Grant, Thomas, Lee
W. T. Sherman
Note: The following is taken from the May 1887 issue of The North American Review (volume 144), pp. 437–50
NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
GRANT, THOMAS, LEE.
In “Macmillan's Magazine” for March, 1887, published in London and New York, appears a most interesting article of ten pages from the pen of General Lord Wolseley, in which, reviewing the recent Memoirs of Robert E. Lee, his Military and Personal History, by Gen. A. L. Long and Gen. Marcus J. Wright, General Wolseley describes his personal acquaintance in 1862 with that famous man, the great impression made by his graceful manner and profound intelligence, and concludes with the following paragraph: “When all the angry feelings roused by secession are buried with those which existed when the Declaration of Independence was written, when Americans can review the history of their last great rebellion with calm impartiality, I believe all will admit that General Lee towered far above all men on either side in that struggle. I believe he will be regarded, not only as the most prominent figure of the Confederacy, but as the great American of the nineteenth century, whose statue is well worthy to stand on an equal pedestal with that of Washington, and whose memory is equally worthy to be enshrined in the hearts of all his countrymen.”
As I happen to be one of the very few survivors of the great Civil War in America who had a personal and professional acquaintance with the chief actors in that grand drama, I am compelled to join issue with General Wolseley in his conclusion, while willing to admit nearly all his premises. Though he is much my junior in years, I entertain for him the highest respect and admiration; he has deservedly gained fame by deeds here in America, in South Africa, Egypt, and in Great Britain. His estimate of the men whom he has met in life will command large attention, but I trust his judgment in this case will not be accepted by the military world as conclusive and final. In all wars, in all controversies, there are two sides, and the old Roman maxim applies, “Audi alterem partem.”
England has so long been accustomed to shape and mould the public opinion of our race, that her authors, critics, and officials seem to forget that times are changing, have changed. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland contained in 1880 only thirty-six millions of inhabitants, with an area of 121,571 square miles; whereas the United States of America had fifty millions of people, with 3,602,990 square miles of territory. Great Britain is crowded, whereas in our vast interior there still remains land enough for three hundred millions of inhabitants. All of these are taught the English language, believe in the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, Walter Scott, Dickens, Thackeray and Tennyson; all read English magazines, periodicals, and newspapers, and have a way of thinking for themselves. They have had twenty-one years for thought and reflection since the smoke and confusion of battle obscured the horizon, and have settled down to the conclusion that Abraham Lincoln was the great civil hero of the war, and that Ulysses S. Grant was the chief military hero.
We all admit that General Robert E. Lee was, in the highest acceptation of the term, “a gentleman and a soldier.” He did not graduate at the head of his class at West Point, as stated by General Wolseley, for “Cullum's Register” shows that Charles Mason, of New York, afterwards of Iowa, was No. 1 of the date of 1829; that Robert E. Lee, of Virginia, was No. 2, and that Joseph E Johnston, also of Virginia, was No. 13 in that class of forty-six members. Lee was very handsome in person, gentle and dignified in manner, cool and self-possessed in the midst of confusion and battle, not seeking strife, but equal to it when it came, and the very type of manhood which would impress itself on the young enthusiast, General Wolseley. That special phase of his
character which General Wolseley thinks a “weakness,” his invariable submission to the President of the Southern Confederacy, is probably better understood on this than the other side of the Atlantic, where from childhood to manhood is impressed on us the old fundamental doctrine that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that the military must be subordinate to the civil authority. A coup d'état in this country would excite a general laugh, and I confess to a feeling of pride that at no period of our history has the idea of a military dictator found permanent lodgment in the brain of an American soldier or statesman. Mr. Lincoln, in assigning General Hooker to the command of the Army of the Potomac, wrote him, under date of January 26th, 1863, “I have heard in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.”
General Lee was a typical American, and knew that the Southern States could only succeed in forming an independent nation by united action under a President armed with both military and civil functions, and he was unquestionably right in subordinating his conduct to the head of the government which he had chosen and undertaken to support and defend.
Before entering upon the analysis of his military character and deeds, permit me to digress somewhat. General Wolseley constantly refers to the Revolutionary War of 1776 as similar to that of our Rebellion of 1861. They were as different as two things could possibly be. In the first our fathers most humbly and persistently petitioned the Parliament of Great Britain for the simple and common rights conceded to every Englishman; they were denied and repelled with a harshness and contumely which no British community of to-day would tolerate. They rebelled because they were denied the common inheritance of their race; and when they had achieved Independence they first undertook for themselves a government which was a “Confederacy of States,” and which proved impracticable. Then, after years of hard experience, in 1789 they adopted the present Constitution of the United States, which, in its preamble, sets forth clearly: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, do ordain this Constitution, etc.” This was not a contract between “Sovereign States,” but a decree of the aggregate people of the whole United States. Now, on the other hand, there was a fair election in November, 1860, for a President under that Constitution. The Southern people freely participated in that election. After they were fairly beaten, and Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, was duly elected, some of the Southern leaders, delving back into the old abstractions of 1776–1789, revived this doctrine of State Allegiance: that a man happening to be born in a State, (an accident he could not control) his allegiance became due thereby to that State, and not to the aggregation of States, the Union. I have too high an opinion of General Eobert E. Lee to believe that he could have been humbugged by such shallow doctrine. No! many of us believe that Lee, in 1861, saw and felt the approaching horrors and tortures of a civil war, resigned his commission in the army, hoped to hide away; first declined service in the so-called Confederacy, and accepted temporary service to defend Virginia, his native State; but, being possessed of large qualities, he was importuned, dragooned and forced to “go in,” to drift over the Niagara which was inevitable, and which he must have foreseen. His letter of April 20th, 1861, addressed to Lieutenant-General Scott, is in that direction: “Since my interview with you on the 18th instant, I have felt that I ought no longer to retain my commission in the army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from the service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed. During the whole of that time—more than a quarter of a century—I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors, and the most cordial friendship from my comrades. To no one, General, have I been so much indebted as to yourself for uniform kindness and consideration, and it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, and your name and fame will always be dear to me. Save in defense of my State, I never desire to draw my sword. Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity.” His resignation was not accepted until April 25th, 1861 (Townsend, p. 31).
Yet, on the 23d day of the same April, he issued his general orders No. 1 from his headquarters in Richmond, Virginia:
“In obedience to orders from his Excellency John Letcher, Governor of the State, Major-General Robert E. Lee assumes command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.”
To us in the United States of America this seems a sudden descent from the sublime to the ridiculous. Virginia had neither an army or navy, and such were forbidden to States by the Constitution which Lee had often sworn to maintain. (Article 1, Section 10.)
I have before me, in print, another letter, dated Arlington, Va., April 20th, 1861, addressed “My dear Sister,” and signed “R. E. Lee,” reciting that “the whole South is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn, and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have foreborn and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I would take part against my native State. With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the army, and, save in defense of my native State, with the hope that my poor services will never be needed, I hope I never may be called on to draw my sword. I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly of me as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right.” . . .
Now, at these dates, April 20th and 23d, 1861, the State of Virginia had not yet concluded “secession.” According to McPherson, page 7, the convention in secret session adopted, April 17th, an ordinance of secession, but on April 25th that same convention adopted and ratified the Constitution of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, “this ordinance to cease to have legal effect if the people voting on the ordinance of secession should reject it.” The actual vote did not take place till June 25th,—128,884 for secession and 32,134 against it. How far Lee's defection had aided to create this majority is still the question. (See “Twenty Years in Congress,” Blaine, Vol. 1, page 302.)
We all sympathize with the struggles of a strong man in the toils of other ambitious men, of less principle, who had use for Lee in their contemplated conspiracy. At that date there was a Virginia claiming sovereignty and the constitutional right to secede; but there was also a Confederacy embracing many States already in rebellion. Lee unquestionably took the oath to Virginia and the command of her “army and navy,” then a myth, but it is a popular belief that he never took the oath of allegiance to the “Confederacy,” although when General Johnston was wounded and disabled at “Fair Oaks,” June 1st, 1862, General Lee did succeed him, and did command the Army of Northern Virginia under the Confederate Government till the end at Appomatox.
His sphere of action was, however, local. He never rose to the grand problem which involved a continent and future generations. His Virginia was to him the world. Though familiar with the geography of the interior of this great continent, he stood like a stone wall to defend Virginia against the “Huns and Goths” of the North, and he did it like a valiant knight as he was. He stood at the front porch battling with the flames whilst the kitchen and house were burning, sure in the end to consume the whole. Only twice, at Antietam and Gettysburg, did he venture outside on the “offensive defensive.” In the first instance he knew personally his antagonist, and that a large fraction of his force would be held in reserve; in the last he assumed the bold “offensive,” was badly beaten by Meade, and forced to retreat back to Virginia. As an aggressive soldier Lee was not a success, and in war that is the true and proper test. “Nothing succeeds like success.” In defending Virginia and Richmond he did all a man could, but to him Virginia seemed the “Confederacy,” and he stayed there whilst the Northern armies at the West were gaining the Mississippi, the Tennessee, the Cumberland, Georgia, South and North Carolina, yea, the Roanoke, after which his military acumen taught him that further tarrying in Richmond was absolute suicide.
Such is the military hero which General Wolseley would place in monument side by side with Washington, “the father of his country—First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” All that is good in the character of Gen. Robert E. Lee is ours, and we will cherish it, and we will be charitable to his weaknesses, but so long as the public record tells of U. S. Grant and George H. Thomas, we cannot be at a loss for heroes for whom to erect monuments like those of Nelson and Wellington in London, well worthy to stand side by side with the one which now graces our capitol city of “George Washington.”
In 1861 General Lee was a colonel of cavalry on leave of absence at his home at Arlington, and U. S. Grant was an humble citizen of Galena, Illinois, toiling to support his family. He at first gave little heed to the political murmurs creeping over the land by reason of the election of Mr. Lincoln, and the talk of secession at the South; but when the telegraph announced that the United States flag had been fired on in Charleston Harbor, he roused up, presided at a public meeting of his fellow citizens, instructed them how to organize themselves into a company of soldiers, and went along with them to Springfield. In due time he was made colonel of a regiment of volunteers, conducted it to Missouri, and in December, 1861, reached Cairo, Illinois. His career from that day to this is familiar to every school-boy in the land. He moved in co-operation with the gun-boat fleet up the Tennessee to Fort Henry, which was captured; to Fort Donelson, where a fortified place with its entire garrison of 17,000 men surrendered without conditions; then on to Shiloh, where one of the bloodiest and most successful battles of the war was fought, which first convinced our Southern brethren, who had been taught that one Southern man was equal to five Yankees, that man to man was all they wanted—then Vicksburg, Chattanooga, everywhere victorious, everywhere successful, fulfilling the wise conclusion of Mr. Lincoln that he wanted “military success.” Then he was called for the first time in his life to Washington to command an army of perfect strangers, under new conditions, and in a strange country. Casting his thoughts over a continent, giving minute instructions for several distinct armies from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, himself assuming the hardest share, he began a campaign equal in strategy, in logistics, and in tactics to any of Napoleon, and grander than any ever contemplated by England. His personal action in crossing the Rapidan in the face of Lee's army, fighting him in the Wilderness, “forward by the left flank,” to Spottsylvania, to Richmond, and Petersburg, was the sublimity of heroism. Of course, he had a superiority of numbers and resources, but nothing like the disproportion stated by General Wolseley. At Vicksburg he began in May, 1863, the movement with less numbers than Pemberton surrendered to him along with Vicksburg in July. At Chattanooga he attacked his enemy in the strongest position possible; so strong, indeed, that Bragg, a most thorough and intelligent soldier, regarded it as unassailable, and had detached Longstreet's corps to Knoxville, of which mistake Grant took prompt advantage, and I never heard before that Bragg thought the pursuit after his defeat was not quick and good enough to suit him; and, finally, when Lee was forced to flee from his intrenchments at Richmond and Petersburg by Sheridan's bold and skillful action at Five Forks, I believe it is conceded that the pursuit by Sheridan and Grant was so rapid that Lee was compelled to surrender his whole army. Grant's “strategy” embraced a continent, Lee's a small State; Grant's “logistics” were to supply and transport armies thousands of miles, where Lee was limited to hundreds. Grant had to conquer natural obstacles as well as hostile armies, and a hostile people; his “tactics” were to fight wherever and whenever he could capture or cripple his adversary and his resources; and when Lee laid down his arms and surrendered, Grant, by the stroke of his pen, on the instant gave him and his men terms so liberal as to disarm all criticism. Between these two men as generals I will not institute a comparison, for the mere statement of the case establishes a contrast.
I offer another name more nearly resembling General Lee in personal characteristics, General George H. Thomas, probably less known in England, but who has a larger following and holds a higher place in the hearts and affections of the American people than General Lee. He, too, was a Virginian, and when Lee resigned from the army in 1861, Thomas succeeded him as Colonel of the Second Eegular Cavalry. A graduate of West Point of the class of 1840, who had served his country in the Florida War, in the Mexican War, and in campaigns against hostile Indians, rising with honor and credit through all the grades, at each stage taking the usual oath to defend the United States against all her enemies whatsoever, foreign and domestic. When the storm of civil war burst on our country, unlike Lee, he resolved to stand by his oath and to fight against his native State, to maintain the common union of our fathers. In personal appearance he resembled George Washington, the father of our country, and in all the attributes of manhood he was the peer of General Lee, as good, if not a better, soldier, of equal intelligence, the same kind heart, beloved to idolatry by his Army of the Cumberland, exercising a gentle, but strict, discipline, never disturbed by false rumors or real danger, not naturally aggressive, but magnificent on the defensive; almost the very counterpart of his friend, General Lee, but far excelling him in the moral and prtriotic line of action at the beginning of the war. Lee resigned his commission when civil war was certain, but Thomas remained true to his oath and his duty, always, to the very last minute of his life.
During the whole war his services were transcendent, winning the first substantial victory at Mill Springs in Kentucky, January 20th, 1862, participating in all the campaigns of the West in 1862–3–4, and finally, December 16th, 1864, annihilating the army of Hood, which in mid winter had advanced to Nashville to besiege him. In none of these battles will General Wolseley pretend there was such inequality of numbers as he refers to in the East.
I now quote from General Garfield's eloquent tribute of respect to his comrade, and commander General George H. Thomas, addresed to the Army of the Cumberland at Cleveland, Ohio, on the 25th of November, 1870, shortly after the General's death, which tribute has gone into recorded history, never to be effaced:
When men shall read the history of battles, they will never fail to study and admire the work of Thomas during that afternoon (at Chickamauga, September 20th, 1863). With but twenty-five thousand men, formed in a semi-circle, of which he, himself, was the centre and soul, he successfully resisted for more than five hours the repeated assaults of an army of sixty-five thousand men, flushed with victory and bent on his annihilation.
Towards the close of the day his ammunition began to fail. One by one of his Division Commanders reported but ten rounds, five rounds, and two rounds left. The calm, quiet answer was returned, “Save your fire for close quarters, and when your last shot is fired give them the bayonet.” On a portion of his line the last assault was repelled by the bayonet, and several hundred rebels were captured. When night had closed over the combatants, the last sound of battle was the booming of Thomas' shells bursting among his baffled and retreating assailants.
He was indeed the Rock of Chickamauga, against which the wild waves of battle dashed in vain. It will stand forever in the annals of his country that there he saved from destruction the Army of the Cumberland. He held the road to Chattanooga. The campaign was successful. The gate of the mountains was ours.
Nashville, on the 15th and 16th of December, 1864, was General Thomas's most important battle, where he was in supreme command—of which General Garfield says:
Nashville was the only battle of our war which annihilated an army. Hood crossed the Tennessee late in November, and moved northward with an army of fifty-seven thousand veterans. Before the end of December twenty-five thousand of that number were killed, wounded, or captured. Thousands more had deserted, and the rabble that followed him back to the south was no longer an army.
In summing up the qualities of General Thomas it is difficult to find his exact parallel in history. His character as a man and a soldier was unique. In some respects he resembled Zachary Taylor, and many of his solid qualities as a soldier were developed by his long service under that honest and sturdy soldier.
In patient attention to all the details of duty, in the thoroughness of organization, equipment, and discipline of his troops, and in the powerful grasp by which he held and wielded his army, he was not unlike, and fully equaled, Wellington.
The language applied to the Iron Duke by the historian of the Peninsular War might almost be for a description of Thomas. Napier says: “He had his army in hand, keeping it, with unmitigated labor, always in a fit state to march or to fight. Sometimes he was indebted to fortune, sometimes to his natural genius, always to his untiring industry ; for he was emphatically a painstaking man.”
The language of Lord Brougham addressed to Wellington is a fitting description of Thomas:
“Mighty Captain! who never advanced except to cover his arms with glory; mightier Captain! who never retreated except to eclipse the glory of his advance.”
If I remember correctly, no enemy was ever able to fight Thomas out of any position he ever undertook to hold.
On the whole, I cannot doubt that the most fitting parallel to General Thomas is found in our greatest American, the man who was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” The personal resemblance of General Thomas to Washington was often the subject of remark. Even at West Point Rosecrans was accustomed to call him General Washington.
He resembled Washington in the gravity and dignity of his character, in the solidity of his judgment, in the careful accuracy of all his transactions, in the incorruptible integrity, in his extreme but unaffected modesty.
Though his death was most sudden and unexpected, all his official papers and his accounts with government were in perfect order and ready for instant settlement. His reports and official correspondence were models of pure style and full of valuable details. Even during the exciting and rapid campaign from Chat tanooga to Atlanta, he recorded each month the number of rounds his men had fired, and other similar facts concerning the equipment and condition of his army.
His modesty was as real as his courage. When he was in Washington, in 1861, his friends, with great difficulty, persuaded him to allow himself to be introduced to the House of Representatives. He was escorted to the Speaker's stand, while the great Assembly of Representatives and citizens arose and greeted him with the most enthusiastic marks of affection and reverence. Mr. Speaker Colfax, in speaking of it afterward, said:
“I noticed, as he stood beside me, that his hand trembled like an aspen leaf. He could bear the shock of battle, but he shrank from the storm of applause.[”]
He was not insensible to praise; and he was quick to feel any wrong or injustice. While grateful to his country for the honor it conferred on him, and while cherishing all expression of affection on the part of his friends, he would not accept the smallest token of regard in the form of a gift.
So frank and guileless was his life, so free from anything that approached intrigue, that when, after his death, his private letters and papers were examined, there was not a scrap among them that his most confidential friends thought best to destroy.
When Phidias was asked why he took so much pains to finish up the parts of his statute that would not be in sight, he said, “These I am finishing for the gods to look at.” In the life and character of General Thomas there were no secret places of which his friends will ever be ashamed.
But his career is ended. Struck dead at his post of duty, a bereaved nation bore his honored dust across the continent and laid it at rest on the banks of the Hudson, amidst the grief and tears of millions. The nation stood at his grave as a mourner. No one knew till he was dead how strong was his hold on the hearts of the American people. Every citizen felt that a pillar of state had fallen, that a great and true and pure man had passed from earth.
There are no fitting words in which I may speak of the loss which every member of this society has sustained in his death.
The General of the army has beautifully said in his order announcing the death of General Thomas:
“Though he leaves no child to bear his name, the old Army of the Cumberland, numbered by tens of thousands, called him father, and will weep for him in tears of manly grief.[”]
To us, his comrades, he has left the rich legacy of his friendship. To his country and to mankind he has left his character and his fame as a priceless and everlasting possession.
O iron nerve, to true occasion true!
O fallen at length that tower of strength,
Which stood four square to all the winds that blew!
His work is done.
But while the races of mankind endure,
Let his great example stand,
Colossal sun of every land,
And keep the soldier firm, the statesman pure,
Till in all lands, and thro' all human story,
The path of duty be the way to Glory.
Such was the testimony of Garfield, who stood by his side midst carnage and slaughter, the same Gen. James A. Garfield, who afterwards was elected by an overwhelming majority of the American people to be their Chief Magistrate and President.
Let me now quote from another equally distinguished soldier and statesman, U. S. Grant, of world-wide fame. General Grant always manifested the greatest affection, love, and respect for his senior in years and service, General Thomas, but just before the really great battle of Nashville, as critical and important to America as was that of Waterloo to Europe, General Grant, in Virginia, having absolute command of all the armies of the Union, became impatient with what he thought “slowness” on the part of Thomas. After several telegrams pro and con, he made a conditional order to supersede him, which never went into effect, because events fully justified Thomas. But on pages 295 and 296, Volume 2, of John Russell Young's “Around the World with General Grant” will be found:
This led to some talk about Thomas. The General (Grant) said: I yield to no man in my admiration of Thomas. He was a fine character, all things considered—his relations with the South, his actual sympathies, and his fervent loyalty—one of the finest characters of the war. I was fond of him, and it was a severe trial for me even to think of removing him. I mention that fact to show the extent of my own anxiety about Sherman and Hood. But Thomas was an inert man. It was this slowness that led to the stories that he meant to go with the South. When the war was coming Thomas felt like a Virginian, and talked like one, and had all the sentiment then so prevalent about the rights of slavery and sovereign States, and so on. But the more Thomas thought it over, the more he saw the crime of treason behind it all, and to a mind as honest as that of Thomas, the crime of treason would soon appear. So, by the time Thomas thought it all out, he was as passionate and angry in his love for the Union as any one. So he continued during the war. As a commander he was slow. We used to say, laughingly, “Thomas is too slow to move and too brave to run away.” The success of his campaign (Nashville) will be his vindication, even against my criticisms.
That success and all the fame that came with it belong to Thomas. When I wrote my final report at the close of the war I wrote fourteen or fifteen pages criticising Thomas, and my reasons for removing so distinguished a commander. But I suppressed that part. I have it among my papers and mean to destroy it. I do not want to write anything that might even be construed into a reflection upon Thomas. We differed about the Nashville campaign, but there could be no difference as to the effects of the battle. Thomas died suddenly, very suddenly. He was sitting in his office, I think, at Headquarters (San Francisco), when he fell back unconscious. He never rallied. I remember Sherman coming to the White House in a state of deep emotion with a dispatch, saying, “I am afraid old Tom is gone.” The news was a shock and a grief to us both. In an hour we learned of his death. The cause was fatty degeneration of the heart, if I remember. I have often thought that this disease, with him long-seated, may have led to the inertness which affected him as a commander.
. . . I have no doubt if the truth were known, the disease from which Thomas died demanded from him constant fortitude, and affected his actions in the field. Nothing would be more probable. Thomas is one of the great names of our history, one of the greatest heroes of our war, a rare and noble character in every way worthy of his fame.
In this same volume, pages 458–460, will be found General Grant's estimate of General Lee, told in the same informal, conversational style:
I never ranked Lee as high as some others of the army—that is to say, I never had as much anxiety when he was in my front as when Joe Johnston was in front. Lee was a good man, a fair commander, who had everything in his favor. He was a man who needed sunshine. He was supported by the unanimous voice of the South, he was supported by a large party in the North. He had the support and sympathy of the outside world. All this is of immense advantage to a general. Lee had this in a remarkable degree. Everything he did was right. He was treated like a demi-god. Our generals had a hostile press, lukewarm friends, and a public opinion outside. The cry was in the air that the North only won by brute force, that the generalship and valor were with the South. This has gone into history with so many other illusions that are historical. Lee was of a slow, conservative, cautious nature, without imagination or humor, always the same, with grave dignity. I never could see in his achievements what justifies his reputation. The illusion that nothing but heavy odds beat him will not stand the ultimate light of history. I know it is not true. Lee was a good deal of a headquarters general, a desk general, from what I can hear, and from what his officers say. He was almost too old for active service—the best service in the field. At the time of the surrender he was fifty-eight or fifty-nine, and I was forty-three. His officers used to say that he posed himself, that he was retiring and exclusive, and that his headquarters were difficult of access.
Many of us believe that, had Lee stood firm in 1861, and used his personal influence, he could have stayed the Civil War, and thereby saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of the fairest youth of the land, and thousands of millions of dollars in cost and destruction; but since the public mind has settled to the conclusion that the institution of slavery was so interwoven in our system that nothing but the interposition of Providence and horrid war could have eradicated it, and now that it is in the distant past, and that we as a nation, North and South, East and West, are the better for it, we believe that the war was worth to us all it cost in life and treasure. We who fought on the right side are perfectly willing to let this conclusion remain, but when the question of honor to the memory of our dead heroes is raised at home or abroad, we will fight with pen and speech to secure for our Grant, Thomas, Meade, McPherson, Hancock, Mower, Logan, Blair, and a hundred others who were true and faithful, brave and competent, every honor a nation can afford to bestow.
I know full well that it was the fashion in England, during the dark days of our Rebellion, to consider the leaders at the South as heroes contending for freedom, for home and fireside, whereas we of the North were invaders, barbarians, “Huns and Goths,” rude and unlettered. This was not true, and every American may, with pride and satisfaction, turn to Mr. Lincoln's first inaugural address; to the glorious uprising of our whole people, who had been engaged in peaceful pursuits, to assume the novel character of soldier; whose leaders emerged from the great mass by the process of nature; who gradually, from books and actual experience, learned the science of war, and so applied its rules as to subdue a rebellion against the national authority by one-third of our people, a feat never before accomplished on earth; who, at the conclusion of hostilities, granted terms to the vanquished so generous and magnanimous as to command the admiration of mankind; and then quietly returned to their homes to resume their old occupations of peace. England, and even some of our Eastern States seem not to realize that the strength of our country lies west of the Alleghanies. They still see only the war in Virginia, and, at furthest, Gettysburg. The Civil War was concluded when Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta fell. After these it only remained to dispose of Lee's army, which was promptly and scientifically done. Had General Wolseley met General Thomas at Chattanooga in 1864, his quick, discerning mind would have reached another conclusion. He would have doubted whether a single corps of English troops, with the best staff which Aldershot turns out, could have turned the scale after the year 1862.
Of all governments on earth, England is the last to encourage rebellion against lawful authority, and, of all men in England, General Lord Wolseley is the last who should justify and uphold treason. Ireland, to-day, has many times the cause to rebel against England which the South had in 1861, and when some future Emmet manifests the transcendent qualities which scintillate and sparkle in the Irish character, and some enthusiastic American applauds him, and awards him national honors, then will General Wolseley, or his successor in office, understand the feelings of us in America, who, though silent, watch the world's progress toward the conclusion in which truth and justice must stand triumphant over treachery and wrong.
When the time comes to award monuments for service in the Civil war, the American people will be fully prepared to select the subjects without hint or advice from abroad.
W. T. SHERMAN.