Friday, December 7, 2012

Major General William T. Sherman to Senator John Sherman, February, 1863


Dear Brother:

I now know the secret of this last tirade against me personally.

Of course newspaper correspondents regard me as the enemy of their class. I announced that all such accompanying the expedition were and should be treated as spies. They are spies because their publications reach the enemy, give them direct and minute information of the composition of our forces, and while invariably they puff up their patrons, they pull down all others. Thus this man Knox, dating his paper upon the Steamer Continental, the headquarters of Generals Steele and Blair, gives to these general officers and their division undue praise, and libels and abuses all others. This not only plays into the hands of our enemies by sowing dissensions among us, but it encourages discontent among the officers who find themselves abused by men seemingly under the influence of officers high in command. I caused Knox’s communication to be read to him, paragraph by paragraph, and then showed him my instructions, by my orders made at the time, and the official reports of others, and how wide he was of the truth. And now I have asked his arrest and trial by General Grant, on charges as a spy and informer. The 57th Article of war, which is a Law of Congress, is as follows: “Who shall be convicted of holding correspondence with, or giving intelligence to the enemy, either directly or indirectly, shall suffer death, &c.”  I will endeavor to bring in all the facts, by means of the evidence of officers who took part in all these events. My purpose is not to bring Knox to death or other severe punishment, but I do want to establish the principle that citizens shall not, against the orders of the competent military superior, attend a military expedition, report its proceedings, and comment on its officers. . . .

Affectionately your Brother,


In the above letter to John Sherman, General Sherman enclosed the following copy of General Orders No. 67, in regard to the giving of intelligence to the enemy, together with his own comments upon them.

. . . Now, to every army and almost every general a newspaper reporter goes along, filling up our transports, swelling our trains, reporting our progress, guessing at places, picking up dropped expressions, inciting jealousy and discontent, and doing infinite mischief. We are commanded absolutely to proceed against them under the 57th article of war. Shall the laws of Congress be obeyed? Shall the orders of the War Department be respected? Or shall the press go on sweeping everything before it. ...

The press has now killed McClellan, Buell, Fitz-John Porter, Sumner, Franklin, and Burnside. Add my name and I am not ashamed of the association. If the press can govern the country, let them fight the battles.

2 Date uncertain.

SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 187-9

No comments: