their conduct very sorely, but I hope he will keep out of controversy with them in regard to it. He complains with justice that they have refused to give any instructions to guide military officers as to the policy to be adopted, and then, when these are forced to act, seem to take pleasure in repudiating what the officers have done, and in humbling them or exposing them to popular odium."