To Do List
- Footnotes are only remaining additions to text. Also advised to proof read.
- Convert straight quotes to "curly quotes" Sarah Bowman
- The Young Soldier — 1836-1846
- Round the Horn to California — 1846
- A Soldier in California — 1846-1850
- Two Years in the Mississippi Valley — 1850-1852
- The Man of Business — 1853-1859
- Directing a Southern Military School — 1859-1861
- The War Begun — 1861-1862
- Vicksburg — 1863
- Mississippi and Georgia Campaigns — 1863-1864
- The War Ended — 1865
- Years of Peace — 1886-1891
After a process of many eliminations from a large mass of material, General Sherman's daughter, Mrs. Paul Thorndike, placed in my hands the letters from which the following selections have been made. To her and to her brother, Mr. P. T. Sherman, I am indebted for valuable assistance in preparing the letters for publication.
M. A. DeW. H.
Ten years after General William Tecumseh Sherman attained the height of his military achievement he published (in 1875) his Memoirs, an outspoken record of his career in peace and war. Ten years later he revised the Memoirs in the light of the abundant comment and criticism which they called forth. When nearly two more decades had passed, one of his children gave the public (in 1904) a liberal portion of the life-long correspondence between the General and his brother, the Hon. John Sherman. Both the Memoirs and the Sherman Letters brought to the readers of such books an animating knowledge of General Sherman as a writer—forcible, individual, fearless, the very counterpart in expression of everything which the history of his country records of him in action.
Now the Civil War is in its fifth decade behind us, and the time has come for drawing upon the last considerable collection of General Sherman's writing to which the public may expect even a limited admission. These are the letters which he wrote to Ellen Boyle Ewing, who, in 1850, became his wife. To the house of her father, the Hon. Thomas Ewing, of Ohio, he went to hve as a son upon the death of his own father in 1829. The first of the letters bears the date of 1837. In 1836 the boy of sixteen had left his adopted, and adopting, home to become a cadet at West Point. Mr. Ewing was then a United States Senator from Ohio, and to his influence with the Secretary of War young Sherman owed his appointment to the mihtary school. This debt, he would have been the first to say, was quite secondary to that of the whole-souled boy-and-girl relationship which grew into the vital devotion and confidence of man and wife. In and out of the army Sherman was of necessity long and often separated from the domestic centre in which his strong aflfections were deeply rooted. His letters home, therefore, were always the frank and authentic records of the events which most nearly concerned him. The historic importance of these events would of itself justify the publication of the letters. But to this must be added their biographical significance. Through their fresh illumination of an important period, and through their spontaneous revealing of the more intimate human qualities of Sherman himself, they belong to the annals both of American history and of American biography.
In passages which necessarily run parallel with passages in the Memoirs and the Sherman Letters, it will be found that the new merely supplements, but does not duplicate, what has been printed before.
The note of disappointment and defeat which has frequently recurred throughout the preceding chapters sounds with a poignant sadness at the end of the chapter just concluded. There was indeed reason enough for Sherman to feel conquered by hostile circumstances. Drawing close to forty, when, as he well knew, a man of his abilities should have found himself established in some definite and honorable place, he must in truth have seemed to many of his contemporaries hardly more successful than he appeared to his own relentless vision. Yet he had never flinched. If the San Francisco bank had not been directed by a man of foresight and courage, there is every reason to suppose that it would have failed, like its sister institutions, disastrously. Those who had the fullest knowledge of Sherman's course and its consequences must have seen that the depression and discouragement were due rather to the temperament of one who demands the highest things of himself than to any essential failure. Through all this ill-sta red time, occasions came to him everywhere for playing the part of the man, and everywhere he played it manfully. Everywhere, too, the autobiographic record speaks, though always indirectly, for the rare accumulations both of intelligence and of the fruits of character which he brought to his last considerable employment before the outbreak of the Civil War. This was the superintendency of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy, which opened its doors to pupils on January 1, 1860. The offer of this place, which came to him through the influence of friends who did not share his own view of himself, fell at a time when Sherman was at his wits' end about the next step he should take, and it was correspondingly welcome. It must have been partly "on the ground of general intelligence" again that Sherman was selected for the work. Certainly he had had no special training for the conduct of an institution of learning. But the school was more than that. Its founders had before their eyes the mo el of such an academy as the Virginia Military Institute, which in turn looked to West Point for many of its ideals; and Sherman's military education and experience were, of course, an important element in his equipment for the new task. Had either he or the Louisiana authorities known that secession and war were impending it is obvious that a soldier so devoted to the Union would never have gone into the South with the mission which took him there. What he experienced in handling a diflScult administrative problem, what he gained in the clarifying of his own outlook upon national issues, in a word, what he learned in his brief period of teaching— all this is set forth in the letters about and from the Seminary of Learning and Military Academy at Alexandria, Louisiana.
On the way down the Mississippi to his new enterprise he wrote as follows to Mrs. Sherman, who remained with their children in Lancaster, Ohio:
Steamer L. M. Kennett
October 29, 1859
''I find Southern men, even men as well in formed as are as big fools as the abolitionists. Though Brown's whole expedition proves clearly that the Northern people oppose Slavery in the abstract, and yet very few will go so far as to act, yet the extreme Southrons pretend to think that the northern people have nothing to do but steal niggers and preach sedition. "John's position and Tom's may force me at times to appear opposed to extreme southern views, or they may attempt to extract from me promises I will not give; and it may be, this position as the head of a Military College south, may be inconsistent with decent independence. I don't much apprehend such a state of case, still feeling runs so high when a nigger is concerned that, like religious questions, common sense is disregarded, and a knowledge of the character of mankind in such cases induces me to point out a combination that may yet operate on our fate.
"I have heard men of good sense say that the union of States any longer was impossible, and that the South was preparing for a change. If such a thing be contemplated and overt acts be attempted, of course, I will not go with the South because with slavery, and the whole civilized world opposed to it, they in case of leaving the Union will have worse wars and tumults than now distinguish Mexico. If I have to fight hereafter I would prefer an open country and white enemies. "I merely allude to these things now because I have heard a good deal lately about such things, and generally that the southern states, by military colleges and organizations, were looking to a dissolution of the Union. If they design to protect themselves against negroes, or abolitionists, I will help; if they propose to leave the Union on account of a supposed fact that the northern people are all abolitionists like Giddings and Brown, then I will stand by Ohio and the North West. . . ."
November 6, 1859
"I wrote you from the Kennett at Cairo—but not from Memphis. I got here last night about dark, the very day I had appointed, but so late in the day that when I called at the Governor's residence I found he had gone to a wedding. I have not yet seen him, and as tomorrow is the great election day of this state I hear that he is going down to New Orleans to-day. So I got up early, and as soon as I finish this letter I will go again. "I have been to the Post Office and learn that several letters have come for me, all of which were sent to the Governor. Capt. Ricketts * of the Army, commanding officer at the Barracks, found me last night, and has told me all the news, says that they were much pleased at my accepting the place, and that all place great reliance on me, that the place at Alexandria selected for the school is famous for salubrity, never has been visited by yellow fever and therefore is better adapted for the purpose than this place. He thinks that I will have one of the best places in the country, and that I will be treated with great consideration by the Legislature and authorities of the state. I will have plenty to do between this and the time for opening the school. I have yet seen nobody connected with the school and suppose all are waiting for me at Alexandria, where I will go to-morrow. . . ."
November 12, 1859
"I wrote you a hasty letter yesterday whilst the stage was waiting. Gen. Graham and others have been with me every moment so that I was unable to steal a moment's time to write you. I left the wharf boat at the mouth of Red River, a dirty poor concern where I laid over one day, the stage only coming up tri-weekly; and at 9 o'clock at night started with an over-crowded stage, nine in and two out with driver, four good horses, Troy coach, road dead level and very dusty, lying along the banks of bayous which cut up the country like a net work. Along these bayous lay the plantations, rich in sugar and cotton, such as you remember along the Mississippi at Baton Rouge.
"We rode all night, a fine moonlight, and before breakfast, at a plantation, we were hailed by Judge Boyce who rode with us the rest of the journey. His plantation is twenty-five miles further up, but he has lived here since 26 and knows everybody. He insisted on my stopping with him at the plantation of Mr. Moore, who is just elected governor of Louisiana for the coming four years, and who, in that capacity, will be president of the Board of Supervisors who control the Seminary of Learning, and whose friendship and confidence it is important I should secure. He sent us into town in his own carriage. Alexandria isn't much of a town and the tavern where I am, Mrs. Fellow's, a second-rate concern, as all southern taverns out of large cities are. Still I have a good room opening into this parlor.
"Gen. Graham came in from his plantation, nine miles west of this and has been with me some time. At this moment he is at church, the Episcopal. He will go out home tonight, and tomorrow I go likewise, when we are to have a formal meeting and arrange some rules and regulations, also begin the system of study. He is the person who has from the start carried on the business. He was at West Point but did not graduate, but he has an unlimited admiration of the system of discipline and study. He is about fifty-five years, rather small, exceedingly particular and methodic and altogether different from his half brother, the General.
"The building is a gorgeous palace, altogether too good for its purpose, stands on a high hill three miles north of this, and reached by crossing Red River by a steam ferry and then three miles of bad road. It has four hundred acres of poor soil, but fine pine and oak trees, a single large building. Like most bodies they have spent all their money in the naked building, trusting to the Legislature for further means to provide furniture, etc. All this is to be done, and they agree to put me in charge, at once, and enable me to provide before January 1 the tables, desks, chairs, washboards, etc., the best I can, in time for January 1, and as this is a mere village I must procure all things from New Orleans. I may have to go down early next month, but for the present I shall go to General Graham's tomorrow, be there some days, return here and then remove to the college, where I will establish myself and direct in person the construction of such things as may be had there.
"There is no family near enough for me to board and so I will get the cook who provides for the carpenters to give me my meals.
"It is the design to erect two buildings for professors, but I doubt whether the Legislature will give any more, $135,000 having already been expended. The institution, styled by law the Seminary of Learning, has an annual endowment of $8,100, but it is necessary for the Legislature to appropriate this annually, and as they do not meet till the 3rd Monday in January, I don't see how we can get any money beforehand. I think when the appropriation is made, however, my salary will be allowed from November 1. ..."
Sunday, December 12, 1859
"... I am stopping at the City Hotel which is crowded and have therefore come to this my old office, now Capt. Kilburn's, to do my writing. I wish I were here legitimately, but that is now past, and must do the best in the new sphere in which events have cast me. All things here look familiar, the streets, houses, levee, drays, etc., and many of the old servants are still about the office, who remember me well and fly around at my bidding as of [old]. . . .
"I have watched with interest the balloting for speaker, with John as the Republican Candidate. I regret he ever signed that Helper's book of which I know nothing but from the extracts bandied about in the southern papers. Had it not been for that I think he might be elected, but as it is, I do not see how he can expect any southern votes, and without them it seems that his election is impossible. His extreme position on that question will prejudice me, not among the Supervisors, but in the Legislature, where the friends of the Seminary must look for help. Several of the papers have alluded to the impropriety of importing from the North their school teachers, and if in the progress of debate, John should take extreme ground, it will, of course, get out that I am his brother from Ohio, universally esteemed an abolition state, and they may attempt to catechise me, to which I shall not submit. I will go on, however, in organizing the Seminary and trust to the future, but hitherto I have had such bad luck, in California and New York, that I fear I shall be overtaken here by a similar catastrophe. Of course, there are many here, such as Bragg, Hebert, Graham and others, that know that I am not an abolitionist. Still, if the simple fact be that my nativity and relationship with Republicans should prejudice the institution, I would feel disposed to sacrifice myself to that fact, though the result would be very hard, for I know not what else to do. If the southern states should organize for the purpose of leaving the Union I could not go with them. If that event is brought about by the insane politicians, I will ally my fate with the North, for the reason that the slave question will ever be a source of discord, even in the South.
"As long as the Abolitionists and Republicans seem to threaten the safety of slave property, so long will this excitement last, and no one can foresee its result; but all here talk as though a dissolution of the Union were not only a possibility but probability of easy execution. If attempted, we will have civil war of the most horrible kind, and this country will become worse than Mexico.
"What I apprehend is that because John has taken such strong ground on the question of slavery, that I will first be watched and suspected, then may be addressed officially to know my opinion, and lastly some fool in the Legislature will denounce me as an abolitionist spy, because there is one or more southern man applying for my place.
"I am therefore very glad you are not here, and if events take this turn, I will act as I think best. As long as the United States Government can be maintained in its present form I will stand by it. If it is to break up in discord, strife, and civil war, I must either return to California, Kansas or Ohio. My opinions on slavery are good enough for this country, but the fact of John being so marked a Republican may make my name so suspect that it may damage the prospects of the Seminary, or thought to do so, which would make me very uncomfortable. ..."
Seminary, Alexandria, La.
December 16, 1859
"... It so happened that General Graham came out the very day of my return, not knowing that I was here, and he brought with him Mr. Smith, the Professor of Chemistry, who is one of the real Virginia F. F. V's, a very handsome young man of twenty-two, who will doubtless be good company. He is staying with General Graham but will move here in a few days. General Graham seemed delighted at the progress I had made, and for the first time seemed well satisfied that we would in fact be ready by January 1st. "I have not yet been to Alexandria, as I landed on this side the river and came out at once, but I shall go in on Monday and see all the Supervisors who are again to meet. I know the sentiments of some about abolitionism and am prepared if they say a word about John. I am not an abolitionist, still I do not intend to let any of them reflect on John in my presence, as the newspapers are full of bitter and angry expressions against him. All I have met have been so courteous that I have no reason to fear such a thing, unless some one of those who came, applicants for the post I fill, with hundreds of letters, should endeavor to undermine me by assertions on the infernal question of slavery, which seems to blind men to all ideas of common sense. . . . "These southern politicians have so long cried out wolf, that many believe the wolf has come, and therefore they might in some moment of anger commit an act resulting in civil war. As long as the Union is kept, I will stand by it, but if we are going to split up into sections I would prefer our children should be raised in Ohio, or some northern state, to the alternative of a slave state, where we never can have slave property. . . ."
December 23, 1859
"... I have the New Orleans papers of the 18th in which I see that the election of speaker was still the engrossing topic, John's vote being 112, 1 14 being necessary to a choice. Still I doubt his final success on account of his signing for that Helper's book. Without that his election would be certain. I was at Alexandria yesterday and was cornered by a Dr. Smith, a member of the Board of Supervisors, and at present candidate of this parish for a seat in the State Senate, to which he will surely be elected. He referred pointedly to the deep, intense feeling which now pervades the South, and the importance that all educational establishments should be in the hand of its friends. I answered in general terms that I had nothing to do with those questions, that I was employed to do certain things which I should do, that I always was a strong advocate of our present form of government, and as long as it remained I should be true to it; that if disunion was meditated in any quarter I should oppose it, but that if disunion did actually occur, an event I would not contemplate, then every man must take his own course, and I would not say what I would do. I still believe, somehow or other, efforts will be made to draw me out on these points, and I shall be as circumspect as possible. ..." "Seminary, Wednesday, December 28, 1859.
"... I had rather a lonely Christmas, nobody here but my poor drummer and myself. The three negro women rushed to my room at daylight and cried 'Christmas gift, Massa'; and the negro boy, Henry, that chops wood, and the old negro woman. Amy, that cooks in an outhouse for the carpenters, all claimed 'Christmas' of me, thinking I am 'Boss' and rich as Croesus himself. I disbursed about $5 in halves, for each of them had done me some service uncompensated. The old cook, Amy, always hid away for me the last piece of butter, and made my breakfast and dinner better than the carpenters,' always saying 'She knowed I wasn't used to such kind of living.' She don't know what I have passed through. . . ."
January 12, 1860
"... Everything moves along satisfactorily,* all seem pleased, and gentlemen have been here from New Orleans and other distant points who are much pleased. I have knowledge of more cadets coming, and this being the first term, and being preceded by so much doubt, I don't know that we have reason to be disappointed with only forty. The Legislature meets next Monday, and then will begin the free discussion, which will settle the fact of professors' houses, and other little detailed improvements, which will go far to make my position here comfortable or otherwise. . . . "I have two letters from John which I showed to Gen. Graham, who gave them to the Senator from this parish, who took them to Baton Rouge. In them John tells me he signed the Helper card without seeing it, not knowing it, but after Clark introduced his resolution he would make no disclaimer. He was right and all men acquainted with the facts will say so,even southern men. ..."
January 27, 1860
"... Things move along here about as I expected. We have had many visitors, ladies with children, who part with them with tears and blessings, and I remark the fact that the dullest boys have the most affectionate mothers, and the most vivacious boys come recommended with all the virtues of saints. Of course, I promise to be a father to them all. We now have fifty-one, and the reputation of the order, system and discipline is already spreading and I receive daily letters asking innumerable questions. The Legislature also has met and the outgoing Governor Wickliffe has recommended to us the special attention of the Legislature, and a bill is already introduced to give us $25,000 a year for two years, which is as long as the Legislature can appropriate. I think from appearances this bill will pass, in which case we can erect two professors' houses this summer, "This sum of money will enable us to make a splendid place of this. In addition it is also proposed to make this an arsenal of deposit which will increase its importance, and enable me to avoid all teaching, which I want to do, confining myself exclusively to the supervision and management. Thus far not a soul has breathed a syllable about abolitionism to me. One or two have asked me if I was related to the gentleman of same name, whose name figures so conspicuously in Congress. I, of course, say he is my brother, which generally amuses them, because they regard him as awful bad. . .
February 3, 1860
"... I am half sick tonight—have had the troubles that I anticipated with these boys. Some of them are very good, but some are ill bred, and utterly without discipline. A few nights since, one cadet reported another. It resulted in mutual accusations, the lie, blow, and finally the Imife. Fortunately it was not used. I dismissed the one with the knife instanter, the other after examination I thought equally to blame for first giving the lie. "Yesterday the friends of all parties came, and after making all sorts of apologies I had to restore. Fortunately both were fine young men, and no doubt the affray was one of passion and of sudden broil. It is against the rules here for cadets to use tobacco, but we know that they do use it, but this morning one did it so openly that I supposed he did it in defiance. I went to his room to see him, but he was out, and in the drawer of his washstand I found plenty of tobacco. I, of course, emptied it into the fire place. Soon after the young gentleman named C came to me, evidently instigated by others, and complained of ill treatment, and soon complained of my opening his drawer, intimating that it was a breach of propriety. Of course I soon advised him that his concealment, and breach of regulations, well known to him, was the breach of honor. He said he would not stay, and after some preliminaries I shipped him. Another came with a similar complaint and I sent him off, and there the matter ended. These two last were dull at books and noisy quarrelsome fellows and a good riddance. We had fifty-three, now fifty-one.
"We have refused to receive many after the 1st inst., and I have now an application from thirty in one school, but we think it best now to await the action of the Legislature to ascertain what they propose to do for us, and I also think it best to prepare some forty steady young men, as a nucleus on which to build the hereafter. ..."
February 10, 1860
"I have now crossed the line* and suppose I must rest satisfied with the title of the 'Old Man,' the 'cross old schoolmaster,' but time won't wait and we must rush on in the race to eternity. . . .
"We have just passed through a critical week, the struggle for mastery resulting in five boys being gone. It would take a volume to record it, but I am now rid of five noisy, insubordinate boys. Fifty-one still remain, not a recitation was missed, and I am fully supported. There can be but one master. I was prepared for this resistance but it hardly gave me a moment's concern, but since, I learn from Dr. Smith in the Legislature that it is doubtful whether Governor Wickliffe's bill will pass. Since old Brown has run out, Congress organized, Texas taken strong ground against secession, the Louisiana politicians have cooled down, and they are less zealous to build up a Military School. Dr. Smith wrote me to let him know the least sum we needed from the State to carry us through the year. I have notified him that Governor Wickliffe's sum is the least, that the institution must be sustained at the start, and that proper provision must be made for the professors in the way of buildings. I wrote to General Graham telHng him the outhne of the London proposition, and that I expected Roelofson daily/ and that if I did not see in the proceedings of the Legislature some signs of providing for the institution and for me personally, I should be forced to leave. I have just received a letter from him and he seems in great distress. He has worked so long and so hard to build up this college; he is so delighted at present management and prospects, and so impressed with the belief that I alone can manage its multifarious interests, that he says while he will not stand in the light of my interest, he will not lose my services to the State. . . . "I see by the papers that John was defeated for Speaker, but is likely to be prominent in the House, but he will be more careful hereafter in signing papers before he reads them and he has time enough before him to recover lost ground. . . ."
February 13, 1860
"I received yesterday your letter of January 31. Roelofson came Saturday, and was in a great hurry to go off. He said he must be in Cincinnati February 18 to attend some business. I found the scheme was pretty much the same condition as it was last winter. . . . All admit the healthfulness of the place [Alexandria] which is inferable from the kind of ground. Indeed if you hear I have concluded to stay here, just make up your mind to live and die here, because I am going to take the bit in my mouth, and resume my miUtary character, and control my own affairs. Since I left New Orleans, I have felt myself oppressed by circumstances I could not control, but I begin to feel footing and will get saucy. But if I go to England I shall expect a universal panic, the repudiation of the great National Debt, and a blow up generally. "I suppose I was the Jonah that blew up San Francisco, and it only took two months' residence in Wall Street to bust'up New York, and I think my arrival in London will be the signal of the downfall of that mighty empire. "Here I can't do much harm, if I can't do any good; and here we have solitude and banishment enough to hide from the misfortunes of the past. "Therefore, if Louisiana will endow this college properly, and is fool enough to give me $5,000 a year, we will drive our tent pins and pick out a magnolia under which to sleep the long sleep. But if she don't, then England must perish, for I predict financial misfortune to the land that receives me. ..."
It is evident from other passages in the letters, not in the ironic humor just illustrated, that Sherman narrowly escaped making up his mind to go to London under an arrangement which would have kept him there for two years. He would then have been absent from the country at the outbreak of the war, and whether he would have re-entered the army at all is clearly a matter of speculation. That the Legislature of a Southern state was so unwilling to part with him that it made the provisions for the Seminary which finally decided him to remain in Louisiana was no less clearly one of the inscrutable workings of destiny. A letter of the summer when all men were beginning to wonder what the next administration at Washington would bring forth shows Sherman still a Northerner who could hold office in the South as honorably and consistently as any of his kind:
July 10, 1860
"... I feel little interest in politics and certainly am glad to see it realized that politicians can't govern the country. They may agitate, but cannot control. Let who may be elected, the same old game will be played, and he will go out of office like Pierce and Buchanan with their former honors all sunk and lost. I only wonder that honorable men should seek the office. "I do not conceive that any of the parties would materially interfere with the slavery in the states, and in the territories it is a mere abstraction. There is plenty of room in the present Slave States for all the negroes, but the time has come when the Free States may annoy the Slave States by laws of a general declaration, but that they will change the relation of master and slave I don't believe. All the Congresses on earth can't make the negro anything else than what he is; he must be subject to the white man, or he must amalgamate or be destroyed. Two such races cannot live in harmony save as master and slave. Mexico shows the result of general equality and amalgamation, and the Indians give a fair illustration of the fate of negroes if they are released from the control of the whites. Of course no one can guess what the wild unbridled passions of men may do, but I don't believe that the present excitement in politics is anything more than the signs of the passage of power from southern politicians to northern and western politicians. The negro is made the hobby, but I know that northern men don't care any more about the rights and humanities of the negroes than the southerners. At present negroes work under control of white men and the consequence is the annual yield of $200,000,000 of cotton, sugar, and other produce that would not be without such labor; and so long as that is the case, I don't fear a change in this respect. . . ."
Between August and October of 1860 Sherman paid a visit to the North.* Soon after his return to Louisiana he wrote (November 3) to Mrs. Sherman:
"People here now talk as though disunion was a fixed thing. Men of property say that as this constant feeling of danger of abolitionism exists they would rather try a southern confederacy. Louisiana would not secede, but should South Carolina secede, I fear other southern states will follow, and soon general anarchy will prevail. I say but little, try and mind my own business, and await the issue of events." A week later he wrote as follows:
November 10, 1860
"We have had a week of cold stormy rains, but it has cleared off and today is bright and warm. I am going into town today and will leave this at the post office. The election came off on Tuesday and resulted in Alexandria for a majority for Breckenridge, next Bell, next Douglass. Of course there were no votes for Lincoln. Indeed he has no ticket in this state. I received a note from a friend advising me to vote. I thought the matter over, and concluded I would not vote. Technically I was entitled to a vote as I entered Louisiana just a year ago, but I thought I ought not to vote in this election, and did not. I would have preferred Bell, but I think he has no chance, and I do not wish to be subject to any political conditions. If I am to hold my place by a political tenure, I prefer again to turn vagabond. I would not be surprised to learn that my not voting was construed into a friendly regard for Lincoln, and that it might result in my being declared a public enemy. I shall, however, rest under a belief that now as the election is over, all this hard feeling will subside and peace once more settle on the country. We have no returns as yet. Maybe the mail tonight will bring some returns from New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, those large states that determine this election, but I do not count on any clear knowledge till next Monday. . . ,
"No matter which way we turn there arise difficulties which seem insurmountable. In case Lincoln is elected, they say South Carolina will secede and that the Southern States will not see her forced back. Secession must result in civil war, anarchy and ruin to our present form of government, but if it is attempted it would be unwise for us to be here. But I still hope for quiet. . . ."
November 23, 1860
"... I now have all arrangements made for your coming down about that time [Christmas], but prudence dictates some caution, as political events do seem portentous. I have a letter from the cashier that he sent you the first of exchange, the second I now enclose to you for $290. But by the very mail which brought it came the rumor that the banks are refusing exchange on the North, which cannot be true; also that goods were being destroyed on the Levee in New Orleans and that the Custom House was closed. I also notice that many gentlemen who were heretofore moderate in their opinions now begin to fall into the popular current, and go with the mad, foolish crowd that seems bent on a dissolution of this confederacy. The extremists in this quarter took the first news of the election of Lincoln so coolly that I took it for granted all would quietly await the issue, but I have no doubt that politicians have so embittered the feelings of the people, that they think the Republican party is bent on abolitionism, and they cease to reason or think of consequences. We are so retired up here, so much out of the way of news, that we hear nothing but stale exaggerations; but I feel that a change is threatened and I will wait patiently for a while. My opinions are not changed. If the South is bent on dissolution of course I will not ally our fate with theirs, because by dissolution they do not escape the very danger at which they grow so frantically mad. Slavery is in their midst and must continue, but the interest of slavery Is much weaker in Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland than down here. Should the Ohio River become a boundary between the two new combinations, there will begin a new change.
The extreme South will look on Kentucky and Tennessee as the North, and in a very few years, the same confusion and discord will arise and a new dissolution, till each state and maybe each county will claim separate independence. If South Carolina precipitate this revolution, it will be because she thinks by delay, Lincoln's friends will kind of reconcile the middle wavering states, whereas now they may raise the cry of Abolition and unite all the Slave States. I had no idea that this would actually begin so soon, but the news from that quarter does look as though she certainly would secede, and that Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Texas would follow suit. All these might go, and still leave a strong rich confederated government, but then comes Mississippi and Louisiana. As these rest on the Mississippi and control its mouth, I know that the other states north will not submit to any molestation of the navigation by foreign states. If these two states and Arkansas follow suit, then there must be war, fighting, and that will continue till one or the other party is subdued. If Louisiana call a convention, I will not move, but if that convention resolves to secede on a contingency that I can foresee, then I must of course quit. It is not to be expected that the state would consent to trust me with arms and command if I did not go with them full lengths. I don't believe Louisiana would of herself do anything, but if South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas resolve no longer to wait, then Louisiana will do likewise. Then of course you will be safe where you are. ..."
November 26, 1860
"I commenced writing a letter last night to Minnie, but a friend sent us out a newspaper of New Orleans, November 22, which had come up from New Orleans in a boat. For some reason the papers come to us very irregularly. The stage whenever it has passengers leaves behind the paper mail, and only brings the bags when there are few or no passengers. Well, of late, though letters come about as usual, our papers come along very straggling. Well, this newspaper so received brings intelligence, how true I know not, of a panic in New York, Baltimore and everywhere. Of course panics are the necessary consequence of the mammoth credit system, the habit of borrowing which pervades our country, and though panics transfer losses to the wrong shoulders still they do good. . . .
"This paper also announces that Governor Moore has called the Legislature together for December 10, and specially to consider the crisis of the country, and to call a Convention.
"You know that the theory of our government is, as construed by southern politicians, that a state, one or more, may withdraw from the Union, without molestation, and unless excitement abates, Louisiana will follow the lead of her neighbors. You will hear by telegraph the action of the Conventions of South Carolina and Alabama. Should they assert their right to secede, and initiate measures to that end, then you may infer that I will countermand my heretofore preparations for a move. Then it would be unsafe even for you to come South. For myself, I will not go with the South in a disunion movement, and as my position at the head of a State MiHtary College would necessarily infer fidelity and allegiance to the state as against the United States, my duty will be on the first positive act of disunion to give notice of my purpose.
"December 10 the Legislature meets. It is hardly
possible a Convention will be called before January, and until the Convention acts, the state is not committed. Still, I think the tone of feeling in the Legislature will give me a clue to the future.
"I confess I feel uneasy from these events, and more so from the fact that the intelligence comes so piecemeal and unsatisfactory."
November 29, 1860
"This is a holiday—Thanksgiving and prayer; but holidays and Sundays are my worst days as then the Cadets are idle and mischievous.
"Governor Moore has issued his proclamation calling the Legislature together for December 10, and the proclamation is couched in ugly language, diflFerent from his usual more conservative tone. It is manifest to me now that the leading politicians of the state have conferred together and have agreed to go out of the Union, or at all events to favor the new doctrine of secession. The Legislature will determine the call of a Convention, and the Convention will decide very much according to the other events that may occur in the meantime. This imposes on us a change of purpose, and it will not do for you or any one to come south unless this state of feeling changes. I know the governor and believe him an excellent thermometer of the political atmosphere of Louisiana. I hear that business is dead in New Orleans, all of which is an evidence that the abolitionists have succeeded in bringing on the 'Irresistible Conflict.' "I am sick of this everlasting subject. The truth has nothing to do with this world. Here they know that all you in Ohio have to do is to steal niggers, and in Ohio, though the people are quiescent, yet they believe that the South are determined to enlarge the area of niggers. Like Burton in 'Toodles' I say, 'Damn the niggers,' I wish they were anywhere or [could] be kept at their work. "I observe more signs of a loosened discipline here. Boys are careless and last night because the supper did not please them, they smashed the crockery and made a riot generally. Pistols were fired, which scared Joe very much. His educationhas been neglected, but I think he will get used to it. We have dismissed five cadets and others must share their fate. . . . Still, this is a small matter susceptible of remedy, but the secession movement underlays the very safety of everything. . . ."
December 16, 1860
"The telegraph has announced to you ere this that Governor Moore, hurried on by the wild enthusiasm which now pervades the southern mind, has caused the forts at the mouth of the Mississippi to be occupied by volunteers from New Orleans ; also those at the outlets of Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne, and moreover, that he has caused a large force to surround the barracks at Baton Rouge, and the garrison to surrender. Major Haskin ' will be much blamed, but he is a plain brave man, lost an arm in Mexico; but he had only a single company, in an open barracks, and was stationed there, as among friends, to protect the arsenal not against the people but against the negroes. All these are acts of hostility and war. The news will cause intense feeling in the North and West. They were entirely too precipitate, and Governor Moore is even censured here; still, the fact is manifest that the people of the South are in open rebellion against the government of the United States. "I went to Alexandria in a hard rain yesterday, and saw Dr. Smith, Mr. Elgee Wise and others, members of the Convention and Legislature, and spoke my mind fully and clearly, that these were acts of unjustifiable war, and that I could no longer remain silent. I asked to be relieved. . . ."
December 18, 1860
"... I cannot remain here much beyond January 23, the time set for the State Convention to dissolve the connection of this state with the United States. The Legislature only sat three days and passed unanimously the bills for arming the state and calling a convention. That convention has only to decree what has already been resolved on and proclaimed by the governor, that Louisiana cannot remain under a Black Republican President. The opinion is universal that disunion is resolved on, and the only open questions are—what states will compose the Southern Confederacy? I regard the failure of Buchanan to strengthen Major Anderson at Fort Moultrie as absolutely fatal, as the evidence of contemptible pusillanimity of our general government—almost convincing me that the government is not worth saving. No wonder General Cass forthwith resigned. The banks in New Orleans continue good, and I will endeavor to send you a month's pay at the close of this month; but for mercy's sake be close and mean, for I cannot say how soon all my supplies will come to a conclusion. ..."
At the opening of 1861 Sherman, as the two last letters have shown, had found his place untenable, and, having asked to be relieved of his post, was preparing for that severance of his relations with the state of Louisiana which is shown, in the official correspondence preserved in the Memoirs, to have been effected so creditably to all concerned in it. The letters to Mrs. Sherman during these final weeks speak clearly for his more intimate views of the conditions that surrounded him. In the first of them the reader can hardly fail to be struck with Sherman's prescience regarding the attack upon Sumter and the importance of the Mississippi, where his own powers were to be tested, in the impending conflict. [Not dated: about the beginning of January, 1861.] "... The Governor recommends the establishment of a large arsenal here. We now have a limited supply of arms. I have announced my position; as long as Louisiana is in the Union I will serve her honestly and faithfully, but if she quits, I will quit too. I will not for a day or even an hour occupy a position of apparent hostility to Uncle Sam.
"That government is weak enough, but is the only thing in America that has even the semblance of a government. These state governments are ridiculous pretences of a government, liable to explode at the call of any mob. I don't want to be premature, and will hold on to the last moment in hopes of change, but they seem to be pushing events ridiculously fast. There is an evident purpose, a dark design, not to allow time for thought and reflection. These Southern leaders understand the character of their people and want action before the spirit subsides. Robert Anderson commands at Charleston, and there I look for the first actual collision. Old Fort Moultrie, every brick of which is as plain now in my memory as the sidewalk in Lancaster, will become historical. It is weak and I can scale any of its bastions. If secession, dissolution and civil war do come. South Carolina will soon drop far astern, and the battle will be fought on the Mississippi. The Western States never should consent to a hostile people holding the mouth of the Mississippi. Should I be forced to act promptly I will turn up, either at St. Louis or Washington. Turner knows full well where I am, but he is angry with me about his charge against Ohio of nigger stealing. You remember my answer from Lancaster. I am very well. Weather cold and overcast."
January 5, 1861
" I have finished my Report, and placed all the papers in the hands of Dr. Smith, Vice President. I walked into town the day before yesterday, poor Clay * being dead and buried. Dr. Smith was away and I only remained a few hours. Alexandria at best is not a cheerful town, but now decidedly the reverse. Everybody naturally feels the danger which envelops us all in one common cause. I have had nothing said to me at all, and I discuss the questions of the day freely with my equals, and try to keep my peace with loungers about the street corners and ferry boat landing. I always say what is my real belief, that though the Slavery question seems to be the question, that soon it will sink into insignificance.
"Our country has become so democratic, that the mere popular opinion of any town or village rises above the law. Men have ceased to look to constitutions and law books for their guides, but have studied popular opinion in bar rooms and village newspapers, and that was and is law. The old women and grannies of New England, reasoning from abstract principles, must defy the Constitution of the country. The people of the South, not relying on the Federal Government, must allow their people to favor filibustering expeditions against the solemn treaties of the land, and everywhere from California to Maine any man could do murder, robbery or arson if the people's prejudices lay in that direction. And now things are at such a pass that no one section believes the other and we are beginning to fight. The right of secession is but the beginning of the end. It is utterly wrong, and the President ought never for one moment to have permitted the South Carolinians to believe he would not enforce the revenue laws, and hold the public property in Charleston Harbor. Had he promptly reinforced Major Anderson, the Charlestonians would have been a little more circumspect. My only hope is that Major Anderson may hold out, that reinforcements may reach him, and that the people may feel that they can't always do as they please, or in other words that they ain't so free and independent as they think. In this view I am alone here, but I do so think and will say it. . . ."
January 8, 1861
"... From what I see in the New Orleans papers, Anderson is still in possession of Fort Sumpter, and the general government has failed to reinforce him and will wait till he is attacked. This disgusts me, and I would not serve such a pusillanimous government. It merits dissolution. This fact will increase the chances of an attempt to prevent Lincoln's installation into office, and then we shall see whether the Wide-awakes will fight as well as carry cheap lamps of a night zig-zagging through the streets.
"I see every chance of long, confused and disorganizing Civil War, and I feel no desire to take a hand therein. When the time comes for reorganization, then will be the time. . . ."
January 13, 1861
"Yours of the 4th is at hand. Our mails have been irregular, but this came on time. I see no change to note here in public sentiment. The fact that Seward has been named as Secretary of State to Lincoln enables the leaders to show that their suspicions are right, that the Republicans and Abolitionists are identical. I am therefore confirmed in my opinion that the Cotton States are off, and it is an even chance with all the Slave States. I take the Missouri Republican and National Intelligencer, which seem to oppose secession, but they cannot stem the torrent. The revolution has begun, and the national government has shown weakness in all its attempts. Anderson is the only one who has acted. General Scott, in sending reinforcements, ought not to have trusted the Star of the West, the same in which we went to California seven years ago. She could not venture to receive a fire. Frigates and strong war steamers should have gone, which could have forced their way past the land batteries. I hope still this will be done. It will be a triumph to South Carolina to beat Uncle Sam. "Still Charleston is nothing to New Orleans, and I am satisfied the forts at the mouth and the Lakes will be taken by order of Governor Moore of this state, before they are occupied by the United States. All these are acts of war. War has begun, and it is idle to say that the South is not in earnest. Louisiana has not yet seceded, yet the delegates favorable to such a course are elected, even in New Orleans where the union feeling is thought to be strongest. ..."
January 20, 1861
"Here is another Sunday. I have written you often enough of late to keep you in a perfect state of uneasiness, but it does seem that each day brings forth some thing new. I now have oflBcial notice that 3,300 muskets, 70,000 cartridges, etc., are sent here from Baton Rouge, which must be a part of those seized by the State or otherwise stolen, and I must make provision for their storage. I must move to the new house in order to afford room for them in my present quarters. But my stay here much longer is impossible. My opinions and feelings are so radically opposed to those in power that this cannot last long. I send you a copy of a letter I wrote to Governor Moore on the 18th, on the receipt of which he will be forced to act. . . . "Those now in debt will suffer most, or least, for they will likely repudiate all debts. Down here they think they are going to have fine times-New Orleans a free port, whereby she can import goods without limit or duties, and sell to the up-river countries. But Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore will never consent that New Orleans should be a free port, and they subject to duties. The most probable result will be that New Orleans will be shut off from all trade, and the South, having no navy and no sailors, cannot raise a blockade without assistance from England, and that she will never receive. I have letters from General Graham and others, who have given up all hope of stemming the tide. All they now hope for is as peaceable a secession as can be effected. I heard Mr. Clay's speech in 1850 on the subject of secession, and if he deemed a peaceable secession then as an absurd impossibility, much more so is it now, when the commercial interests of the North are so much more influential. ..."
January 27, 1861
"Since my last I have three letters from you-of latest date 16th inst. The mails have been much disordered by a break on the Mississippi Railroad. In my last I sent you a copy of a letter written to Governor Moore, to which I have received no answer. He is very busy indeed. Legislature and Convention both in session at Baton Rouge giving him hardly time to think of the Seminary. . . .
"The ordinance of Secession will pass in a day or so, but the Legislature was adjourned till February 4, so that no business can be transacted there for some days. It don't take long to pull down, and everybody is striving for the honor of pouring out the deepest insult to Uncle Sam. The very men who last 4th of July were most patriotic and exhausted their imaginations for pictures of the glories of our Union, are now full of joy and happiness that this accursed Union is wrecked and destroyed.
"This rapid popular change almost makes me a monarchist, and raises the question whether the self interest of one man is not a safer criterion than the wild opinions of ignorant men. From all I can read Missouri and Kentucky will go with the crowd South and will be more seriously affected than any other part of the country. . . .
"As soon as I hear from Governor Moore I will let you know when to expect me. I know that he, the Governor, will feel inclined to get rid of me instanter, but Dr. Smith wants me to stay for a successor, and he has no successor in his mind. If he proposes I should stay till March, I will feel disposed to agree to it for pecuniary reasons, but I think the Governor will feel hurt at my letter, and will be disposed to get rid of me. At all events, my position being clearly defined I cannot be complicated by these secession movements. I do feel a little mean at being made partially accessory to the robbing of the Baton Rouge Arsenal, by receiving a part of the stolen property. ..."
Writing on February 1, Sherman quoted Governor Moore's letter and a portion of Dr. Smith's, which are printed in full in the Memoirs, and express the genuine personal and official regret caused by his separation from the Seminary. His letter goes on to say:
"So you see I have at least the good will of my associates. I have called the Board for February 9, and expect to leave here by or before February 20. I shall delay a while in New Orleans, not long, and get to Lancaster by March. ...
I have a good letter from Turner in which he infers I cannot stay here, and advises me to come to Saint Louis, but points out nothing definite. He thinks Missouri will not secede, but if she does not they will have a severe contest there, for men who own negroes are blind to all interests other than those of Slavery. "Reason has nothing to do in these times of change and revolution. Politicians start the movement and keep it alive by a process known to themselves, and the poor innocent people have nothing to do but follow their lead. It may not be so there, but I am not convinced. I see John takes bold ground. He is right. If the government be a reality, it should defend its flag, property, and servants. Anderson should be reinforced if it cost ten thousand lives, and every habitation in Charleston.
Also the seizure of these arsenals should be resented and the actors made to feel that the United States is a reality. But the time is not yet. . . ."
About the end of February Sherman turned his face northward, far poorer in prospects than he had been on coming to Louisiana, far richer in knowledge of the Southern people and of the nature of the problems to be solved by the dreaded processes of war. He carried with him also the experience of warm personal friendships formed in Louisiana. One of the staff of instructors at Alexandria who returned to the Seminary after fighting in the Confederate army, wrote to Sherman in 1875: "I remember well how it grieved you to leave us, and how sorry were we to see you go, and how great an influence was brought to bear on you to keep you at your post at the head of our school. Moore and Bragg and Beauregard and Dick Taylor all wrote you most urgently to stay." Sherman's own letters show afresh how honestly reciprocal was all the reluctance for his departure.
When the autumn of 1862 was well advanced, Mrs. Sherman and the children came to Memphis for a visit. About the middle of November Sherman was summoned to a meeting with Grant in Columbus, Kentucky, where they discussed the first movement towards the taking of Vicksburg. In December Sherman set out upon an unavailing attempt to capture the stronghold in co-operation with Admiral Porter. This failure was followed immediately by the success at Arkansas Post, one of the early moves in the deadly game of wresting Vicksburg from the Confederate army. To this purpose a little more than the first six months of 1863 was devoted. It was a period of constant struggle, not only with the enemy, but with the great ally of whichever side could control it, the Mississippi River. The final overthrow of Vicksburg was for Sherman, as we shall see, "the first gleam of daylight in this war." It marked a definite period of Sherman's own development, and with the letter written on the day after the capitulation, the present chapter will end.
On Board Forest Queen
January 4, 1863
"Well, we have been to Vicksburg and it was too much for us, and we have backed out. I suppose the attack on Holly Springs and the railroad compelled Grant to fall behind the Tallahatchie, and consequently the Confederates were enabled to reinforce Vicksburg. Besides, its natural strength had been improved by a vast amount of labor, so that it was impossible for me to capture or even to penetrate to the road from which alone I could expect to take it. For five days we were thundering away, and when my main assault failed, and Admiral Porter deemed another requiring the cooperation of the gunboats 'too hazardous,' I saw no alternative but to regain my steamboats and the main river, which I did unopposed and unmolested. To reembark a large command in the face of an enterprising and successful enemy is no easy task, but I accomplished it.
McClernand has arrived to supersede me by order of the President himself. Of course I submit gracefully. The President is charged with maintaining the government and has a perfect right to choose his agents. My command is to be an army corps composed of Morgan L. Smith's old command (poor Morgan now lies wounded badly in the hip on board the Chancellor, and bis division is commanded by Stuart), and the troops I got at Helena commanded by Fred Steele whom I know well. These are all new and strange to me but such is life and luck. Before I withdrew from the Yazoo I saw McClernand and told him that we had failed to carry the enemy's line of works before Vicksburg, but I could hold my ground at Yazoo-but it would be useless. He promptly confirmed my judgment that it was best to come out into the main river at Milliken's Bend. We did so day before yesterday, and it has rained hard two days and I am satisfied that we got out of the Swamp at Chickasaw Bayou in time, for now water and mud must be forty feet deep there. . . . Regulars did well, of course, but they or no human beings could have crossed the bayou and live. People at a distance will ridicule our being unable to pass a narrow bayou, but nobody who was there will. Instead of lying idle I proposed we should come to the Arkansas and attack the Post of Arkansas, fifty miles up that river, from which the enemy has attacked the river capturing one of our boats, towing two barges of navy coal and capturing a mail, so I have no doubt some curious lieutenant has read your letters to me.
We must make the river safe behind us before we push too far down. We are now on our way to the Post of Arkansas. McClernand assumed command to-day, so I will not be care-worn again by the duty of looking to supplies, plans, etc. ... It will in the end cost us at least ten thousand lives to take Vicksburg. I would have pushed the attack to the bitter end, but even had we reached the city unassisted we could not have held it if they are at liberty to reinforce from the interior. ..."
Post of Arkansas
January 12, 1863
"We carried the Post of Arkansas yesterday and captured all its stores and garrison, and Brigadier-General Churchill, and three brigades of soldiers, I cannot tell yet how many. They now stand clustering on the bank, and will today be put on board of boats and sent to Cairo. This relieves our Vicksburg trip of all appearances of a reverse, as by this move we open the Arkansas and compel all organized masses of the enemy to pass below the Arkansas River, and it will also secure this flank when we renew our attack on Vicksburg. . . ."
"Camp near Vicksburg
January 28, 1863
"... The politician thinks results can be had by breath, but how painfully it begins to come home to the American people that the war which all have striven so hard to bring on and so few to avert is to cost us so many thousands of lives. Indeed do I wish I had been killed long since. Better that than struggle with the curses and maledictions of every woman that has a son or brother to die in any army with which I chance to be associated. Of course Sherman is responsible. Seeing so clearly into the future I do think I ought to get away. The President's placing McClernand here and the dead set to ruin me for McClernand's personal glory would afford me a good chance to slide out and escape the storm and trouble yei in reserve for us. Here we are at Vicksburg on the wrong side of the river trying to turn the Mississippi by a ditch, a pure waste of human labor. Grant has come and Prime ^ is here and they can figure it out, but the canal won't do. We must carry out the plan fixed up at Oxford. A large army must march down from Oxford to Grenada and so on to the rear of Vicksburg, and another army must be here to cooperate with the gun-boats at the right time. Had Grant been within sixty miles of Vicksburg, or Banks near, I could have broken the line of Chickasaw Bayou, but it was never dreamed by me that I could take the place alone. McClernand or Grant will not undertake it. Not a word of Banks. I doubt if he has left or can leave or has any order to leave New Orleans. Therefore here we are to sit in the mud till spring and summer and maybe another year. Soldiers will soon clamor for motion, life, anything rather than canal digging. The newspapers are after me again; I published an order they must not come along on pain of being treated as spies. I am now determined to test the question. Do they rule or the commanding general? If they rule I quit. I have ordered the arrest of one, shall try him, and if possible execute him as a spy. They publish all the data for our enemy and it was only by absolute secrecy that we could get to the Post of Arkansas without their getting ahead. They did reveal our attempt to attack Haines's Bluff. I will never again command an army in America if we must carry along paid spies. I will banish myself to some foreign country first. I shall notify Mr. Lincoln of this if he attempt to interfere with the sentence of any court ordered by me. If he wants an army he must conform to the well established rules of military nations and not attempt to keep up the open rules of peace. The South at the start did these things, and the result has been, they move their forces from Virginia to Mississippi and back without a breath spoken or written. ..."
Camp near Vicksburg
February 22, 1863
"... As to my exposing myself unnecessarily, you need not be concerned. I know better than C where danger lies and where I should be. Soldiers have a right to see and know that the man who guides them is near enough to see with his own eyes, and that he cannot see without being seen. At Arkansas Post the ground was nearly level and the enemy could see me, with officers coming and going and orderlies grouped near. Of course they fired at me, one rifled 10 pounder repeatedly, and when I was grouping the prisoners I recognized the very gun and asked for the gunner, who proved to be a real Paddy, and I gave him fits for aiming at me, which the fellow did not deny; but we gave them a fair return and the account was squared. ..."
Camp near Vicksburg
February 26, 1863
"I have yours of the 14th inst. and indeed I think all your letters have come somewhat in bunches, but I think all are at hand up to that of the 14th. Of course, I will heed your counsel about the newspaper correspondents, but it is hard for me to know that they are used to spy out and report all our acts of omission and commission to be published at home to prejudice t_-e cause and advance that of the enemy. It is hard enough to know that we have a strong well organized and vindictive enemy in front and a more dangerous insidious one within our very camp. These causes must defeat us unless the people have resources enough to learn by the slow and sad progress of time what they might so much easier learn from books or the example of our enemy. We look in vain to their newspapers for scraps from which to guess at the disposition of their forces, and know and feel all the time that every thing we do or attempt to do is paraded in all our newspapers which reach Vicksburg by telegraph from Richmond, Va. or Memphis long before we are ourselves advised. I feel also that our government instead of governing the country is led first by one class of newspapers, then another, and that we are the mere shuttle-cocks flying between. We get all the knocks and rarely see one grain of encouragement from 'home.' I see the eulogies of the brave and heroic acts of men at Springfield, Illinois, and Cincinnati, and rarely anything but the paid and hired encomiums of some worthless regiment here, that, understanding the notions of our people, can get cheap reputation by writing for the press, and neglecting all their duties here. The further we penetrate, the further we remain from home, the less we are esteemed or encouraged. I did not intend to resign unless the public opinion of the North made it prudent for the President to recall me nominally to some other command, or unless I detected in my own corps some symptoms of the natural results of the continued attacks of the press. In either event being foot-loose I would be justified before God and man in making my own choice of vocation. My old troops believe in me, but in this move I had a new batch that did not know me and I had reason to apprehend mistrust on this point, as some of them are known to me, like , to be mere politicians who come to fight not for the real glory and success of the nation but for their own individual aggrandizement. Let any accident befall me or any temporary rumor like that at Vicksburg, the same howl will be renewed because these buzzards of the press who hang in scent about our camps know full well that death awaits them whenever I have the power or when time develops their true character and influence. You in Ohio have one or two papers to conciliate, here we have all-St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Cincinnati, Charleston, Atlanta and Vicksburg. Now these are all antagonistic save in one particular, in esprit de corps.
They stand by each other as a profession, but each gathers facts and draws its pictures to suit the home market, and really the Southern correspondents are the more fair. Were I to judge of public opinion by the tone of the press I would say we were here regarded as an enemy to the North and rather favorable to the South. Of course, I shall no longer attempt to exclude spies from camp, and allow these to come and go freely and collect their own budgets. The ram Queen of the West was captured by the enemy in Red River and yesterday came close up to Vicksburg with the Rebel flag flying in defiance. We have an iron boat below, the Indianola, but night before last heavy firing was heard until about one o'clock, when it ceased, and this fact being followed by the appearance of the captured ram looks bad. 1 fear the Indianola is gone, and that the enemy has recovered the use of the river below Vicksburg. This to us is a bad blow, and may lead to worse consequences. I at once established a battery of 20 pound rifles below the town and made other dispositions, but the ram has again gone below. I fear for the safety of the Indianola. If sunk it is not so bad, but if like the Queen of the West she has fallen into the hands of the enemy, it may prove a calamity. Rain, rain,-water above, below and all round. I have been soused under water by my horse falling in a hole, and got a good ducking yesterday walking where a horse could not go. No doubt they are chuckling over our helpless situation in Vicksburg. Accounts from Yazoo and Providence Lake favorable, but rain, rain, and men can't work- indeed hardly a place to stand, much less lie down. . . ."
Camp before Vicksburg
March 13, 1863
"... The waters are still rising and Kilby Smith's Brigade is roosting on the levee with bare standing room. McClernand's Corps is at Milliken's Bend, and my Corps strung along the levee for four miles. The levee is about ten feet wide at top with sloping sides and can hold all the men and maybe horses in case of an absolute flood. We have not steamboats enough to float us and if we had there is no dry land to go to. An expedition has entered the Yazoo from above, and when it is heard from we probably will make another dash at Vicksburg or Drumgould's. I see the whole North is again in agonies about the amount of sickness down here. It is not excessively hot, more than should be expected, not more than we had on the Potomac and Tennessee, and our supplies are the best I ever saw. There is a deep laid plan to cripple us laid by Jeff Davis who is smart and knows our people well. By a few thousands of dollars well invested in newspapers he can defeat any plan or undertaking. Many really well disposed men have come from St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington and have been amazed by the falsehood of these stories. Only one man of the regulars has died since we left Memphis. My old regiments are all in fine health and spirits. Some of the new regiments have passed through the ordeal which afflicts all new troops. . . .
"The War Department have not given me any staff, and yet have taken from me the right to appoint any. The truth is now as it always was, that persons at a distance are neglected and those near the seat of power petted. We have made further progress than any army, with less means. In Vicksburg we meet our match and time must solve the difficulty; but so long as our camps are full of newspaper spies revealing each move, exaggerating our trouble and difficulties and giving grounds for discontent, success cannot be expected. " The new Conscript Law is the best act of our government and Mr. Lincoln can no longer complain of want of power. He now is absolute dictator and if he don't use the power some one will. ..."
Camp before Vicksburg
March 30, 1863
"I got back from an excursion up to Deer Creek in connection with Admiral Porter the day before yesterday, and being on General Grant's boat which lies about four miles above me I wrote you a hasty note saying we were all well. I don't know what the people and press will make of this move, but I explain it to you. Our difficulty at Vicksburg has been to get a foothold on hard ground on that side of the Mississippi. We have endeavored to get east of the Yazoo without success by every possible channel, and Admiral Porter and General Grant thought they had discovered a new route up Yazoo and Steele's Bayou to Black Fork across into Deer Creek, up Deer Creek to Rolling Fork and then into Sunflower and Yazoo. I don't know if your maps show this route, but there is a channel during high water. Grant accompanied the Admiral up a short distance returned and ordered me to follow, to reconnoitre, to ascertain if the route was feasible to move my Corps.
I got one of the Admiral's little tugs and with only two aids. Col. Johnson and Lt. Pitzman and my orderly Boyer, pushed up and overtook the Admiral in Black Bayou. I took no troops with me, but had ordered the 8th Missouri and some pioneers to go up in a steamboat to clear out trees and overhanging branches. I saw very soon that the channel was too narrow and obstructed by trees to be passable without a vast amount of clearing, and soon reported that it w/)uld not do, but the Admiral pushed up Deer Creek with his iron-clads. He had not proceeded twenty miles before the channel became so obstructed that he doubted his ability to pro ceed, and the enemy had detected the move and had begun to fell trees across the channel. At last he called on me for help; and having brought up three small regiments I sent them forward and worked like a beaver to get up more. I succeeded in getting up the better part of two brigades and afoot started for the fleet. I got there not a minute too soon. The enemy were swarming about the fleet, had chopped down trees in front and were in the act of doing the same below so as to block them in. There were five iron-clads and three little tenders or tugs. Their heavy guns could not contend with the rifle men who behind trees and logs picked off every man who showed his head. I do believe if I had not labored as I did, and moved as rapidly, the enemy would have got the boats and the tables would have been turned on us here at Vicksburg; but the Admiral had actually resolved to blow them all up. The mud and rain were terrific, but I marched afoot and the men were tickled to see me there; and such cheers as the gun-boats put up when they saw General Sherman! Of course we soon cleared the ground, and not a shot was fired at the gun-boats after I got there. For four days and nights they were beset by a crowd of guerrillas and soldiers and could not sleep or rest; it was the lion in a net.
"The admiral was in the act of backing out when I got to him, and his judgment was that the route was impracticable. Of course, we gradually withdrew slowly and leisurely, and the enemy followed us at a distance. No place on earth is favored by nature with natural defense such as Vicksburg, and I do believe the whole thing will fail and we will have to go back to the original plan, viz: the main army to move by land from Memphis, Oxford, Grenada to Yazoo City and Vicksburg, whilst a smaller force hem in the river and attack in flank contemporaneous with the arrival of the main army. This was the original plan and the only one certain of success. Grant may resolve to attack Haines' Bluff, but we cannot bring our whole force to bear there. The river does not admit of it. . . ."
Camp at Vicksburg
April 10, 1863
"... I was really amused at a circumstance to-day that may be serious. Grant has been secretly working by night to place some 30 pound rifle guns as close up to Vicksburg as the water will permit, about 2,300 yards, and to cover them against the enemies' cross batteries, but to-day got the Memphis papers of the 7th giving a minute and full account of them and their location. Now he knows as we all do that the Secesh mail leaves Memphis before day, as soon as the morning papers are printed, reaches Hernando about 11a. m., and the telegraph carries to Vicksburg the news in a few minutes. This explains a remark which Major Watts of the Confederate Army made to me at parting day before yesterday.
We met per appointment on a steamboat just above Vicksburg, and after a long conference relating to exchange of prisoners, Watts, who is a very clever man, remarked: 'don't open those batteries to-morrow (last) night, for I am to give a party and don't want to be interrupted.' Of course the newspaper correspondents, encouraged by the political generals and even President Lincoln, having full swing in this and all camps, report all news secret and otherwise. Indeed with a gossiping world a secret is worth more than common news. Grant was furious, and I believe he ordered the suppression of all the Memphis papers. But that won't do.
All persons who don't have to fight must be kept out of camp, else secrecy, a great element of military success, is an impossibility. I may not, but you will live to see the day when the people of the United States will mob the man who thinks otherwise. I am too fast, but there are principles of government as sure to result from war as in law, religion or any moral science. Some prefer to jump to the conclusion by reason. Others prefer to follow developments by the slower and surer road of experience. In like manner Grant has three thousand men at work daily to clear out Willow Bayou, by which he proposes to move a large part of the army to Carthage and Grand Gulf: also a secret, but I'll bet my life it is at this moment in all the Northern papers, and is known through them to the Secesh from Richmond to Vicksburg. Can you feel astonished that I should grow angry at the toleration of such suicidal weakness, that we strong, intelligent men must bend to a silly proclivity for early news that should advise our enemy days in advance? Look out! We are not going to attack Haines' Bluff or Greenwood or Vicksburg direct, but are going to come round below by Grand Gulf! All the enemy wants is a day or two notice of such intention and Grand Gulf becomes like a second Vicksburg! But this is a secret, remember, and though it is the plan it is not a good plan. We commit a great mistake, but I am not going to advise one way or the other. The govern ment has here plenty of representatives, and they must make the plans, and I will fill my part, no more, no less. "The only true plan was the one we started with. The Grand Army should be on the main land moving south along the road and roads from Memphis, Holly Springs and Corinth, concentrating on Grenada; thence towards Canton where the Central Road crosses Big Black and then on Vicksburg. The gun-boats and a small army should be here, and on the first sign of the presence of the main force inland we should attack here violently.
"This was our plan at Oxford in December last, is my plan now and Grant knows it is my opinion. I shall communicate it to none else save you or your father. ... It is my opinion that we shall never take Vicksburg by operations by river alone.
"The armies on the Rappahannock and in Kentucky pause for us at Vicksburg. That is folly; all ought to press at the same instant, for the enemy has the centre or inside track, can concentrate on any one point and return to the others in time. Their position is very strong, and they have skill, courage and intelligence enough to avail themselves of all advantages. Their country is suffering terribly by the devastations of our armies and the escapes of their slaves, but nothing seems to shake their constancy or confidence in ultimate success. Could the North only turn out her strength, fill promptly our thinned ranks, keep their counsels, hold their tongues, and stop their infernal pens and press we could make things crash, and either submission or utter horrible ruin would be their fate.
"It may be, however, that God in his wisdom wants to take down the conceit of our people and make them feel that they are of the same frail materials of mortality as the other thousand millions of human beings that spin their short webs and die all over earth. In all former wars virtues lost sight of in time of peace have revived, and to any one who looked it is unnecessary to say that our governments, national, state, county and town, had been corrupt, foul and disgraceful. If war will change this, it will be cheaply bought. . . .
"The last flag of truce brought me from Vicksburg a beautiful bouquet with compliments of Major Hoadley and Major Watts, the same who wanted me not to fire last night to interrupt his party. The trees are now in full leaf, the black and blue-birds sing sweetly, and the mocking bird is frantic with joy. The rose and violet, the beds of verbena and mignonette, planted by fair hands now in exile from their homes occupied by the rude barbarian, bloom as fair as though grim war had not torn with violent hands all the vestiges of what a few short months ago were the homes of people as good as ourselves. You may well pray that a good God in His mercy will spare the home of your youth the tread of an hostile army. ..."
Camp opposite Vicksburg
April 17, 1863
"... I have never been considered the advocate of McClellan or anybody. I have often said that McClellan's reputation as a scholar and soldier was second to none after Mexico. I heard Gen. Persifor F. Smith in 1849 pronounce him better qualified to command than any of our then generals. I remember once when we were riding along and talking of certain events in Mexico he named some half dozen young officers who he thought should at once be pushed forward, and McClellan was the first in order after Lee. I admit the right and duty of Mr. Lincoln to select his own agents and when one displeases him there can be no accord, and he should set him aside. He is ex necessitate to that extent king and can do no wrong. At all events everybody must and should submit with good grace. But knowing the very common clay out of which many of our new generals are made I have trembled at any shifting of commanders until the army feel assured that a change is necessary. I know Hooker well and tremble to think of his handling 100,000 men in the presence of Lee. I don't think Lee will attack Hooker in position because he will doubt if it will pay, but let Hooker once advance or move laterally and I fear for the result. . . . "Here we have begun a move that is one of the most dangerous in war. Last night our gun-boats, seven of the largest, ran the blockade and are below Vicksburg. They suffered comparatively little. Three transports followed, one of which was fired and burned to the water's edge. The Silver Wave passed unhurt and my old boat the Forest Queen had one shot in her hull and one through a steam pipe, which disabled her. She is below Vicksburg and above Warrenton and is being repaired.
"McClernand's Corps has marched along the margin of an intricate bayou forty-seven miles to New Carthage, and the plan is to take and hold Grand Gulf, and make it the base of a movement in rear of Vicksburg. I don't like the project for several reasons. The channel by which provisions, stores, ammunition, etc., are to be conveyed to Carthage is a narrow crooked bayou with plenty of water now, but in two months will dry up. No boat has yet entered it, and though four steam dredges are employed in cutting a canal into it I doubt if it can be available in ten days. The road used is pure alluvium and three hours' rain will make it a quagmire over which a wagon could no more pass than in the channel of the Mississippi.
"Now the amount of provisions, forage and more especially coal used by an army and fleet such as we will have, will overtax the capacity of the canal. "Again we know the enemy has up the Yazoo some of the finest boats that ever navigated the Mississippi, with plenty of cotton to barricade them and convert them into formidable rams. Knowing now as they well do that our best ironclads are below Vicksburg, and that it is one thing to run down stream and very different up, they can simply swop. They can let us have the reach below Vicksburg and they take the one above, and in the exchange they get decidedly the best of the bargain. To accomplish such a move successfully we should have at least double their force, whereas we know that our effective force is but little if any superior to theirs. They can now use all the scattered bands in Louisiana to threaten this narrow long canal and force us to guard it, so that the main army beyond will be unequal to a march inland from Grand Gulf. We could undertake, and safely, to hold the river and allow the gun-boat fleet to go to Port Hudson and assist in the reduction of that place so that all could unite against Vicksburg. I have written and explained to Grant all these points, but the clamor is so great he fears to seem to give up the attack on Vicksburg. My opinion is we should now feint on the river and hasten to Grenada by any available road, and then move in great force south, parallel with the river, leaving the gun-boats and a comparatively small force here. Grant, however, trembles at the approaching thunders of popular criticism and must risk anything, and it is my duty to back him though the contemplated and partially executed move does not comport with my ideas. I know the pictorials will giving flaming pictures of the successful running the batteries of Vicksburg, but who thinks of their getting back ? What will be thought if some ten large cotton freighted boats come out of Yazoo and put all our transports to the bottom and have us on the narrow margin of a great and turbid stream ? The fear of public clamor is more degrading to the mind than a just measure of the dangers of battle with an open fair enemy in equal or even unequal fight. Hugh and Charley ^ were with me last night at the picket station below Vicksburg and saw the cannonading, and will describe its appearance better than I could. I can't help but overlook the present and look ahead. I wish the enemy would commit this mistake with us, but no, they are too cunning. General Thomas is here raising negro brigades. I would prefer to have this a white man's war and provide for the negroes after the time has passed, but we are in a revolution and I must not pretend to judge. With my opinions of negroes and my experience, yea prejudice, I cannot trust them yet. Time may change this but I cannot bring 'myself to trust negroes with arms in positions of danger and trust. ..."
Camp before Vicksburg
April 23, 1863
"Last night another batch of transports were prepared to run Vicksburg batteries. In order to afford assistance to the unfortunate I crossed over through the submerged swamp with eight yawls, and was in the Mississippi about four miles below Vicksburg and three above Warrenton. The first boat to arrive was the Tigress, a fast side-wheel boat which was riddled with shot and repeatedly struck in the hull. She rounded to, tied to the bank and sunk a virreck; all hands saved. The next was the Empire City, also crippled but afloat, then the Cheeseman that was partially disabled, then the Anglo-Saxon and Moderator, both of which were so disabled that they drifted down stream catching the Warrenton batteries as they passed. The Horizon was the sixth and last, passed down about daylight. The Cheeseman took the Empire City in tow and went down just after day, catching thunder from the Warrenton batteries. Five of the six boats succeeded in getting by, all bound for Carthage, where they are designed to carry troops to Grand Gulf and some other point across the Mississippi. This is a desperate and terrible thing, floating by terrific batteries without the power of replying.
Two men were mortally wounded and many lacerated and torn, but we could not ascertain the full extent of damage for we were trying to hurry them past the lower or Warrenton batteries before daylight. The only way to go to Carthage is by a bayou road from Milliken's Bend, and over that narrow road our army is to pass below Vicksburg, and by means of these boats pass on to the east side of the Mississippi. I look upon the whole thing as one of the most hazardous and desperate moves of this or any war. A narrow difficult road, liable by a shower to become a quagmire. A canal is being dug on whose success the coal for steamers, provisions for men and forage for animals must all be transported. McClernand's Corps has moved down. McPherson will follow, and mine comes last. I don't object to this, for I have no faith in the whole plan. "Politicians and all sorts of influences are brought to bear on Grant to do something. Hooker remains statu quo. Rosecrans is also at a deadlock, and we who are now six hundred miles [ahead] of any are being pushed to a most perilous and hazardous enterprise. "I did think our government would learn something by experience if not by reason. An order is received to-day from Washington to consolidate the old regiments. All regiments below 500, embracing all the old regiments which have been depleted by death and all sorts of causes, are to be reduced to battalions of five companies in each regiment; the colonel and major and one assistant-sergeant to be mustered out, and all the officers, sergeants and corporals of five companies to be discharged. This will soon take all my colonels, Kilby Smith, Giles Smith, and hundreds of our best captains, lieutenants and sergeants and corporals. Instead of drafting and filling up with privates, one half of the officers are to be discharged, and the privates squeezed into battalions. If the worst enemy of the United States were to devise a plan to break down our army, a better one could not be attempted. Two years have been spent in educating colonels, captains, sergeants and corporals, and now they are to be driven out of service at the very beginning of the campaign in order that governors may have a due proportion of officers for the drafted men. I do regard this as one of the fatal mistakes of this war. It is worse than a defeat. It is the absolute giving up of the chief advantage of two years' work. I don't know if you understand it, but believe you do. The order is positive and must be executed. It is now too late to help it, but I have postponed its execution for a few days to see if Grant won't suspend its operation till this move is made. All the old politician colonels have been weeded out by the progress of the war, and now that we begin to have some officers who do know something they must be discharged because the regiments have dwindled below one half the legal standard. We all know the President was empowered to do this, but took it for granted that he would fill up the ranks by a draft and leave us the services of the men who are now ready to drill and instruct them as soldiers. Last fall the same thing was done, that is new regiments were received instead of filling up the old ones, and the consequence was those new regiments have filled our hospitals and depots, and now again the same thing is to be repeated. It may be the whole war will be turned over to the negroes, and I begin to believe they will do as well as Lincoln and his advisers. I cannot imagine what Halleck is about. We have Thomas and Dana both here from Washington, no doubt impressing on Grant the necessity of achieving something brilliant. It is the same old Bull Run mania, but why should other armies be passive and ours pushed to destruction?
Prime is here and agrees with me; but we must drift on with events. We are excellent friends. Indeed, I am on the best of terms with everybody, but I avoid McClernand because I know he is envious and jealous of everybody who stands in his way. . . . He now has the lead. Admiral Porter is there, and he is already calling ' For God's sake, send down some one.' He calls for me-Grant has gone himself-went this morning. I know they have got this fleet in a tight place, Vicksburg above and Port Hudson below, and how are they to get out? One or other of the gates must be stormed and carried, or else none. I tremble for the result. Of course, it is possible to land at Grand Gulf and move inland, but I doubt the capacity of any channel at our command equal to the conveyance of the supplies for this army. This army should not all be here. The great part should be at or near Grenada moving south by land. . . ."
Headquarters 15 Army Corps
April 29th, 1863
"... He [Grant] is down at Carthage, the fleet is below Vicksburg, and I was on the point of following when the order was countermanded; then I got an order that he would Hke to have a feint made on Haines' Bluff, provided I did not fear the people might style it a repulse. I wrote him to make his plans founded on as much good sense as possible and let the people mind their own business. He had ordered me to attack Vicksburg and I had done so. Now to divert attention from his movement against Grand Gulf he wants another demonstration up Yazoo. Of course I will make it and let the people find out when they can if it be a repulse or no. I suppose we must ask the people in the press, i. e. some half-dozen little whipsnappers who represent the press, but are in fact spies in our camp, too lazy, idle, and cowardly to be soldiers. These must be consulted before I can make a simulated attack on Haines' Bluff in aid to Grant and Porter that I know are in a tight place at Grand Gulf. Therefore prepare yourself for another blast against Sherman blundering and being repulsed at Haines' whilst McClernand charges gallantly ashore and carries Grand Gulf, etc. But when they take Grand Gulf they have the elephant by the tail, I say the whole plan is hazardous in the extreme, but I will do all I can to aid Grant. Should, as the papers now intimate, Grant be relieved and McClernand left in command you may expect to hear of me at St. Louis, for I will not serve under McClernand. ... I start in an hour to make the demonstration up the Yazoo. I shall have ten regiments of infantry, two ironclads, the Mohawk and De Kalh, and a parcel of mosquitoes. I don't expect a fight, but a devil of noise to make believe and attract any troops in motion from Vicksburg towards Grand Gulf back. I think Grant will make a safe lodgment at Grand Gulf, but the real trouble is and will be the maintenance of the army there. If the capture of Holly Springs made him leave the Tallahatchie, how much more precarious is his position now below Vicksburg with every pound of provision, forage and ammunition to float past the seven miles of batteries at Vicksburg or be hauled thirty-seven miles along a narrow boggy road. I will be up Yazoo about three days. ... I am not concerned about the Cincinnati Gazette. The correspondent's insinuations against Grant and myself about cotton are ridiculous. Grant is honest as old Jack Taylor, and I am a cotton-burner. I have even forbidden all dealing in cotton and not an ofiicer of my command ever owned a bale. As to myself, I would burn every parcel of it as the bone of contention and apple of discord. Now that Mr. Chase has undertaken to manage cotton as well as finance I wish him a good time with it. ..."
May 2, 1863
"As I wrote you on Wednesday, I went up Yazoo with two ironclad boats, four or five mosquitoes, or small stem wheel gun-boats, and ten transports carrying a part of Blair's division for the purpose of making a simulated attack on Haines' Bluff to divert attention from Grant's movements on Grand Gulf. The first night we spent at our old battle ground of Chickasaw Bayou, and next morning moved up in sight of the batteries on Drumgould's Hill. We battered away all morning and the enemy gave us back as much as we sent. The leading gun-boat got fifty-three shots in her, but her men being in iron casemates were not hurt. A wooden boat had a shot through the engine room. I was in the Black Hawk which was a wooden boat with two thirty pound rifles on the bow. We kept up a brisk cannonade for about five hours and then hauled out of range. I then disembarked the men in full view and made all the usual demonstrations of attack and remained so till night when the men were recalled. Next morning we made renewed examination, and I had just given orders for a new cannonade when a messenger came up from Grant saying they had had hard work at Grand Gulf and were compelled to run below, but that he would land at Bayou Pierre and turn back on Vicksburg, ordering me to come with two of my divisions to Perkins' plantation about forty miles down the river. I sent down orders for Tuttle's and Steele's divisions to march at once and yesterday afternoon we renewed the cannonade and kept it up till night when he ran down to our camp and moved up to Milliken's Bend. Steele's and Tuttle's divisions have gone out and I start to-morrow to overtake and pass them. I have nothing positive from below. Blair's division remains here. ..."
Writing from "Camp opposite Grand Gulf, Mississippi," May 6, 1863, Sherman spoke of the wanton destruction wrought on a fine plantation in the path of the army,' and added: "It is done of course by the cursed stragglers who won't fight, but hang behind and disgrace our cause and country. Dr. Bowie had fled, leaving everything on the approach of our troops. Of course devastation marked the whole path of the army, and I know all the principal officers detest the infamous practice as much as I do. Of course I expect and do take corn, bacon, ham, mules and everything to support an army, and don't object much to the using of fences for firewood. But this universal burning and wanton destruction of private property is not justified in war."
15th Army Corps, Hankinson's Ferry
18 MILES FROM Grand Gulf
May 9, 1863
"One week after hammering away at Haines' Bluff I got here and overtook Grant's army, having marched eighty-three miles and crossed the Mississippi. We are short of wagons and provisions, but in this starving country we find an abundance of corn, hogs, cattle, sheep, and poultry. Men who came in advance have drawn but two days' rations in ten and are fat. Tomorrow I march to Big Sandy, nine miles. Next day to Auburn fifteen miles, and we will then be within striking distance of the railroad running east from Vicksburg. The enemy must come out to fight us soon or we will be in their rear. The army is in good condition and if they fight us we will have a desperate one. Grant was delighted to see me, and everything works well. . . ."
On Walnut Hills
May 19, 1863
"We made a full circuit, entered Jackson first, destroyed an immense quantity of railroad and Confederate property, and then pushed for this point which secures the Yazoo and leaves [us] to take Vicksburg. We assaulted yesterday, but it is very strong. We estimate its present garrison at 15,000 or more, and Johnston is hovering about with reinforcements. We had a heavy fight yesterday. Regulars suffered much-Capt. Washington killed, five officers wounded-Charley in the hand. He saved the colors. He is now in the midst of shells and shot. Hugh is also under fire, and had a hard time yesterday. We reached the very parapet, but did not enter the works. We are now encircling the town. I am on the right, McPherson centre, and McClernand left. We are all in good health and spirits at this moment, and, having reached and secured the Yazoo, will soon have plenty to eat. I must again go to the front amid the shot and shells, which follow me but somehow thus far have spared me. Charley's wound is in the hand, slight, and he now commands the battalion. Keep easy and trust to luck. This is a death struggle and will be terrible. Thus far success has crowned our efforts and we are on high ground, on a level with the enemy, but they are fortified and we must attack, quicker the better. Grant is off to the left with McClernand who did not push his attack as he should. Bang, pop, go the guns and muskets, and I must to the front. I have slept on the ground the last two nights to Hill's disgust, and he hangs around me like a shadow with a canteen. He is very faithful, but came up to me yesterday under fire with great reluctance!"
Headquarters, 15th Army Corps
May 25, 1863
"Whilst the men are making roads and ditches to enable me to get close up to the enemy's parapet without crossing within full view and fatal effect [from] their well prepared forts and trenches, I have availed myself of the favorable opportunity to pitch a tent and get out writing materials to write up. . . . Devastation and ruin lay behind us, and a garrison of some fifteen or twenty thousand men are before us, cooped up in Vicksburg with about five or six thousand people, women and children. The forts are well built and command the roads, and the hills and valleys are so abrupt and covered with fallen trees, standing trunks and canebrake that we are in a measure confined to the roads. We have made two distinct assaults all along the line, but the heads of columns are swept away as chaff thrown from the hand in a windy day. We are now hard at work with roads and trenches, taking all possible advantage of the shape of the ground. We must work smart, as Joe Johnston is collecting the shattered forces, those we beat at Jackson and Champion Hill, and may get reinforcements from Bragg and Charleston and come pouncing down on our rear. The enemy in Vicksburg must expect aid from that quarter, else they would not fight with such desperation. Vicksburg is not only of importance to them, but now is a subject of pride and its loss will be fatal to their power out west. Grant's move was the most hazardous, but thus far the most successful of the war. He is entitled to all the credit, for I would not have advised it. We have now perfect communication with our supplies, plenty of provisions, tools and ammunition, and if vast reinforcements do not come from the outside Vicksburg is ours as sure as fate, "I suppose you have all been in intense anxiety. Charley was very conspicuous in the first assault and brought off the colors of the battalion which are now in front of my tent, the staff I cut away by a ball that took with it a part of his finger. . . . We brought off nearly all our dead and all the wounded, and the enemy called from their pits warning the burial parties not to come down as they could take care of those left. Our pickets are up so close that they can hardly show their heads without drawing hundreds of shots. In like manner we can hardly show a hand without the whir of a minnie ball. Our artillery is all well placed and must do havoc in the town. We have over a hundred cannon which pour a constant fire over the parapets, the balls going right towards their Court House and depot. "In about three days our approach will be so close that another assault will be made, but the enemy like beavers are digging as hard as we, . . ."
Walnut Hills [above Vicksburg]
June 2, 1863
"Since our arrival here I have written you several short letters and one telegraph despatch, simply telling you of our safety. I suppose by this time you have heard enough of our march and safe arrival on the Yazoo whereby we re-established our communications^ supplying the great danger of this roundabout movement. We were compelled to feel and assault Vicksburg, as it was the only way to measure the amount of opposition to be apprehended. We now know that it is strongly fortified on all sides and that the garrison is determined to defend it to the last. We could simply invest the place and allow famine and artillery to finish the work, but we know that desperate efforts will be made to relieve the place. Joe Johnston, one of the most enterprising of all their generals, is assembling from every quarter an army at Jackson and Canton, and he will soon be coming down between the Yazoo and Black. Of course Grant is doing all he can to pro' vide against every contingency. He sent to Banks, but Banks is investing Port Hudson and asks for reinforcements from us. All the men that can be spared from West Tennessee will be called here, and I trust Rosecrans will not allow any of Bragg's army to be detached against us, but we hear he is planting gardens and it may be he will wait to gather a crop. The weather is now very hot and we are digging roads and approaches so that it tells on our men, but they work cheerfully and I have approaches and parallels within eighty yards of the enemy's line. Daily we open a cannonade and make the dirt fly, but the Rebels lay close in their pits and holes and we cannot tell what execution is done. I pity the poor families in Vicksburg. Women and children are living in caves and holes underground whilst our shot and shells tear through their houses overhead. Daily and nightly conflagrations occur, but still we cannot see the mischief done. We can see the Court House and steeples of churches, also houses on the hills back of town, but the city lies on the face of the hill towards the river, and that is hidden from view by the shape of ground. The hills are covered with trees and are very precipitous, affording us good camps. I have mine close up on a spur where we live very comfortably. I go out every morning and supervise the progress of work, and direct the fire of the guns. The enemy's sharpshooters have come very near hitting me several times, but thus far I have escaped unhurt. Pitzman^ my engineer, was shot in the hip and is gone North. . . . "The Northern papers bring accounts of our late movements very much exaggerated, but still approximating the truth. I did not go to Haines' Blujff at all, because the moment I reached the ground in its rear I was master -of it,- pushed on to the very gates of Vicksburg and sent cavalry back to Haines to pick up the points of the strategic movement. Grant is now deservedly the hero. He is entitled to all the credit of the movement which was risky and hazardous in the extreme and succeeded because of its hazard. He is now belabored with praise by those who a month ago accused him of all the sins in the calendar, and who next week will turn against him if so blows the popular breeze. "Vox populi, vox humbug. We are in good fighting trim, and I expect still more hard knocks. The South will not give up Vicksburg without the most desperate struggle. In about three days we ought to be able to make another assault, carrying our men well up to the enemy's ditch under cover. . .
June 11, 1863
"... I don't believe I can give you an idea of matters here. You will read so much about Vicksburg and the people now gathered about it that you will get bewildered, and I will wait till maps become more abundant. I miss Pitzman very much. I feel his loss just as I did that of Morgan L. Smith at Chickasaw, both wounded in the hip, reconnoitering. So far as Vicksburg is concerned the same great features exist. The deep washes and ravines with trees felled makes a network of entangled abattis all round the city, and if we had a million of men we would be compelled to approach it by the narrow heads of columns which approach the concealed trenches and casemates of a concealed and brave and desperate enemy. We cannot carry our men across this continuous parapet without incurring fearful loss. We have been working making roads and paths around spurs, up hollows, until I now have on my front of over two miles three distinct ways by which I can get close up to the ditch, but still each has a narrow front and any man who puts his head above ground has his head shot off. All day and night continues the sharp crack of the rifle and deep sound of mortars and cannon hurling shot and shell at the doomed city. I think we have shot twenty thousand cannon balls and many millions of musket balls into Vicksburg, but of course the great mass of these bury into the earth and do little harm. We fire one hundred shot to their one, but they being scarce of ammunition take better care not to waste it. I rode away round to McClernand's lines the day before yesterday, and found that he was digging his ditches and parallels further back from the enemy than where I began the first day. My works are further advanced than any other, but still it will take some time to dig them out. The truth is we trust to the starvation. Accounts vary widely. Some deserters say they have plenty to eat, and others say they are down to pea bread and poor beef. I can see horses and mules gently grazing within the lines and therefore do not count on starvation yet. All their soldiers are in the trenches and none know anything but what occurs close to them. Food is cooked by negroes back in the hollows in rooms cut out of the hill-s and carried to them by night. The people, women and children, have also cut houses underground out of the peculiar earth, where they live in comparative safety from our shells and shot. Still I know great execution must have been done, and Vicksburg at this moment must be a horrid place. Yet the people have been wrought up to such a pitch of enthusiasm that I hav-e not yet met one but would prefer all to perish rather than give up. They feel doomed, but rely on Joe Johnston. Of him we know but little save we hear of a force at Yazoo City, at Canton, Jackson and Clinton. ..."
Camp on Bear Creek
20 miles N. W. of Vicksburg
June 27, 1863
" I am out here studying a most complicated geography and preparing for Joe Johnston if he comes to the relief of Vicksburg. As usual I have to leave my old companions and troops in the trenches of Vicksburg, and deal with strange men, but I find all willing and enthusiastic. Although the weather is intensely hot I have ridden a great deal, and think I know pretty well the weak and strong points of this extended line of circumvallation, and if Johnston comes I think he will have a pretty hard time to reach Vicksburg, although from the broken nature of the country he may feign at many points and attack but at one. Black River, the real line, is now so low it can be forded at almost any point and I prefer to fight him at the ridge along which all the roads lead. Of these there are several some of which I have blocked with fallen trees and others left open for our own purposes, and which will be open to him if he crosses over. . . . "My military family numbers by the tens of thousands and all must know that they enjoy a part of my thoughts and attention. With officers and soldiers I know how to- deal, but am willing to admit ignorance as to the people who make opinions according to their contracted knowledge and biassed prejudices, but I know the time is coming when the opinion of men 'not in arms at the country's crisis, when her calamities call for every man capable of bearing arms ' will be light as [compared] to those of men who first, last and all the time were in the van. . . . "I doubt if history affords a parallel to the deep and bitter enmity of the women of the South. No one who sees them and hears them but must feel the intensity of their hate. Not a man is seen; nothing but women with houses plundered, fields open to the cattle and horses, pickets lounging on every porch, and desolation sown broadcast, servants all gone and women and children bred in luxury, beautiful and accomplished, begging with one breath for the soldiers' rations and in another praying that the Almighty or Joe Johnston will come and kill us, the despoilers of their homes and all that is sacred. Why cannot they look back to the day and the hour when I, a stranger in Louisiana, begged and implored them to pause in their career, that secession was death, was everything fatal, and that their seizure of the public arsenals was an insult that the most abject nation must resent or pass down to future ages an object of pity and scorn ? Vicksburg contains many of my old pupils and friends; should it fall into our hands I will treat them with kindness, but they have sowed the wind and must reap the whirlwind. Until they lay down their arms and submit to the rightful authority of the government they must not appeal to me for mercy or favors. . . ."
Camp near Black River
20 miles east of Vicksburg
July 5, 1863
"You will have heard all about the capitulation of Vicksburg on the 4th of July, and I suppose duly appreciate it. It is the event of the war thus far. Davis placed it in the scale of Richmond, and pledged his honor that it should be held even if he had to abandon Tennessee, But it was of no use. and we are now in full possession, I am out and have not gone in to see, as even before its surrender Grant was disposing to send me forth to meet Johnston who is and has been since June 15th collecting a force about Jackson, to raise the siege. I will have Ord's corps, the 13th (McClernand's), Sherman's 15th and Parkes' 9th. All were to have been out last night, but Vicksburg and the 4th of July were too much for one day and they are not yet come. I expect them hourly. I am busy making three bridges to cross Black River, and shall converge on Bolton and Clinton, and if not held back by Johnston shall enter Jackson and there finish what was so well begun last month and break up all the railroads and bridges in the interior so that it will be impossible for armies to assemble again to threaten the river, "The capture of Vicksburg is to me the first gleam of daylight in this war. It was strong by nature, and had been strengthened by immense labor and stores. Grant telegraphs me 27,000 prisoners, 128 field guns and 100 siege pieces. Add to these 13 guns and 5,000 prisoners at Arkansas Post, 18 guns and 250 prisoners at Jackson, 5 guns and 2,000 prisoners at Port Gibson, 10 heavy guns at Grand Gulf, 60 field guns and 3,500 prisoners at Champion Hill and 14 heavy guns at Haines' Bluff, beside the immense amounts of ammunition, shot, shells, horses, wagons, etc., make the most extraordinary fruits of our six months' campaign. Here is glory enough for all the heroes of the West, but I content myself with knowing and feeling that our enemy is weakened by so much, and more yet by failing to hold a point deemed by them as essential to their empire in the Southwest. We have ravaged the land, and have sent away half a million of negroes, so that this country is paralyzed and cannot recover its lost strength in twenty years.
"Had the eastern armies done half as much war would be substantially entered upon. But I read of Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia being threatened and Rosecrans sitting idly by, writing for personal fame in the newspapers, and our government at Washington chiefly engaged in pulling down its leaders, Hooker now consigned to retirement. Well, I thank God we are free from Washington and that we have in Grant not a 'great man' or a 'hero,' but a good, plain, sensible, kind-hearted fellow. Here are Grant and Sherman, and McPherson, three sons of Ohio, [who] have achieved more actual success than all else combined, and I have yet to see the first kindly notice of us in the state, but on the contrary a system of abuse designed and calculated to destroy us with the people and the army; but the Army of the Tennessee, those who follow their colors and do not skulk behind in the North, at the hospitals and depots far to the rear, know who think and act, and if life is spared us our countrymen will realize the truth. I shall go on through heat and dust till the Mississippi is clear, till the large armies of the enemy in this quarter seek a more secure base, and then I will renew my hopes of getting a quiet home, where we can grow up among our children and prepare them for the dangers which may environ their later life. I did hope Grant would have given me Vicksburg and let some one else follow up the enemy inland, but I never suggest anything to myself personal, and only what I deem necessary to fulfil the purposes of war. I know that the capture of Vicksburg will make an impression the world over, and expect loud acclamations in the Northwest, but I heed more its effect on Louisiana and Arkansas. If Banks succeed, as he now must, at Port Hudson, and the army in Missouri push to Little Rock, the region west of the Mississippi will cease to be the theatre of war save to the bands of robbers created by war who now prefer to live by pillage than honest labor. Rosecrans' army and this could also, acting in concert, drive all opposing masses into the recesses of Georgia and Alabama, leaving the Atlantic slopes the great theatre of war.
"I wish Halleck would put a guard over the White House to keep out the committees of preachers, grannies and Dutchmen that absorb Lincoln's time and thoughts, fill up our thinned ranks with conscripts, and then handle these vast armies with the single thought of success regardless of who shall get the personal credit and glory. "I am pleased to hear from you that occasionally you receive kindness from men out of regard to me. I know full well there must be a large class of honest people North who are sick of the wrangling of officers for power and notoriety, and are sick of the silly flattery piled by interested parties on their favorites. McClernand, the only sample of that sort with us, played himself out, and there is not an officer or soldier here but rejoices he is gone away. With an intense selfishness and lust of notoriety he could not let his mind get beyond the limits of his vision, and therefore all was brilliant about him and dark and suspicious beyond. My style is the reverse. I am somewhat blind to what occurs near me, but have a clear perception of things and events remote. Grant possesses the happy medium and it is for this reason I admire him. I have a much quicker perception of things than he; but he balances the present and remote so evenly that results follow in natural course.
"I would not have risked the passing the batteries at Vicksburg and trusting to the long route by Grand Gulf and Jackson to reach what we both knew were the key points to Vicksburg. But I would have aimed to reach the same points by Grenada.
"But both aimed at the same points, and though both of us knew little of the actual ground, it is wonderful how well they have realized our military calculations. "As we sat in Oxford last November we saw in the future what we now realize, and like the architect who sees developed the beautiful vision of his brain, we feel an intense satisfaction at the realization of our military plans. Thank God, no President was near to thwart our plans, and that the short-sighted public could not drive us from our object till the plan was fully realized. "Well, the campaign of Vicksburg is ended, and I am either to begin anew or simply make complete the natural sequences of a finished job. I regard my movement as the latter, though you and others may be distressed at the guesses of our newspaper correspondents on the spot (Cairo) and made to believe I am marching on Mobile, on Chattanooga, or Atlanta. . . ."
Text prepared by:
Spring Group 2016:
- Derek Butts
- Zachary Conrad
- Elliot Coody
- Gunner Fritsch
- Joseph McAlpin
Spring Group 2017:
- Sarah Bowman
- Keriden Creech
- Raifford Hileman
"Home Letters of General Sherman; : Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive." Internet Archive. Tine Institute of Museum and Library Services through an Indiana State Library LSTA Grant, 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <https://archive.org/details/homelettersofgen00insher>.