Sherman (April 27, 1865)

An Alexander Gardner photo of Lincoln's coffin in New York City (Library of Congress).

An Alexander Gardner photo of Lincoln’s coffin in New York City (Library of Congress).

In today’s letter, George Meade comments on the controversy William T. Sherman created with the surrender terms he offered to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Sherman had overreached, and the terms he and Johnston agreed to included agreements about citizenship and recognition of state governments. There was an immediate outcry from Washington, with some calling for Sherman’s removal from command. Edwin Stanton was harshly critical of Sherman’s actions, something the general would not forgive. Grant had hurried down to North Carolina to straighten out the mess.

I have received your letters of the 22d and 23d insts. Such exhibitions as are now being made of the body of Mr. Lincoln, are always in my judgment in bad taste, and are never solemn or impressive. Still, as public ceremonies, I suppose they always will be, as they ever have been, necessary for the masses of people.

William T. Sherman (Library of Congress).

William T. Sherman (Library of Congress).

I cannot understand Sherman’s course.1 I am very sorry for Sherman, no one can dispute that his services have been pre-eminent, and though he may have erred in judgment, and have mistaken the temper of the North, he is entitled to the considerations due to his past services, which should have shielded him from having his motives and loyalty impugned. I am curious to see whether Grant, when he joins him, will smother him as he did me.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 277. Available via Google Books.