Thursday, January 3, 2013

Senator John Sherman to Major General William T. Sherman, May 7, 1863

MANSFIELD, OHIO, May 7, 1863.

My Dear Brother:

We have been eagerly watching the course of military events. Here nothing occurs worth noting. If there is any change, it is for the better. The tone of popular opinion is more patriotic. There are fewer noisy Butternuts, and most of these think their bad talk is only fair opposition to the administration. The only danger is that this will become downright opposition, resistance to the war and the laws where mobs and civil war will be the inevitable result. A good many scary people are afraid of this, but I am too well accustomed to violent political quarrels to look for danger from them. There may be occasional mobs, as there were the other day at Fort Wayne, where I made a speech, but both parties pledged themselves to the war and only differed about the “nigger” and administration measures. The difference may widen, and unless we have decided military success, will widen until we have open and hostile war and peace parties. Then God knows what will be the result. One tendency I noticed. Nearly every man in debt is paying off his debts. The inflation of the currency and the rise of property make this easy. Unluckily for me, most of my means is or was “in bills receivable.” These are paid, or will be, and so I find myself with plenty of money, but can't buy anything at reasonable prices. This is the general rule of creditors, and perhaps it is better so for the community, as the creditor class can more easily bear the loss of inflation. There is nothing in the condition at all discouraging except our military condition. This I confess looks discouraging. The defeat of Hooker, of which as yet we have not full particulars, is a terrible event. Experience should have taught us not to hope much from his army, and yet the impression was so strong after his confident assertions and his promising commencement that we all feel the disappointment. It is gloomy. Still what can we do, but fight on. . . .

I regret to notice from your letter that Grant's recent movements do not meet your approval. It was regarded as a bold and successful plan to turn the flank of the enemy, but if he is weaker from the south side of Vicksburg than from above, I do not see what we have gained. We have a telegraphic account of your recent attack on Haines Bluff, but do not understand its purpose.

As for the consolidation of regiments, it is idle for me to interpose. Halleck regulates all these matters. He is king in all questions regulating the detail affecting the army. Stanton has far less power than Halleck, and, indeed, holds office by a frail tenure and with limited influence. It is no use for a civilian to talk to Halleck. He would regard your opinion, but certainly not mine, though we are good friends. You have been sagacious in your anticipation of military events. Charleston is not taken, the war is prolonged, and but little chance of its ending until we have a new deal.

If only the people will be patient so long, all will be well. The best of it is, they can't help themselves. The rebels won't let us have peace even if we wanted it. It may be better that the Democrats be allowed to take the helm, as they could not make peace, and then war would be more vigorous and united. . . .

This war has always seemed to me a tragic necessity. I have watched its progress, and hope to see its termination. It may, like the French Revolution, travel in a large circle, destroying all that have taken part in it; still there is no way but to go ahead. We may slowly learn wisdom in its prosecution, for we certainly have not shown it thus far. . . .

Affectionately your brother,


SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 203-5

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