“If he threatened to shoot me, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it.”

From the Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (1885), Chapter IX:

[After the First Battle of Bull Run, which ended in a headlong retreat by the undisciplined Union army of volunteers, Sherman tries to restore order among the soldiers of his brigade.]

The Sixty-ninth still occupied Fort Corcoran, and one morning, after reveille, when I had just received the report, had dismissed the regiment, and was leaving, I found myself in a crowd of men crossing the drawbridge on their way to a barn close by, where they had their sinks; among them was an officer, who said: “Colonel, I am going to New York today.  What can I do for you?” I answered: “How can you go to New York? I do not remember to have signed a leave for you.”  He said, “No; he did not want a leave.  He had engaged to serve three months, and had already served more than that time.  If the Government did not intend to pay him, he could afford to lose the money; that he was a lawyer, and had neglected his business long enough, and was then going home.”  I noticed that a good many of the soldiers had paused about us to listen, and knew that, if this officer could defy me, they also would.  So I turned on him sharp, and said: “Captain, this question of your term of service has been submitted to the rightful authority, and the decision has been published in orders. You are a soldier, and must submit to orders till you are properly discharged.  If you attempt to leave without orders, it will be mutiny, and I will shoot you like a dog!  Go back into the fort now, instantly, and don’t dare to leave without my consent.”  I had on an overcoat, and may have had my hand about the breast, for he looked at me hard, paused a moment, and then turned back into the fort.  The men scattered, and I returned to the house where I was quartered, close by.

That same day, which must have been about July 26th, I was near the river-bank, looking at a block-house which had been built for the defense of the aqueduct, when I saw a carriage coming by the road that crossed the Potomac River at Georgetown by a ferry.  I thought I recognized in the carriage the person of President Lincoln.  I hurried across a bend, so as to stand by the road-side as the carriage passed.  I was in uniform, with a sword on, and was recognized by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, who rode side by side in an open hack.  I inquired if they were going to my camps, and Mr. Lincoln said: “Yes; we heard that you had got over the big scare, and we thought we would come over and see the ‘boys.'”  The roads had been much changed and were rough.  I asked if I might give directions to his coachman, he promptly invited me to jump in and to tell the coachman which way to drive.  Intending to begin on the right and follow round to the left, I turned the driver into a side-road which led up a very steep hill, and, seeing a soldier, called to him and sent him up hurriedly to announce to the colonel (Bennett, I think) that the President was coming . . . .

Lincoln visits the various groups under Sherman’s command, one by one, and gives a brief, well-received speech to each group.

At last we reached Fort Corcoran.  The carriage could not enter, so I ordered the regiment, without arms, to come outside, and gather about Mr. Lincoln, who would speak to them.  He made to them the same feeling address, with more personal allusions, because of their special gallantry in the battle under Corcoran, who was still a prisoner in the hands of the enemy; and he concluded with the same general offer of redress in case of grievances. In the crowd I saw the officer with whom I had had the passage at reveille that morning.  His face was pale, and lips compressed.  I foresaw a scene, but sat on the front seat of the carriage as quiet as a lamb.  This officer forced his way through the crowd to the carriage, and said: “Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance. This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened to shoot me.”  Mr. Lincoln, who was still standing, said, “Threatened to shoot you?”  “Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot me.” Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me, and stooping his tall, spare form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper, easily heard for some yards around: “Well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it.”  The officer turned about and disappeared, and the men laughed at him.  Soon the carriage drove on, and, as we descended the hill, I explained the facts to the President, who answered, “Of course I didn’t know any thing about it, but I thought you knew your own business best.”  I thanked him for his confidence, and assured him that what he had done would go far to enable me to maintain good discipline, and it did.

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