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Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820-1891) to Stanley Matthews

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04492.01 Author/Creator: Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820-1891) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 10 June 1883 Pagination: 6 p. : envelope ; 25 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Discusses his retirement from Chief Commander of the Army. Feels blessed that he is 63 years old and still healthy. Reviews his army services mentioning his interest in the trans-continental railroad and his command of the army west of the Mississippi after the Civil War. Comments on the perfect military record of General William Babcock Hazen, who Matthews asked about. Talks about his involvement in the Indian Recall Commission and some fighting with the Indians that occurred. Comments on a scandal involving General Hazen and describes at length Hazen's military career. Written on stationary marked Headquarters Army of the United States. Sherman dated the letter 10 July but postmark on the envelope is for 11 June 1883.

Background Information: Matthews was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court from 1881-1889.

Full Transcript: Headquarters Army of the United States,
Washington, D.C., [struck: July] [inserted: June] 10, 1883
Sunday -
Hon Stanley Matthews -
Washington D.C.
My Dear Sir,
I than you from my ...heart for the gracious [and] kind letter of yesterday, and believe when I come to shuffle off this mortal Coil. You will award me credit for my purpose to lay down the power I now wield in good season to enable my successor a reasonable share of time in which to exercise the Command of the Army. I am duly thankful that I find myself at sixty-three years of age - strong in body and mind. Yet I have been in Chief Command since March 1869 - which gives me 15 years, and Genl Sheridan will have 13 before age will necessitate his retirement.
Again I was assocated with the Early Events of our History which added California to [2] the United States, and I took an Early interest in the measures to Connect the Pacific States with those of the Atlantic by Rail - I knew personally all the parties who in 1854, 5 & 6 Explored the Several Routes for transcontinental Railroads, and watched with intense interest the development which made these roads possible. As soon as the Civil War was over as Lt. General I was in Command of all the troops posted west of the Mississippi as far out as Utah, and threw all my Energy in guarding, protecting and Encouraging these [illegible] Enterprises. They are now substantially done, and I have again & again traversed the[struck: m] Continent in a six and one half day journey in Absolute Comfort Accomplishing what in 1846 took us 198 days buffeting with wind & wars around Cape Horn - In a few days I propose to go again across & back, filling up a few gaps which I have not as yet personally seen.
Your own suggestive letter must be my Excuse for delaying my reply to the only part of your letter which I suppose you wanted me to answer, viz as to General Hazen. I was not [3] in the Army during his Earlier years of Service and can only recall him to Memory from and since the Battle of Shiloh, Apl 7, 1862; but his Military record for the day of his first Commission July 1, 1855 to the present moment is perfect, and such as any man may well be proud of. - You will find this Record in Hammersley's Army Register, page 503, and at still greater length in Callums Biographical Register of the Graduates U.S. Mil Academy Vol 2, p 413. He is an officer of the highest professional attainments; of the best personal habits, and is very particular in the choice of associates. In 1868 I was a Member of the Indian Peace Commission, which aimed to group all the nomads of the Plains into two large Reservations, one north of Nebraska, the other South of Kansas, Each to be supervised by an officer of high rank and large Experience. Genl. W.S. Harvey was chosen for the first, and Genl W.B. Harrison the other. He was at Fort Cobb Indian Territory in Novr. 1868, when General Sheridan then in Command of the Department of the Missouri conducted his Expedition to punish the Cheyennes & Arapahos who had In committing murder and depredation on a line of the Kansas Pacific. This was followed into [4] the Indian Territory [struck: where Genl Sheridan] attacked & severely punished Black-Kittles band on the Wichita - a short distance above Fort Cobb, on the 27th of [struck: October] [inserted: November] - These Indians were a part of those committed to the Custody of General Hazen, and the fight was inside the limits of his Reservation - A conflict of Authority arose between these officers, from which I trace much of the feeling which has pursued General Hazen Ever Since.
In a short time the Legislation of Congress made impossible the scheme of the Peace Commission and General Hazen was relegated to the Command of the 6th Infantry of which he was the Colonel. That Regiment by the accident of [illegible] was sent up the [struck: Missouri] River to Fort Buford, on the Missouri opposite the mouth of the Yellowstone. General Hazens friend wrongfully inferred that his order was made in a spirit of hostility to Hazen, and published in the newspapers many little irritating paragraphs, which some attributed to him, but I never did; and moreover these friends importuned in high quarters for Hazens promotion to Every vacancy which happened , giving Over to the idea that he Hazen was intriguing [5] for peace, not on his merits, but for favor, than which nothing is regarded in the Army, with more Suspicion and dislike - Then came the Stanley Controversy, which I managed to suppress for a long time, involving matters of pure personal Scandal. - till at last General Hazen or his friends obtained from President Hayes the order to go to Vienna, to represent our Army in the Russo-Turk War. There Stanley broke out afresh and published or permitted the publication of his bitter letter, insulting to General Hazen, and disrespectful to President Hayes, a breach of discipline which resulted in the Court Martial of all which you must have a full record. In reviewing the proceedings I had to warn Genl Hazen of some things which he construed as reflecting on him who was not on trial, and he appealed to the President as against me, but I infer on further reflection he has thought better of it and has dropped the subject. I have always been his Friend, and gave him the opportunity of his life at Fort McAlister when he Executed his orders perfectly, and for which I gave him all possible Credit. Since the Close of the War I have helped him in many cases of which he may not have Knowledge, but have noticed that he was fond of Controversy and of writing often [6] Evincing Suspiciousness, and not a just regard for others. He is now a Brigadier General, Chief Signal Officer of the Army, whose sphere of action is almost disconnected with the military Profession, and acts chiefly on the notoriety worked up by newspaper paragraphs - a rather unsafe foundation to build upon - Still he is shrewd, self possessed, with very good and attached friends, and may achieve additional fame. Surely I personally and professionally wish him all success and honor, and will always bear witness to his Clean War Record, including many battles in which he Commanded a Brigade or Division, such as Chicamauga, Chattanooga, and McAlister. I surely do not blame him for his Amition, or for pushing himself upward into a higher and more prominent sphere of action, but he surely has brains and intelligence enough to understand that the higher he gets the more liable he is to the Shafts of Envy and Malice - Excuse so long a letter, but I am preparing to start for West Point tonight
With great respect your Friend,
W.T. Sherman
[written in another hand]
General Sherman's letter
Hon. Stanley Matthhews
1800 N. St. Cor. Conn. Ave.
See More

People: Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891
Matthews, Stanley, 1824-1889
Hazen, William Babcock, 1830-1887

Historical Era: Rise of Industrial America, 1877-1900

Subjects: Union GeneralMilitary HistoryHealth and MedicalRailroadTransportationAmerican WestAmerican Indian HistoryCorruption and Scandal

Sub Era:

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