Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brigadier General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, April 24, 1862

CAMP SHILOH, TENN., April 24, 1862.

I have written several letters of late to you, to Willy and your mother. Tell Theresa1 I thank her for hers, but writing is painful to my hand and she must excuse me for a few days. At first the wound gave me no pain, but I rode so much that when it began to inflame it got very sore, and affected my fingers, and they are quite stiff. I had to resort to poultice, but now simple bandage, and in a few days it will be well again. In the small pain I have suffered I can feel for the thousands of poor fellows, with all sorts of terrible wounds such as I have been compelled to witness; but my time has been so absorbed by the care of the living that I could pay little attention to the dead and wounded, but they have been well cared for. The only difficulty is that hundreds and thousands tired of the war, and satisfied with what they have seen, have taken advantage of slight wounds and gone home. As usual the noisy clamorous ones, "spiling" for a fight have gone home to tell of their terrible deeds and left others to bear the battles still to be fought. How few know the dangers attending this war. The very men who were most clamorous for fight were the first to run, and leave a few to stand the brunt of Sunday. I knew this beforehand, and took it so easily that many wondered, thinking me indifferent and nonchalant. I sent a copy of my map to your father, and now enclose the rough notes of my official report, from which I think you can trace my movements. All the troops south of the main Corinth road were forced back to the river. I held my front line till 10 ¼ A. M., fell back to the line of McClernand's camps, and fought there till near 4 P. M., and took up a final position for night, back of McArthur's headquarters, at all times the furthest out; on Monday advanced almost over the same ground and reached Shiloh at 4 P. M.

The hue and cry against Grant about surprise is wrong. I was not surprised and I was in advance. Prentiss was not covered by me, and I don't believe he was surprised, although he is now a prisoner, cannot be heard. It is outrageous for the cowardly newsmongers thus to defame men whose lives are exposed. The real truth is, the private soldiers in battle leave their ranks, run away and then raise these false issues. The political leaders dare not lay the blame where it belongs. They, like the volunteer officers, are afraid of the men, but I will speak the truth and I believe still there are honest men enough to believe me. In the 362 dead, and 1,200 wounded of my division, there was not a bayonet or knife wound, and the story of men being bayonetted in their tents is a pure lie, and even admitting that officers and men had not dressed at 7 ¾ A. M., I say they deserved it. Reveille is at 5 ½.  They should have dressed then, and if they were too lazy to get up and dress before 7 ¾ they deserved to be bayonetted; but it is all a lie got up by the cowards who ran to the river and reported we were surprised and all killed. By their false reports they may have prevented success coming to us earlier than it did.

The enemy treated our wounded well and kindly. I sent Willy a box of cannon balls and bullets which he must share with Tom. I would like to see Willy's eyes when he sees the dread missiles. I know the enemy is still in our front. They can surprise us tomorrow morning quite as well as they did us that Sunday, but in attacking us they made a mistake. We must attack them on their chosen ground. The next battle will be worse than the last, and, of course, I don't expect to survive all that follow. This gives me little trouble, but I do feel for the thousands that think another battle will end the war. I hope the war won't end until those who caused the war, the politicians and editors, are made to feel it. The scoundrels take good care of their hides, run up after a fight and back again before there is a chance for another. . .

1 Mrs. Sherman’s sister.

SOURCE: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 223-5

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