Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Colonel William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, July 19, 1861

26 FROM WASHINGTON, July 19, 1861.

I wrote to John yesterday asking him to send you my letters that you might be assured of my safety. Thus far the enemy have retired before us. Yesterday our General Tyler made an unauthorized attack on a battery over Bull Run. They fired gun for gun, and on the whole had the best of it. The General finding Centreville, a strong place, evacuated, followed their tracks to Bull Run which has a valley, deeply wooded, admitting only of one narrow column. I was sent for and was under fire about half an hour, the rifled cannon shot cutting the trees over head and occasionally pitching into the ground — three artillerists, one infantry and three horses in my brigade, with several wounded. I have not yet learned the full extent of damage, and as it was a blunder, don't care. I am uneasy at the fact that the volunteers do pretty much as they please, and on the slightest provocation bang away. The danger from this desultory firing is greater than from the enemy, as they are always so close, whilst the latter keep a respectable distance.

We were under orders to march at 6 P. M., but it was properly countermanded as night marches with raw troops are always dangerous. Now our orders are to march at 2½ A. M. The division of Tyler to which my Brigade belongs will advance along a turnpike road to a bridge on Bull Run. This bridge is gone, and there is a strong battery on the opposite shore of the river. Here I am summoned to a council at 8 P. M. at General McDowell's camp about a mile distant. I am now there, all the Brigade commanders are present, and only a few minutes intervene before they all come to this table.

I know tomorrow and next day we shall have hard work, and I will acquit myself as well as I can. With regulars, I would have no doubts, but these volunteers are subject to stampedes.

Yesterday there was an ugly stampede of 800 Massachusetts men. The Ohio men claim their discharge, and so do others of the three months men. Of these I have the Irish 69th New York, which will fight. . . .

My best love to all. My faith in you and the children is perfect, and let what may befall me I feel they are in a fair way to grow up in goodness and usefulness.

Goodbye for the present.

SOURCE: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman,  p. 201-2.  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 1/138.

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