Monday, September 30, 2013

Brigadier General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, August 17, 1861

August 17, 1861.

. . . I have not undressed of a night since Bull Run, and the volunteers will not allow of sleep by day. Two regiments have mutinied, claiming that the United States has no right to hold their services. Under the influence of a battery of artillery and squadron of regular cavalry the number who refused duty dwindled down to sixty-five in one regiment and thirty-five in another, all of whom were marched down to the Navy Yard and placed in irons on board a man-of-war. The remainder of the men and officers of these regiments are sick of the war and want to go home. McClellan still thinks Beauregard will attack the city. Most assuredly he should do so, but it may be he will not.

I was over here a few days ago and met Robert Anderson who sent for me today. It seems he is to organize some kind of a force in Kentucky and Tennessee to support the general government, and has asked for me. The President agrees to send me as soon as McClellan can spare me and McClellan will not leave me go, until he conceives the city to be out of danger — say one week – then I am to be sent into Kentucky post haste. Whether I am to be allowed to stop a day at Lancaster or not I cannot imagine, but I suppose not. I will endeavor to stop to see you for a moment, but I know how it will be — McClellan will not relieve me from duty till the latest moment, when Anderson will be calling for me in Kentucky. The bluer the times the more closely should one cling to his country. . . .

I do not know why we should not have a government. The old government was as mild as any on earth, and it may be that it is the best; but true it is, its administration had become very corrupt. Even now, it is hard to hold her people to their allegiance; but we must have a future, and a government, and I will not attempt to advise or guide events till I see some end to this muddle. Thus far, the Union party has the worst of the fight, and our armies are too scattered. If they order me to any place I'll go if I can. With Anderson I suppose we will have to go into Kentucky and Tennessee to organize an army in the face of that prejudice which you complained so much about in Missouri. That prejudice pervades the public mind and it will take years to overcome. In all the southern states, they have succeeded in impressing the public mind that the North is governed by a mob (of which unfortunately there is too much truth) and in the South that all is chivalry and gentility.

Out of this chaos some order in time must arise, but how or when I cannot tell. . . .

I have just sworn in as a Brigadier General, and therefore I suppose I might as well admit the title. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 215-7.  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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