Saturday, September 28, 2013

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

WASHINGTON, August 3, 1861.

. . . I still am acting as a Brigadier General in command of six regiments of volunteers called by courtesy soldiers, but they are all we have got and God only knows the issue. Our adversaries have the weakness of slavery in their midst to offset our democracy, and 'tis beyond human wisdom to say which is the greater evil. I learn today that the President selected Hunter, Sherman and Buell out of the list for Brigadier Generals of the Regular Army, but Major Garesche tells me the list has been changed, that no appointments will now be made in the regular army, but that a whole batch of Brigadiers will be made, ranking according to former commission. This will still keep me where I want, in a modest position till time and circumstances show us daylight.

McClellan told me last night he should proceed with great caution, endeavoring to advance so as never to make a slip backward. I am now satisfied that the Southern army is not much better than ours, else Beauregard would certainly have taken Washington. If they could, they also from their central position would throw their force on Banks or Rosecrans.

In East Virginia all are secessionists and we can gain no authentic information of their movements by spies. It is different, I suppose, in West Virginia. At all events in invading Virginia from the Chesapeake the army must be of a size to encounter the whole southern army. Now that they have been successful, Davis can assemble just as many men as he wants, and they are as well armed, dressed and fed as we are. Indeed I never saw such a set of grumblers as our volunteers about their food, clothing, arms, etc., and I shall make a requisition for two nurses per soldier to nurse them in their helpless, pitiful condition.

Oh — but we had a few regulars. But all our legislation has so favored the volunteer that no man will enlist in the regular service. I propose to go on as heretofore, to endeavor to fill my place as well as possible, to meddle as little as possible with my superiors, and to give my opinion only when asked for. . . .

You may hereafter address me at the Georgetown Post Office. I send over there pretty often for marketing. Address me, Colonel W. T. S., Fort Corcoran, Georgetown, D. C. If I am made Brigadier General, use General W. T. S. as above. I know not why I feel no ambition. If we could handle volunteers so that our plans could be carried out I would launch out, but I know that they will mar any plan and blast the fair fame of anybody. They, of course, the people, can't do wrong. If defeat arises, then it is mismanagement, masked batteries and such nonsense. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 212-3.  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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