MANSFIELD, OHIO, Aug. 24, 1862.
Your letter of Aug. 13, with enclosures, was received. I have read carefully your general orders enclosed and also your order on the employment of negroes. I see no objection to the latter except the doubt and delay caused by postponing the pay of negroes until the courts determine their freedom. As the act securing their freedom is a military rule, you ought to presume their freedom until the contrary is known and pay them accordingly. . . .
You can form no conception at the change of opinion here as to the Negro Question. Men of all parties who now appreciate the magnitude of the contest and who are determined to preserve the unity of the government at all hazards, agree that we must seek the aid and make it the interests of the negroes to help us. Nothing but our party divisions and our natural prejudice of caste has kept us from using them as allies in the war, to be used for all purposes in which they can advance the cause of the country. Obedience and protection must go together. When rebels take up arms, not only refuse obedience but resist our force, they have no right to ask protection in any way. And especially that protection should not extend to a local right inconsistent with the general spirit of our laws and the existence of (which has been from the beginning the chief element of discord in the country. I am prepared for one to meet the broad issue of universal emancipation. . . .
By the way, the only criticism I notice of your management in Memphis is your leniency to the rebels. I enclose you an extract. I take it that most of these complaints are groundless, but you can see from it the point upon which public opinion rests. The energy and bitterness which they have infused into the contest must be met with energy and determination. . . .
Such is not only the lesson of history, the dictate of policy, but it is the general popular sentiment. I know you care very little for the latter. . . .
It is sometimes passionate, hasty and intemperate, but after a little fluctuation it settles very near the true line. You notice that Fremont, Butler, Mitchell, Turchin and Cochran are popular, while Buell, Thomas, McClellan and others are not. It is not for military merit, for most persons concede the inferiority in many respects of the officers first named, but it is because these officers agree with and act upon the popular idea. . . .
I want to visit you in Memphis and if possible go see the 64th and 65th. If it is possible or advisable, let me know and give me directions how to get there. It is but right that I should see the regiments I organized, and besides I should like to see you if I should not incommode you and interfere with your public duties. . . .
Since my return I have spent most of my time in my Library. I have always felt that my knowledge of American politics was rather the superficial view of the politician and not accurate enough for the position assigned me. I therefore read and study more and speak less than usual. . . .
We all wait with intense anxiety the events impending in Virginia. We all fear results for a month to come. Now is the chance for the rebels.
SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 156-8