Monday, January 21, 2013

Senator John Sherman to Major General William T. Sherman, July 18, 1863

MANSFIELD, OHIO, July 18, 1863.

My Dear Brother:

I supposed when Vicksburg fell that you would have a period of rest, and perhaps might return to Ohio to find yourself popular and famous. But the fortune of war carries you into new dangers and I hope new successes. We have been very anxious for news from your movements, but as yet we have only had uncertain reports, and can only live in the hope that you will whip Johnston and win new laurels. I have just returned from Cincinnati, where I was during the whole of Morgan’s raid. How completely the tone of the press has changed in regard to you. Even the “Gazette,”1 which has been malignant to the last degree, published quite a number of letters in which your share of the movements about Vicksburg was highly praised. I notice, however, that the editor has said nothing. All other papers, and indeed all officers and citizens with whom I converse, gave you great credit. So that now in the Northern States, and especially here in Ohio, your popularity is second only to that of Grant. You need care but little for this, as you passed through a storm of obloquy which would have submerged many an officer. Popular opinion is so changeable that it is worthless. It is founded upon rumor, and is as explosive as gas. Meade has had a foretaste of this. His drawn battle at Gettysburg relieved the country from a great danger, and he was at once a hero; he was the coming man. He has allowed Lee to escape him, and all his popular honors are lost. McClellan has succeeded in establishing the position of a party leader, and now enjoys the bad honor of being cheered by a New York mob of thieves and scoundrels, while poor Hooker is dropped by all just when he thought he had Lee in his power.

While the war goes on there is a danger looming up that seems to me more ominous than any other. It is the Presidential election next summer. We shall have a fierce canvass. . . . If the election cannot be held in the Southern States, no one is likely to get a majority of the electoral college. This must be, to secure an election by the people. All the States must be counted, and under the Constitution the successful candidate must have a majority of all the electoral votes. Can this be secured by any one man? If not, the election then goes into the House, and who can tell the result. The war has done a great deal to shake that implicit obedience to law which has been the great conservative element, but in the struggle for so vast a prize will it not be easy to clog the machinery for a legal election? — and then civil war or anarchy is the certain result. These are only possible dangers, but it is well to look them in the face. At present I do not stand very well with my political associates, because I have openly differed with them on important questions. But I am too well grounded in the principles of the Republican party to be shaken in my faith. Indeed, nearly all the errors into which the administration has fallen, have arisen from the advice of an old school of politicians who never belonged to the Republican party.

Affectionately your brother,


1 Cincinnati “Gazette.”

SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 206-8

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