« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
farmer, and the soldier. But I contend that so long as man is man there is a necessity for organized force, to enable us to reach the highest type of manhood aimed at by our New England ancestors. (Loud applause.]
A REMINISCENCE OF THE WAR
(Speech of General William T. Sherman at the eighty-first annual dinner of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 22, 1886. Judge Horace Russell presided and introduced General Sherman as a son of New England whom the Society delighted to honor. The toast proposed was, Health and Long Life to General Sherman." The General was visibly affected by the enthusiastic greeting he received when he rose to respond.)
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY OF NEW YORK:Were I to do the proper thing, I would turn to my friend on the left [T. DeWitt Talmage] and say, Amen; for he has drawn a glorious picture of war in language stronger than even I or my friend, General Schofield, could dare to use. But looking over the Society to-night—so many young faces here, so many old and loved ones gone—I feel almost as one of your Forefathers. [Laughter and applause.] Many and many a time have I been welcomed among you. I came from a bloody Civil War to New York twenty or twenty-one years ago, when a committee came to me in my room and dragged me unwillingly before the then New England Society of New York. They received me with such hearty applause and such kindly greetings that my heart goes out to you now to-night as their representatives. [Applause.] God knows I wish you, one and all, the blessings of life and enjoyment of the good things you now possess, and others yet in store
I hope not to occupy more than a few minutes of your time, for last night I celebrated the same event in Brooklyn, and at about two or three o'clock this morning I saw this hall filled with lovely ladies waltzing [laughter), and here again I am to-night. (Renewed laughter. A voice, “ You're a rounder, General."] But I shall ever, ever recur to the
early meetings of the New England Society, in which I shared, with a pride and satisfaction which words will not express; and I hope the few I now say will be received in the kindly spirit they are made in, be they what they may, for the call upon me is sudden and somewhat unexpected.
I have no toast. I am a rover. [Laughter.] I can choose to say what I may—not tied by any text or formula. I know when you look upon old General Sherman, as you seem to call him [Oh, oh!]-pretty young yet, my friends, not all the devil out of me yet, and I hope still to share with you many a festive occasion—whenever you may assemble, wherever the sons of New England may assemble, be it here under this Delmonico roof, or in Brooklyn, or even in Boston, I will try to be there. [Applause.]
My friends, I have had many, many experiences, and it always seems to me easier to recur to some of them when I am on my feet, for they come back to me like the memory of a dream, pleasant to think of. And now, to-night, I know the Civil War is uppermost in your minds, although I would banish it as a thing of trade, something too common to my calling; yet I know it pleases the audience to refer to little incidents here and there of the great Civil War, in which I took a humble part. [Applause.) I remember, one day away down in Georgia, somewhere between, I think, Milledgeville and Millen, I was riding on a good horse and had some friends along with me to keep good-fellowship. [Laughter.] A pretty numerous party, all clever good fellows. [Renewed laughter.] Riding along, I spied a plantation. I was thirsty, rode up to the gate and dismounted. One of these men with sabres by their side, called orderlies, stood by my horse. I walked up on the porch, where there was an old gentleman, probably sixty years of age, whitehaired and very gentle in his manners-evidently a planter of the higher class. I asked him if he would be kind enough to give me some water. He called a boy, and soon he had a bucket of water with a dipper. I then asked for a chair, and called one or two of my officers. Among them was, I think, Dr. John Moore, who recently has been made Surgeon-General of the Army, for which I am very glad-indebted to Mr. Cleveland. [Laughter and applause.) We sat on the porch, and the old man held the bucket, and I
took a long drink of water, and maybe lighted a cigar (laughter], and it is possible I may have had a little flask of whiskey along. [Renewed laughter.]
At all events, I got into a conversation; and the troops drifted along, passing down the roadway closely by fours, and every regiment had its banner, regimental or national, sometimes furled and sometimes afloat. The old gentleman says:
General, what troops are these passing now?” As the color-bearer came by, I said: Throw out your colors. That is the 39th Iowa.'
“The 39th Iowa! 39th Iowa! Iowa! 39th! What do you mean by 39th?
"Well,” said I,“ habitually, a regiment, when organized, amounts to 1,000 men.”
“Do you pretend to say Iowa has sent 39,000 men into this cruel Civil War?” [Laughter.] “Why, my friend, I think that may be inferred.” Well,” says he,“ where's Iowa?” [Laughter.]
Iowa is a State bounded on the east by the Mississippi, on the south by Missouri, on the west by unknown country, and on the north by the North Pole."
“Well,” says he,“ 39,000 men from Iowa! You must have a million men.
Says I: “I think about that." Presently another regiment came along. “What may that be?”
I called to the color-bearer: “ Throw out your colors and let us see," and it was the 21st or 22d Wisconsin-I have forgotten which
" Wisconsin! Northwest Territory! Wisconsin! Is it spelled with an O or a W?"
"Why, we spell it now with a W. It used to be spelled Ouis." “The 22d! that makes 22,000 men?'
Yes, I think there are a good many more than that. Wisconsin has sent about 30,000 men into the war.”
Then again came along another regiment from Minnesota.
“ Minnesota! My God! where is Minnesota?” (Laughter.] “Minnesota!'
Minnesota is away up on the sources of the Mississippi
River, a beautiful Territory, too, by the way-a beautiful State."
“ Yes; has Senators in Congress; good ones, too. They're very fine men-very fine troops.”
“How many men has she sent to this cruel war?”
“Well, I don't exactly know; somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 men, probably. Don't make any difference -all we want." [Laughter.]
Well,” says he, “ now we must have been a set of fools to throw down the gage of battle to a country we didn't know the geography of!” [Laughter and applause.] “When I went to school that was the Northwest Territory, and the Northwest Territory-well,” says he, “we looked upon that as away off, and didn't know anything about it. Fact is, we didn't know anything at all about it.”
Said I: “My friend, think of it a moment. Down here in Georgia, one of the original thirteen States which formed the great Union of this country, you have stood fast. You have stood fast while the great Northwest has been growing with a giant's growth. Iowa to-day, my friend, contains more railroads, more turnpikes, more acres of cultivated land, more people, more intelligence, more schools, more colleges more of everything which constitutes a refined and enlightened State—than the whole State of Georgia.”
My God,” says the man, “it's awful. I didn't dream of
“Well,” says I, “look here, my friend; I was once a banker, and have some knowledge of notes, indorsements, and so forth. Did you ever have anything to do with indorsements?"
Says he: “Yes, I have had my share. I have a factor in Savannah, and I give my note and he indorses it, and I get the money somehow or other. I have to pay it in the end out of the crop.” “
I, now look here. In 1861 the Southern States had 4,000,000 slaves as property, for which the States of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and so forth, were indorsers. We were on the bond. Your slaves were protected by the same law which protects land and other property. Now, you got mad at them because they
didn't think exactly as you did about religion, and about this thing and t’other thing; and like a set of fools you first took your bond and drew your pen through the indorser's names. Do you know what the effect will be? You will never get paid for those niggers at all.” [Laughter.] They are gone. They're free men now.
Well,” says he, “we were the greatest set of fools that ever were in the world.” (Laughter.]
And so I saw one reconstructed man in the good State of Georgia before I left it. [Laughter and applause.]
Yes, my friends, in those days things looked gloomy to us, but the decree came from a higher power. No pen, no statesman, in fact, no divine could have solved the riddle which bound us at that time; nothing but the great God of War. And you and your fathers, your ancestors, if you please, of whom I profess to be one [applause), had to resort to the great arbiter of battles, and call upon Jove himself. And now all men in America, North and South, East and West, stand free before the tribunal of the Almighty, each man to work out his own destiny according to his ability, and according to his virtue, and according to his manhood. [Applause.) I assure you that we who took part in that war were kindly men. We did not wish to kill. We did not wish to strike a blow. I know that I grieved as much as any man when I saw pain and sorrow and affliction among the innocent and distressed, and when I saw burning and desolation. But these were incidents of war, and were forced upon us—forced upon us by men influenced by a bad ambition; not by the men who owned those slaves, but by politicians who used that as a pretext, and forced you and your fathers and me and others who sit near me, to take up arms and settle the controversy once and forever. [Cries of “good,” and loud applause.)
Now, my friends of New England, we all know what your ancestors are recorded to have been; mine were of the same stock. Both my parents were from Norwalk, Connecticut. I think and feel like you. I, too, was taught the alphabet with blows, and all the knowledge I possessed before I went to West Point was spanked into me by the ferule of those old schoolmasters. (Laughter.] I learned my lesson well, and I hope that you, sons of New England, will ever stand