HEADQUARTERS 5TH DIV., May 12, 1862.
CAMP BEFORE CORINTH.
My Dear Brother:
. . . I was gratified on Monday when I came in contact with my old Kentucky command. They gathered around me and were evidently pleased to meet me again, officers and men. I think Mr. Lincoln is a pure minded, honest and good man. I have all faith in him. . . .
I think it is a great mistake to stop enlistments. There may be enough soldiers on paper, but not enough in fact. My aggregate, present and absent, is 10,452. Present for duty, 5,298; absent sick, 2,557; absent wounded, 855. The rest are on various detached duties, as teamsters or hospital attendance, embracing about 600 sick in camp.
About this proportion will run through the whole army. I have not really one thorough soldier in my whole army. They are all green and raw. . . .
Last evening I had to post my own pickets and come under the fire of the enemies’ pickets. Came near being hit. Of course, being mounted and ahead, I and staff always get an undue share of attention.
I made my official report on the battle of the 6th and 7th on the 11th of April, sent it to Grant, and he to Halleck. It has not been published and it is none of my business. An officer ought not to publish anything. His report is to the Government, may contain confidential matters, and the War Department alone should have the discretion to publish or not, according to the interests of Government. . . .
I have been worried to death by the carelessness of officers and sentinels; have begged, importuned, and cursed to little purpose; and I will not be held responsible for the delinquencies of sentinels fresh from home, with as much idea of war as children. All I know is, we had our entire front, immediate guards and grand guards, and I had all my command in line of battle well selected before we had seen an infantry soldier of the enemy. We had been skirmishing with the cavalry for several days, and we could not get behind them. All we could see was the head of their column, and that admirably qualified by familiarity of the country for the purpose of covering an approach.
Grant had been expecting Buell a whole week before he arrived. We all knew the enemy was in our front, but we had to guess at his purpose. Now that it is known, all are prophets; but before, we were supposed to be a vast aggressive force sent by an intelligent Government to invade the South, and for us to have been nervous on the subject would have indicated weakness. Beauregard then performed the very thing which Johnston should have done in Kentucky last October.
My force was divided; he could have interposed his, attacked McCook at Nolin and Thomas at London, and would have defeated us with perfect ease. The secessionists would then have had Kentucky and Missouri both. Why he did not is a mystery to me. And Buckner told me that Johnston’s neglect on that occasion was so galling to him that he made him give a written order not to attempt to manoeuvre. . . .
We are now encamped six miles from Corinth, pickets about one mile and a half in advance. I am on the extreme right, McClernand is in my rear and guards off to the right. The roads are again pretty good and I don’t bother myself about the plans and aims of our generals. I will do all I can with my division, but regret that I have not better discipline and more reliable men. Too many of the officers are sick of the war and have gone home on some pretence or other. I am in pretty good health and keep close to my work. The success of our arms at Norfolk and Williamsburg are extraordinary and may result in peace sooner than I calculated. All I fear is that though we progress we find plenty of push everywhere. Weather begins to be hot.
W. T. SHERMAN
SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 148-50