One thing it’s good for

“The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of abiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged.  It is history that teaches us to hope.” – Robert E. Lee

Old and underway

“I say to you, sir, when I detect that superior look of youth in your eye, that you are wrong: I am not, even now, different from you.  I am as young and stubborn—except for a certain sclerosis of tissue and thought, except for an overt appearance of the hide, which sags and flaps in the wind, except for the bloodshot eyes and the dirty, careless dribblings of egg and whiskey on my shirt bosom and moustache.  I am as young, sir, as you.  I do not feel any different: I still desire—I still know the look of the rosy young flesh of a young girl.  Men were young in my day, too, sir.  Men were poets in my time, sir.  And by the Almighty God, young fellow, they aspired to glory and knowledge and art for art’s bloody sake just as much and with as fine a passion as any of you.  Do not forget that, young man.  We were just as dashing a set of young blades as any of you.” – Joseph Stanley Pennell, The History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters

Getting it sorted out

“I hold that an attempt to control the Senate on the part of the Executive is subversive of the principles of our Constitution. The Executive department is independent of the Senate, and the Senate is independent of the President. In maters of legislation the President has a veto on the action of the Senate, and in appointments and treaties the Senate has a veto on the President. He has no more right to tell me how I shall vote on his appointments than I have to tell him whether he shall veto or approve a bill that the Senate has passed. Whenever you recognize the right of the Executive to say to a Senator, ‘Do this, or I will take off the heads of your friends,’ you convert this Government from a republic into a despotism. Whenever you recognize the right of a President to say to a member of Congress, ‘Vote as I tell you, or I will bring a power to bear against you at home which will crush you,’ you destroy the independence of the representative, and convert him into a tool of Executive power.” – Stephen A. Douglas, Political Debates Between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas

A point from which to begin

“We have enough objects of charity at home, and it is our duty to take care of our own poor and our own suffering, before we go abroad to intermeddle with other people’s business.” – Stephen A. Douglas, Political Debates Between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas

It’s not over till it’s over

“I shall never forget how you received the news of the secession of South Carolina.  I happened to be in your room with you when the mail was brought in, and when you read of the actual passage of the formal and solemn withdrawal by that State from the Union, you cried like a little child, exclaiming: ‘My God, you Southern people don’t know what you are doing!  Peaceable secession!  There can be no peaceable secession.  Secession means war.  The North will fight you, and fight you hard, and God only knows how or where it will end!’” – from D. F. Boyd letter to General W. T. Sherman, July 17, 1875 (quoted in Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman)

Railroaded

“The troops were posted to the best advantage to protect the parties engaged in building these [rail]roads, and in person I reconnoitered well to the front, traversing the buffalo regions from south to north, and from east to west, often with a very small escort, mingling with the Indians whenever safe, and thereby gained personal knowledge of matters which enabled me to use the troops to the best advantage.  I am sure that without the courage and activity of the department commanders with the small bodies of regular troops on the plains during the years 1866-‘69, the Pacific Railroads could not have been built; but once built and in full operation the fate of the buffalo and Indian was settled for all time to come.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Costing arms and legs

“The rebel wounded (sixty-eight) were carried to a house near by, all surgical operations necessary were performed by our surgeons, and then these wounded men were left in care of an officer and four men of the rebel prisoners, with a scanty supply of food, which was the best we could do for them.  In person I visited this house while the surgeons were at work, with arms and legs lying around loose, in the yard and on the porch; and in a room on a bed lay a pale, handsome young fellow, whose left arm had just been cut off near the shoulder.  Some one used my name, when he asked, in a feeble voice, if I were General Sherman.  He then announced himself as Captain Macbeth, whose battery had just been captured; and said that he remembered me when I used to visit his father’s house, in Charleston.  I inquired about his family, and enabled him to write a note to his mother, which was sent her afterward from Goldsboro’.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Dream come true

“After supper I sat on a chair astride, with my back to a good fire, musing, and became conscious that an old negro, with a tallow-candle in his hand, was scanning my face closely.  I inquired, ‘What do you want, old man?’  He answered, ‘Dey say you is Massa Sherman.’  I answered that such was the case, and inquired what he wanted.  He only wanted to look at me, and kept muttering, ‘Dis nigger can’t sleep dis night.’  I asked him why he trembled so, and he said that he wanted to be sure that we were in fact ‘Yankees,’ for on a former occasion some rebel cavalry had put on light-blue overcoats, personating Yankee troops, and many of the negroes were deceived thereby, himself among the number—had shown them sympathy, and had in consequence been unmercifully beaten therefor.  This time he wanted to be certain before committing himself; so I told him to go out on the porch, from which he could see the whole horizon lit up with camp-fires, and he could then judge whether he had ever seen any thing like it before.  The old man became convinced that the ‘Yankees’ had come at last, about whom he had been dreaming all his life.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Bummers and dudes

“The skill and success of our men in collecting forage was one of the features of this march.  Each brigade commander had authority to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and enterprise.  This party would be dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the intended day’s march and camp; would proceed on foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range.  They would usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon, corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and every thing that could be used as food or forage, and would then regain the main road, usually in advance of their train.  When this came up, they would deliver to the brigade commissary the supplies thus gathered by the way.  Often I would pass these foraging-parties at the roadside, waiting for their wagons to come up, and was amused at their strange collections—mules, horses, even cattle, packed with old saddles and loaded with hams, bacon, bags of corn-meal, and poultry of every character and description.  Although this foraging was attended with great danger and hard work, there seemed to be a charm about it that attracted the soldiers, and it was a privilege to be detailed on such a party.  Daily they returned mounted on all sorts of beasts, which were at once taken from them and appropriated to the general use; but the next day they would start out again on foot, only to repeat the experience of the day before.  No doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery, and violence, were committed by these parties of foragers, usually called ‘bummers;’ for I have since heard of jewelry taken from women, and the plunder of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts were exceptional and incidental.  I never heard of any cases of murder or rape; and no army could have carried along sufficient food and forage for a march of three hundred miles; so that foraging in some shape was necessary.  The country was sparsely settled, with no magistrates or civil authorities who could respond to requisitions, as is done in all the wars of Europe; so that this system of foraging was simply indispensable to our success.  By it our men were well supplied with all the essentials of life and health, while the wagons retained enough in case of unexpected delay, and our animals were well fed.  Indeed, when we reached Savannah, the trains were pronounced by experts to be the finest in flesh and appearance ever seen with any army.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

A difference of opinion

“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, IN THE FIELD, October 12, 1864 – To the Officer commanding the United States forces at Resaca, Georgia.  SIR: I demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the post and garrison under your command, and, should this be acceded to, all white officers and soldiers will be parolled in a few days.  If the place is carried by assault, no prisoners will be taken.  Most respectfully, your obedient servant, J. B. HOOD, General.

“HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, THIRD DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS, RESACA, GEORGIA, October 12, 1864.  To General J. B. HOOD: Your communication of this date just received.  In reply, I have to state that I am somewhat surprised at the concluding paragraph, to the effect that, if the place is carried by assault, no prisoners will be taken.  In my opinion I can hold this post.  If you want it, come and take it.  I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant, CLARK R. WEAVER, Commanding Officer.”

– from Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

The shortest distance between two points of conflict

“AROUND ALLATOONA, October 5, 1864. – Commanding Officer, United States Forces, Allatoona: I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.  Five minutes will be allowed you to decide.  Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.  I have the honor to be, very respectfully yours, S. G. FRENCH, Major-General commanding forces Confederate States.

“HEADQUARTERS FOURTH DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS, ALLATOONA, GEORGIA, 8:30 A.M., October 5, 1864. – Major-General S. G. French, Confederate States, etc.: Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for ‘the needless effusion of blood’ whenever it is agreeable to you.  I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, JOHN M. CORSE, Brigadier-General commanding forces United States.”

– from Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Never to be voted most popular

“I peremptorily required that all the citizens and families resident in Atlanta should go away, giving to each the option to go south or north, as their interests or feelings dictated.  I was resolved to make Atlanta a pure military garrison or depot, with no civil population to influence military measures.  I had seen Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, all captured from the enemy, and each at once was garrisoned by a full division of troops, if not more; so that success was actually crippling our armies in the field by detachments to guard and protect the interests of a hostile population.

“I gave notice of this purpose, as early as the 4th of September, to General Halleck, in a letter concluding with these words: ‘If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking.  If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.’

“I knew, of course, that such a measure would be strongly criticized, but made up my mind to do it with the absolute certainty of its justness, and that time would sanction its wisdom.  I knew that the people of the South would read in this measure two important conclusions: one, that we were in earnest; and the other, if they were sincere in their common and popular clamor ‘to die in the last ditch,’ that the opportunity would soon come.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

A man on a mission

“I was still busy in pushing forward the repairs to the railroad-bridge at Bear Creek, and in patching up the many breaks between it and Tuscumbia, when on the 27th of October, as I sat on the porch of a house, I was approached by a dirty, black-haired individual with mixed dress and strange demeanor, who inquired for me, and, on being assured that I was in fact the man, he handed me a letter from General Blair at Tuscumbia, and another short one, which was a telegraph-message from General Grant at Chattanooga, addressed to me through General George Crook, commanding at Huntsville, Alabama, to this effect: ‘Drop all work on Memphis & Charleston Railroad, cross the Tennessee, and hurry eastward with all possible dispatch toward Bridgeport, till you meet further orders from me.  U.S. Grant.’

“The bearer of this message was Corporal Pike, who described to me, in his peculiar way, that General Crook had sent him in a canoe; that he had pulled down the Tennessee River, over Muscle Shoals, was fired at all the way by guerrillas, but on reaching Tuscumbia he had providentially found it in possession of our troops.  He had reported to General Blair, who sent him on to me at Iuka.  This Pike proved to be a singular character; his manner attracted my notice at once, and I got him a horse, and had him travel with us eastward to about Elkton, whence I sent him back to General Crook at Huntsville; but told him, if I could ever do him a personal service, he might apply to me.  The next spring when I was in Chattanooga, preparing for the Atlanta campaign, Corporal Pike made his appearance and asked me a fulfillment of my promise.  I inquired what he wanted, and he said he wanted to do something bold, something that would make him a hero.  I explained to him, that we were getting ready to go for Joe Johnston at Dalton, that I expected to be in the neighborhood of Atlanta about the 4th of July, and wanted the bridge across the Savannah River at Augusta, Georgia, to be burnt about that time, to produce alarm and confusion behind the rebel army.  I explained to Pike that the chances were three to one that he would be caught and hanged; but the greater the danger the greater seemed to be his desire to attempt it.  I told him to select a companion, to disguise himself as an East Tennessee refugee, work his way over the mountains into North Carolina, and at the time appointed to float down the Savannah River and burn that bridge.  In a few days he had made his preparations and took his departure.  The bridge was not burnt, and I supposed that Pike had been caught and hanged.

“When we reached Columbia, South Carolina, in February, 1865, just as we were leaving the town, in passing near the asylum, I heard my name called, and saw a very dirty fellow followed by a file of men running toward me, and as they got near I recognized Pike.  He called to me to identify him as one of my men; he was then a prisoner under guard, and I instructed the guard to bring him that night to my camp some fifteen miles up the road, which was done.  Pike gave me a graphic narrative of his adventures, which would have filled a volume; told me how he had made two attempts to burn the bridge, and failed; and said that at the time of our entering Columbia he was a prisoner in the hands of the rebels, under trial for his life, but in the confusion of their retreat he made his escape and got into our lines, where he was again made a prisoner by our troops because of his looks.  Pike got some clothes, cleaned up, and I used him afterward to communicate with Wilmington, North Carolina.  Some time after the war, he was appointed a lieutenant of the Regular Cavalry, and was killed in Oregon, by the accidental discharge of a pistol.  Just before his death he wrote me, saying that he was tired of the monotony of garrison-life, and wanted to turn Indian, join the Cheyennes on the Plains, who were then giving us great trouble, and, after he had gained their confidence, he would betray them into our hands.  Of course I wrote him that he must try and settle down and become a gentleman as well as an officer, apply himself to his duties, and forget the wild desires of his nature, which were well enough in time of war, but not suited to his new condition as an officer; but, poor fellow! he was killed by an accident, which probably saved him from a slower but harder fate.” — William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (emphases in original)

Varieties of knowledge

“One day, as I was riding the line near a farm known as Parson Fox’s, I heard that the family of a Mr. Wilkinson, of New Orleans, was ‘refugeeing’ at a house near by.  I rode up, inquired, and found two young girls of that name, who said they were the children of General Wilkinson, of Louisiana, and that their brother had been at the military school at Alexandria.  Inquiring for their mother, I was told she was spending the day at Parson Fox’s.  As this house was on my route, I rode there, went through a large gate into the yard, followed by my staff and escort, and found quite a number of ladies sitting on the porch.  I rode up and inquired if that were Parson Fox’s.  The parson, a fine-looking, venerable old man, rose, and said that he was Parson Fox.  I then inquired for Mrs. Wilkinson, when an elderly lady answered that she was the person.  I asked her if she were from Plaquemine Parish, Louisiana, and she said she was.  I then inquired if she had a son who had been a cadet at Alexandria when General Sherman was superintendent, and she answered yes.  I then announced myself, inquired after the boy, and she said he was inside of Vicksburg, an artillery lieutenant.  I then asked about her husband, whom I had known, when she burst into tears, and cried out in agony, ‘You killed him at Bull Run, where he was fighting for his country!’  I disclaimed killing anybody at Bull Run; but all the women present (nearly a dozen) burst into loud lamentations, which made it most uncomfortable for me, and I rode away.  On the 3d of July, as I sat at my bivouac by the road-side near Trible’s, I saw a poor, miserable horse, carrying a lady, and led by a little negro boy, coming across a cotton-field toward me; as they approached I recognized poor Mrs. Wilkinson, and helped her to dismount.  I inquired what had brought he to see me in that style, and she answered that she knew Vicksburg was going to surrender, and she wanted to go right away to see her boy.  I had a telegraph-wire to General Grant’s headquarters, and had heard that there were symptoms of surrender, but as yet nothing definite.  I tried to console and dissuade her, but she was resolved, and I could not help giving her a letter to General Grant, explaining to him who she was, and asking him to give her the earliest opportunity to see her son.  The distance was fully twenty miles, but off she started, and I afterward learned that my letter had enabled her to see her son, who had escaped unharmed.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (emphasis in original)

Mammon!

“At that time [1849] so demoralizing was the effect of the gold-mines that everybody not in the military service justified desertion, because a soldier, if free, could earn more money in a day than he received per month.  Not only did soldiers and sailors desert, but captains and masters of ships actually abandoned their vessels and cargoes to try their luck at the mines.  Preachers and professors forgot their creeds and took to trade, and even to keeping gambling-houses.” — William Tecumseh Sherman, “Early Recollections of California,” from Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

What security, indeed

“I ask you what confidence you would have in a Court thus constituted—a Court composed of partisan Judges, appointed on political grounds, selected with a view to the decision of questions in a particular way, and pledged in regard to a decision before the argument, and without reference to the peculiar state of the facts. Would such a Court command the respect of the country? If the Republican party cannot trust Democratic Judges, how can they expect us to trust Republican Judges, when they have been selected in advance for the purpose of packing a decision in the event of a case arising? My fellow-citizens, whenever partisan politics shall be carried on to the bench; whenever the Judges shall be arraigned upon the stump, and their judicial conduct reviewed in town meetings and caucuses; whenever the independence and integrity of the judiciary shall be tampered with to the extent of rendering them partial, blind and suppliant tools, what security will you have for your rights and your liberties?” — Senator Stephen A. Douglas, 1858

Gotta start someplace

“It is fair that each man shall pay taxes in exact proportion to the value of his property; but if we should wait before collecting a tax to adjust the taxes upon each man in exact proportion with every other man, we should never collect any tax at all.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Speech to the 164th Ohio Regiment”

Not looking to need this

“Nothing justifies the suspending of the civil by the military authority, but military necessity, and of the existence of that necessity the military commander, and not a popular vote, is to decide.  And whatever is not within such necessity should be left undisturbed.” – Abraham Lincoln, “To Benjamin F. Butler, August 9, 1864″

Free variations

“We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.  With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland, 1864″ (emphasis in original)

After you, my dear Alphonse

“The advice of a father to his son, ‘Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee,’ is good, and yet not the best.  Quarrel not at all.  No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention.  Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control.  Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own.  Better give your path to a dog, than be bitten by him in contesting for the right.  Even killing the dog would not cure the bite.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Letter to James M. Cutts, Jr.”

Not in the power of the parties, either

“It is not always in the power of governments to enlarge or restrict the scope of moral results which follow the policies that they may deem it necessary for the public safety, from time to time, to adopt.” – Abraham Lincoln, “To the Workingmen of Manchester, England”

Justly shore ’em up

“That Congress has the power to regulate the currency of the country can hardly admit of doubt; and that a judicious measure to prevent the deterioration of this currency, by a reasonable taxation of bank circulation or otherwise if needed, seems equally clear.  Independently of this general consideration, it would be unjust to the people at large to exempt banks, enjoying the special privilege of circulation, from their just proportion of the public burden.” – Abraham Lincoln, “To the Senate and House of Representatives”

Toiling up

“No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty—none less inclined to take, or touch, aught which they have not honestly earned.  Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress,” December 3, 1861

Straightening the relations

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.  Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.  Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.  Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights.  Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits.  The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress,” December 3, 1861

Yeah, so calm down, all you virtuous vigilant folk

“While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”

Litmus testing

“The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.  Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges.  It is a duty from which they may not shrink, to decide the cases properly brought before them; and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”

Long live the king

“A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.  Whoever rejects it does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism.  Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissable; so that rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”

Mightier than the sword, able to leap long centuries in a single bound

Writing—the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye—is the great invention of the world.  Great in the astonishing range of analysis and combination which necessarily underlies the most crude and general conception of it—great, very great in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions” (emphasis in original)