Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brigadier General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, August 13, 1861

[Undated: apparently August 13, 1861.]

The incessant wants of 5,000 men, all complaining, with sick wives and children and fathers at home, wanting to go to Georgetown and Washington and everywheres where they should not go, growling about clothing, shoes, beef, pork, and everything! Now in an army all these things are regulated by sergeants, captains and colonels. A brigadier only has to operate through them. An irregularity in a regiment is checked by a word to the colonel; but here every woman within five miles who has a peach stolen or roasting ear carried off comes to me to have a guard stationed to protect her tree, and our soldiers are the most destructive men I have ever known. It may be other volunteers are just as bad, indeed the complaint is universal, and I see no alternative but to let it take its course. When in Fairfax County we had a majority of friends. Now I suppose there is not a man, woman or child but would prefer Jeff Davis or the Czar of Russia to govern them rather than an American volunteer army. My only hope now is that a common sense of decency may be inspired into the minds of this soldiery to respect life and property. Officers hardly offer to remonstrate with their men, and all devolves on me. As usual I cannot lie down, go away, without fifty people moving after me. Had I some good regulars I could tie to them. As it is, all the new Brigadiers must manufacture their Brigades out of raw material. Napoleon allowed three years as a minimum, Washington one year. Here it is expected in nine days, and Bull Run is the consequence. I don't believe McClellan will be hurried, and the danger to our country is so imminent that all hands are now conscious that we must build up from the foundation. . . .

A good many little incidents, shooting of sentinels and pickets, all the cruel, useless attendants of war occur daily, but I no longer apprehend an attack by Beauregard's forces, though strange to say he receives news much more freely than we do. McClellan has notice of large forces coming up from Georgia, Alabama and the extreme South. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 214-5.  A full copy of this letter can be found in the William T Sherman Family papers (SHR), University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA), Notre Dame, IN 46556, Folder CSHR 1/139.

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