Friday, September 27, 2013

Colonel William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, August 3, 1861

WASHINGTON, August 3, 1861.

I sent you a long letter a few days ago, telling you all about Bull Run. The disaster was serious in its effect on the men who, whether they ought or not to be, are discouraged beyond measure. All the volunteers continue in a bad state, but we must do the best we can with them.

It seems regulars do not enlist, because of the preference always given to volunteers, whose votes are counted even in the ranks. I doubt if our democratic form of government admits of that organization and discipline without which an army is a mob. Congress is doing all that is possible in the way of laws and appropriations, and McClellan is determined to proceed slowly and cautiously.

I wish we had more regulars to tie to. We must be the assailant and our enemy is more united in feeling, and can always choose their ground. It was not entrenchments but the natural ground and woods of which they took good advantage, while we in pursuit had to cross open fields and cross the crests of hills which obstructed a view of their forces.

This must continue to be the case. Beauregard must have suffered much, else his sagacity would have forced him to take Washington, which he well might.

I prefer you should go to housekeeping in Lancaster. Don't come here. I would not permit you to visit my camp. I have as much as I can do to keep my officers and men from living in Washington, and shall not set a bad example. I never expect again to move you from Lancaster. The simple chances of war, provided we adhere to the determination of subduing the South, will, of course, involve the destruction of all able-bodied men of this generation and go pretty deep into the next.

’Tis folly to underestimate the task, and you see how far already the nation has miscalculated. The real war has not yet begun. The worst will be down the Mississippi, and in Alabama and Mississippi, provided, of course, we get that far. Already has the war lasted since December last, and we are still on the border, defeated and partly discouraged. I am less so than most people because I expected it. . . .

’Tis said I am to be Brigadier General. If so, I know it not yet. I have closely minded my business, which is a bad sign for favor.

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman,  p. 210-2.  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 1/139.

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