HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
The Great Republic by the Master Historians
Great Captains of the War
by Bancroft, Hubert H.

[Not until the fulness of time, when the fierce passions of war and their aftermath of controversy have subsided, can the characters of the chief actors be fairly gauged, either by their comrades or interested on-lookers. Censure and praise equally superficial are heaped upon the leaders in the field by self- constituted critics, who too readily forget that the play can rarely be understood until the end of the game. From the view-point of our own day we see certain heroic figures looming out from the battle-smoke with unmistakable grandeur. By a few master-characteristics their right of leadership is made clear. We quote these brief estimates of four famous champions from the pen of Frederick Logan in his work, "Famous Warriors."]



President Lincoln, when asked to name the greatest of American generals, unhesitatingly replied, "U.S. Grant." The calm determination which made Grant remain before Vicksburg for months without even mildly resenting the ridicule which was being heaped upon him, and the firm resolution that never failed to carry out a project once fixed upon, only partly explains the great success and remarkable career of Grant as a warrior. Many of his biographers have given credit to these qualities alone, but even a cursory glance at his achievements cannot fail to demonstrate that, in addition to courage and unfaltering persistency, he was endowed with such far-reaching judgment and skill both in the planning and execution of great projects as cannot be said to have been surpassed by any of the most notable commanders of the world. From obscure and unpromising boyhood he advanced by merit alone to an eminence attained by but few American citizens. Through it all he remained the same modest, unassuming character as when he worked in his youth in his father's tannery. In every difficulty and under the most discouraging and perilous conditions that imperturbable calm, which was a characteristic of the man, was never broken. There is no instance recorded in which Grant ever showed anger, nor has there ever been any denial of the assertion that he never used a profane word. His accomplishments as a soldier in meeting and overcoming obstacles of apparently insurmountable proportions is little short of marvellous. In addition to other qualities which made him great as a soldier, was the confidence and loyalty which he inspired in his troops by his own example. He was quick to see a fault, but quicker to pardon offence. He never forgot to thank his soldiers for the part they had taken in bringing about victory, and his addresses to his troops read like the stirring addresses of Napoleon. The grateful nation which he had served remembered and honored him both before and after his death. Twice he was chosen President of the United States, and was offered a third term. Congress created for him a rank of distinction which no other American ever received, and when his brilliant career ended a whole nation bent with grief. His name and fame will live long after the magnificent marble tomb in which he sleeps has crumbled and become a thing of the past.

In the disastrous campaign of the Wilderness Grant had lost nearly 60,000 men and had thus far accomplished nothing. The losses of Lee, it is asserted, did not exceed 10,000. But Grant was now beginning to make himself felt in the vicinity of Petersburg and Richmond, and through the fall and winter his operations were every-where meeting with flattering success. March 24, 1865, the final great movement began. On April 2d Petersburg fell. It was the last straw, and Lee at once advised the Confederate President to evacuate Richmond. In the mean time the fighting in front of that city had reached its limits. The Confederates could no longer continue the struggle to save the Capital. On the morning of April 3d the advance of the Federal army entered the city and the Stars and Stripes was hoisted over the Capitol, while Grant continued to press after the conquered foe. The pursuit continued until the 9th, when Lee found himself practically hemmed in on all sides at Appomattox. On that morning he requested an interview regarding terms of surrender, which Grant had two days previously advised him to do. The two great soldiers met and clasped hands in the house of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox. They had served together in the Mexican War, and remembered each other. Grant sat down and wrote out the terms of surrender, and Lee, after reading the document and discussing the details to some extent, signed the agreement. To all intents and purposes this ended the war. It was followed April 26th by the surrender of Johnston to Sherman. Mobile had fallen April 11th, and the other Southern armies surrendered gradually, the last being on May 26th. Grant visited Washington, where a grand review, the most imposing this country has ever witnessed, was held. In New York, Chicago, and every place where Grant appeared he met with great and spontaneous ovations, not the least of them being the town of Galena, Ill., which was the point from which he had started for the war. Numerous swords were presented to him, and gifts of every description were showered upon him by States, municipalities, and private individuals who admired his skill and success. In July, 1866, Congress created the title of General, never before in existence in America, and conferred it upon Grant. In 1868 Grant was nominated for President and elected by the almost unanimous vote of the nation. After serving his first term he was re-elected. During his service as President, Grant proved himself no less a statesman than he had been a warrior. A third term as President was offered him, but he firmly refused to accept it. He now had the opportunity to gratify a desire which had clung to him from youth, to see the Old World and its wonders. He set sail from Philadelphia May 17, 1877, accompanied by Mrs. Grant and his youngest son. He visited nearly every country upon the earth, and was everywhere accorded the highest honors. His return to the United States was the signal for another series of ovations such as has been accorded to few citizens of this nation. Early in the year 1884, General Grant began to be troubled with the illness which proved his last. It was cancer of the tongue, and from the first there was no hope that he could be cured. His closing days were given up to preparing his autobiography, in which he wished to be strictly accurate in the smallest matters.

Facing the last enemy, the gallant soldier remained as undismayed as had been his habit on the field of battle. He died peacefully on the morning of Thursday, July 23, 1885. His death was felt the world over, and expressions of regret and sympathy came from every quarter of the globe. His mortal remains lie under a magnificent monument in Riverside Park in the city of New York. Cut into the enduring marble of his tomb are the memorable words he uttered at the first convention which nominated him for the Presidency: "Let us have peace."



After the close of the war and the great review in Washington, Sherman was placed at the head of the Military Division of the Mississippi, later called the Military Division of the Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis. He had charge of projecting the construction of the Pacific Railroad, then being constructed west from the Missouri. When Grant became President, Sherman rose to the full rank of General of all the armies, and he fulfilled the duties of that high position in fact as well as in name. He visited every military post in the country with two exceptions, and by telegraph directed from his headquarters at Washington the movement of troops in the far West. It was affirmed that no living man was so conversant with the topography, geography and resources of every section of the United States as General Sherman. He was a great traveller, and spent his vacations on horse-back among the mountains and deserts of the West in preference to watering-places or the society of city life. In 1871 and 1872 he spent a year in foreign lands. In 1877 Sherman spent 115 days visiting the Indian country and the Northwest. During this time he travelled nearly 10,000 miles. His description of this trip shows him to be a forceful and graphic writer, even more than his descriptions of battle-fields. Sherman's home was blessed with eight children, and the first great misfortune in his domestic life was the death of his son, Willie, who died of typhoid fever at Memphis, October 3, 1863. He was with his father in the campaign of the Mississippi, and was a favorite with the troops, who made him an honorary sergeant of the Thirteenth. Mrs. Sherman died in New York, November 28, 1888, after a long illness. February 14, 1891, the famous warrior passed away. He had taken a cold some days previously, which fastened itself upon his lungs, and caused his rapid decline. Only a gentle sigh escaped the veteran's lips as his spirit took flight. An imposing military funeral was held in New York, and the remains were carried by special train, accompanied by a guard of honor, to St. Louis, which for many years had been the home of the General. At every station along the long journey bands of music played solemn dirges and crowds gathered to show their respect for the departed hero. Arrived at St. Louis, a funeral procession was formed, composed of the regular troops, State and municipal officers, and great numbers of friends of the deceased. He was buried beside the graves of his wife and two of his children. His son, Rev. Thomas E. Sherman, performed the last religious services over the flag-covered casket. A company of troops fired a farewell salute of three volleys, followed by an answering roar from the artillery. Then a solitary bugler stepped forward and sounded taps over the grave of the distinguished soldier, and the solemn and impressive ceremonies came to an end. According to his own wish, the monument over his grave contains no inscription except his name, the dates of his birth and death, and the simple epitaph "True and Honest."

No better brief summary, perhaps, of the character and true greatness of General Sherman can be found than the message of President Harrison to Congress on the event of the venerable warrior's death. Harrison had served as an officer in Sherman's army in Georgia, and cherished the love and respect for Sherman that was shared by every loyal soldier who ever served under him. The message in part said: "The death of William Tecumseh Sherman is an event that will bring sorrow to the heart of every patriotic citizen. No living American was so loved and venerated as he was. To look upon his face, to hear his name, was to have one's love of country intensified. He served his country not for fame, not out of a sense of professional duty, but for the love of the flag and of the beneficent civil institutions of which it was the emblem. He was an ideal soldier, and shared to the fullest the esprit de corps of the army; but he cherished the civil institutions organized under the Constitution, and was a soldier only that these might be perpetuated in undiminished usefulness and honor. He was in nothing an imitator. A profound student of military science and precedent, he drew from them principles and suggestions, and so adapted them to novel conditions that his campaigns will continue to be the profitable study of the military profession throughout the world. His genial nature made him comrade to every soldier of the great Union army. His career was complete; his honors were full. He had received from the Government the highest rank known to our military establishment, and from the people unstinted gratitude and love." Sherman was the soul of simplicity, and his candor was renowned. He asserted of himself that he had no natural military genius, but other geniuses, military and otherwise, have viewed his career with a coldly critical gaze, and have differed from his modest estimate. Not only did he possess to the very highest degree the true military genius, but also those other qualifications which go to make up the perfect soldier as a leader of soldiers: courage, determination, coolness, sound judgment, and, above all, that attribute which inspired to a marvellous degree the confidence and enthusiasm of men and officers alike.



Through all of the obstacles and vicissitudes that beset him in the Wilderness campaign, Lee patiently and valiantly held on, although poorly supported during much of the time by those for whose cause he fought. New Year's day of 1865 witnessed a sad and pitiful spectacle in the devoted army of General Lee. On every hand he was threatened with ruin, and with him the cause of the South. Food was scarce, the army was literally starving, and disease and death lurked everywhere. The last effort to rally the waning confidence of the people was the elevation of Lee to Commander-in-Chief of all the armies of the Confederacy. Lee was practically the only man in the South in whom the populace had not lost faith. But the time for both hope and faith was passing. Grant was daily drawing more and more closely the coils which he had cast about the South. The surrender of Richmond and Petersburg necessarily served as a prelude to the surrender of Lee. Retreating after the fall of Richmond, which was evacuated April 2d, after the desperate fighting and the great sacrifice of life that had been made to save it, Lee was pursued and assailed from every side; he was finally completely hemmed in at Farmville, April 7th, when Grant at once opened negotiations for the surrender of the Confederate army. It was effected April 9th, when Lee signed the final agreement at the village of Appomattox Court House. This was the end of the war. Peace was restored; Lee, the last mainstay of the Southern cause, had been vanquished, but he had fought valiantly, and in accordance with his conscience. He maintained to the last moment that he was still capable of resisting, but surrendered in the interest of peace.

After the surrender Lee remained quietly at his home in Richmond, where he was visited by thousands, who called to express their admiration of his abilities as a warrior. Federal officers passing North after the war called on him to shake his hand, and they were received with dignified kindness. On October 12, 1870, at Lexington, General Lee died after a brief illness, which came upon him suddenly in the form of nervous prostration. Not only the South, but the whole nation, mourned his death, for his ability and worth was everywhere recognized.

Wolseley, the English general, regarded Robert E. Lee as the greatest of American generals. Lee was neither an enthusiast nor a fanatic: he believed when he took up the sword in hostility against the Federal Government that he was doing his duty and he was willing to abide by the consequences, be what they might. He was a kind-hearted, dignified, and Christian gentleman. His bravery was unquestioned. From the very outset of his military career, which began under General Scott in the Mexican War, he displayed that zeal and intrepidity which won for him praise and promotion. His high character and self-sacrifice in the interest of the cause which he believed to be just, gained the sincere admiration of even his former foes, while the calm dignity with which he met adversity and submitted to the inevitable, aroused Northern sympathy and Southern pride. "In person," says McCabe, "General Lee was strikingly handsome. He was tall in stature and possessed one of the most perfectly proportioned figures the writer ever saw. He was so perfectly proportioned and so graceful in motion that walking seemed to be no exertion to him. His features were handsome and his expression commanding, yet kind and winning. In his manner he was quiet and modest, but thoroughly self-possessed. His whole bearing seemed to me to merit the expression of `antique heroism' applied to him by a foreign writer. He was courteous and kind to all, and at the height of his power the humblest private in the army approached him with an absolute certainty of a cordial reception. He was devotedly loved by his friends, and personally he had no enemies. He was strong in his friendships and slow to condemn any one. In the midst of the fierce passions of war his moderation was most remarkable. He was absolutely free from bitterness of feeling, and spoke of his adversaries with kindness and respect. He possessed the most perfect command over his temper, and it is said that he was never seen angry. An oath never passed his lips, and he used neither tobacco nor liquors." Lee made a long, desperate, and brilliant but unequal struggle, and, viewed as a master of defensive warfare, ranks second to no warrior in the world.



At Chancellorsville Jackson and a few members of his staff advanced along the turnpike for a short distance in the direction of the enemy, when suddenly there was a volley of musketry and the party turned and started for their own lines. As they advanced they were mistaken for Federal cavalry, and a body of Confederates opened fire upon them. General Jackson was thrice wounded. One ball passed through his right hand, another struck his left arm below the elbow, shattering the bone and severing the main artery, while a third struck the same arm above the elbow. Medical aid was hastily summoned, and, although the wounds caused him great pain, he made no complaint. He was carried for a distance by members of his staff, and then determined to walk. Finally, becoming so weak that he was unable to proceed farther, he was placed upon a litter. All of this time they were under a heavy fire from the enemy. One of the men carrying him was shot, and the litter fell violently to the ground, causing Jackson for a time excruciating pain. A few hundred yards farther on, Dr. McGuire appeared with an ambulance, and the General was taken to the field infirmary at the Wilderness Tavern. The left arm was amputated two inches below the shoulder. He complained that his right side had been injured in falling from the litter, and thought he had struck a stump or stone. No external evidence of injury, however, could be discovered. During the first few days he seemed to be recovering, but on the Thursday following was attacked with nausea and complained of great pain. Examination showed that pleuro-pneumonia had set in. His wife, who had already been sent for, arrived and remained at his bedside until he died. The end came peacefully on Sunday, May 10, 1863. Jackson faced death as calmly on his bed of pain as he had on the field of battle, and his last words, uttered distinctly and clearly as the unconsciousness, from which there was to be no awakening, began to fall upon him, showed how serene was his mind and conscience. These words were: "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." His death was a severe blow to the cause for which he had fought, and he was sincerely mourned by the South. His remains, according to his own request, were buried at Lexington, after the highest marks of honor and respect had been paid by the President, cabinet and officials of the Confederacy.

As a warrior, "Stonewall" Jackson has frequently been compared to Napoleon. In the characters of these two men as warriors there is indeed a great similarity. The wonderful marches and the rapidity with which movements in strategy were carried out by Jackson were never surpassed by Napoleon. The clear vision of military plans which Napoleon possessed to so remarkable a degree was also a distinguishing characteristic of "Stonewall" Jackson. The confidence and loyalty of soldiers for their leader was never shown by the French troops of the "Little Corporal" to a more pronounced extent than was that of the Southern soldiers to "Old Jack." Like Napoleon, too, Jackson was on terms of friendly familiarity with the common trooper under his command. While Jackson was not a strict disciplinarian, no man ever drew the line of duty closer, and none ever performed it more faithfully. These traits, together with his calm and never- failing courage, his confidence and cool daring, and the aggressive spirit which at all times predominated in his movements during the campaigns, account for the devotion with which his men followed their intrepid leader against many a forlorn hope and turned the tide of more than one desperate conflict. "Stonewall" Jackson's genius as a soldier was excelled only by his gallantry and indomitable bravery. He was throughout a consistent and practical Christian, and solemnly attributed to the Almighty every victory, while defeats were accepted with a calm resignation as part of the plan of the Creator. Jackson died as he had lived, a warrior and a Christian. General Lee, in announcing the death of Jackson to the army, wrote: "The daring, skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by a decree of all-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and strength."

Frederick Logan


Terms Defined

Referenced Works