SHERMAN, William Tecumseh (1820-1891). Autograph letter signed ("W.T. Sherman") as General-in-Chief of the Army, to Mrs. Hall, Washington, D.C., 18 November 1879. 12 pages, 8vo (4 15/16 x 8 in.), Headquarters, Army of the United States stationery, slight browning, small tape adhesion to final leaf, otherwise fine.
SHERMAN REMINISCES ABOUT THE WAR AND LOST COMRADES AND OFFERS A CANDID DESCRIPTION OF ULYSSES S. GRANT: "HE IS A STRANGE CHARACTER...TO ME HE IS A MYSTERY--AND I BELIEVE HE IS A MYSTERY TO HIMSELF"
A lengthy very remarkable letter in which the aging Sherman examines the character and reputation of Grant and fondly recalls comrades who have passed. When the war came to a close in 1865, Sherman took only a brief leave from the army before returning with a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General. Sherman commanded the Reconstruction Military Division of the Missouri before being placed on duty in Indian Territory. When Grant won the presidency, he quickly chose Sherman to replace him as General-in-Chief of the Army, a position he held until 1883.
Sherman worked closely with Grant throughout the Civil War, serving directly under his command at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga before Grant assumed command of all Union armies. Their relationship continued during Grant's administration, as the two men worked closely on military matters. Here, Sherman offers a candid opinion of the former President: "I don't believe Grant's head has been turned or confused one iota by the extraordinary displays in his honor at San Francisco, or elsewhere. He is a strange character. Nothing like it is portrayed by Plutarch or the many who have striven to portray the Great Men of ancient or modern times. I knew him as a Cadet at West Point--as a Lieut. of the 4th Infantry, as a citizen of Saint Louis, and as a growing General all through a bloody Civil War." Sherman explains that as President of the veteran's organization for the Army of the Tennessee (noting that this was the army that Grant first commanded "with which he achieved the Great Victories of Forts Henry and Donelson--of Shiloh, and of Vicksburg"), he oversaw several events at which the President was the guest of honor: "I sat by him and directed all the Proceedings--He was as simple, as awkward as when he was a Cadet--but all he did, and all he said had good sense and modesty as the basis." He concludes his commentary with high praise for his former commander: "No man in America has held higher office, or been more instrumental in guiding Great Events, and without elaborating I'll give you what I construe to be the philosophy of his Life. A simple faith that our country must go on and by keeping up with the events of the day--he will be always right--for 'whatever is, is right.' He don't lead [sic] in one sense, and dont attempt [sic] to change natural results--Thus the world accounts him the typical man--and therefore adore him. Our People want Success, progress, and unity and in these Grant has been, is, and will be accepted as the type."
Sherman fondly remembers his subordinate George Thomas (1816-1870), known during the war as the "Rock of Chickamauga": "Here, at this moment, crowds are assembled to unveil the Equestrian Statue of Genl George H. Thomas, another of the heros of the Civil War, who died in California in 1870...He too was my Class-mate at West Point from 1836 to 40, served with me in the Second Regiment for ten years, and last was my most trusted Commander in the Great Campaign of Atlanta." Somberly, Sherman notes that he will be present at the ceremony, one of the dwindling veteran officers of the war: "I will be present at all, but will bear a modest part, because most of the audience will think that my turn comes next, and many that I too ought to have died long since to make room for ambitious subordinates. But some how I linger on ...I have taken a reasonable share of chances to be killed by bullets & by sickness, and it is not my fault that I have survived Thomas, and [James] McPherson and others of my War Comrades."
He admonishes Hall not to forget the sacrifices made during the Civil War: "When my turn does come I suppose that the world will have forgotton the days of 1864-5, and forgot the gratitude then felt & expressed for the men who fought, and won the Battle for our National Union & Liberty. Dont forget it yourself--but be thankful that your children thereby escaped the horrors of battle, the terrible conflicts of passion & feeling, which had to be in 1861-5, or at some subsequent time--Now all is Peace and Glory--America now stands at the head of Civilized Nations, and many must exist who know the truth and hold in honor and affectiinate remembrance the men who fought that Glorious Peace might be possible."