General Sherman’s Credo

2 minute read

“In 1879, Gen. William “Tecumseh” Sherman, took time out from fighting Indians out West to go East and address the Centennial of Gen. Sullivan’s 1779 victory over the Iroquois.”

I do not intend to occupy but one or two minutes of your time, because I am conscious that you look upon me simply as one of the curiosities of the day. But, my friends, we are all at war. Ever since the first white man landed upon this continent, there has been a battle. We are at war to-day—a war between civilization and savages. Our forefathers, when they first landed upon this continent, came to found an empire based upon new principles, and all opposition to it had to pass away, whether it be English or French on the north, or Indians on the west; and no one knew it better than our father, Washington. [Applause.] He gave General Sullivan orders to come here and punish the Six Nations, for their cruel massacre in the valley of the Wyoming, and to make it so severe that it would not occur again. And he did so. General Sullivan obeyed his orders like a man and like a soldier, and the result was from that time forward, your people settled up these beautiful valleys all around here, and look at their descendants here—a million almost. [Applause.]

If it had not been for General Sullivan and the men who followed him from Easton, and Clinton’s force that came across from Albany, probably some of you would not have been here to-day.

Battles are not measured by their death-roll, but by their results, and it makes no difference whether one man was killed or five hundred, if the same result followed. This valley was opened to civilization; it came on the heels of General Sullivan’s army, and has gone on, and gone on until to-day. The same battle is raging upon the Yellow Stone. The same men, endowed by the same feelings that General Sullivan’s army had, to-day are contending with the same causes and the same races, two thousand miles west of here; not for the purpose of killing, not for the purpose of shedding blood, not for the purpose of doing wrong at all; but to prepare the way for that civilization which must go along wherever yonder flag floats. [Applause.]

I know it is a very common, and too common a practice, to accuse General Sullivan of having destroyed peach trees and cornfields, and all that nonsense. He had to do it, and he did do it. Why does the Almighty strike down the tree with lightning? Why does [440] He bring forth the thunder storm? To purify the air, so that the summer time may come, and the harvest and the fruits. And so with war. When all things ought to be peaceful, war comes and purifies the atmosphere. So it was with our Civil War; that purified the atmosphere; we are better for it; you are better for it; we are all better for it. Wherever men raise up their hands to oppose this great advancing tide of civilization, they must be swept aside, peaceably if possible, forcibly if we must…”

Gen. William “Tecumseh” Sherman
Elmira, New York