Thursday, September 19, 2013

Colonel William T. Sherman to Thomas Ewing Jr., May 23, 1861

ST. LOUIS, May 23, 1861.

. . . I am satisfied with Mr. Lincoln's policy, but I do not like that of the Blairs. I know Frank Blair openly declares war on slavery. I see him daily, and yesterday had a long talk with him. I say the time is not yet come to destroy slavery, but it may be to circumscribe it. We have not in America the number of inhabitants to replace the slaves, nor have we the national wealth to transport them to other lands. The constitution has given the owners certain rights which I should be loath to disturb. I declined the chief clerkship because I did not want it. You know enough of the social status of a Washington office-holder to appreciate my feelings when I say that I would infinitely prefer to live in St. Louis. I have seen enough of war not to be caught by its first glittering bait, and when I engage in this it must be with a full consciousness of its real character. I did approve of the President’s call, and only said it should have been three hundred thousand instead of seventy-five. The result confirms my opinion. I did approve of Lyon's attack,1 and said it was inevitable; only I thought the marshal should have demanded the arms which reached the camp unlawfully through the custom house. The firing on the citizens, I know, was in consequence of the nervousness of the new militia, was wrong, but just what every prudent person expected. I have always thought that if it could be avoided, Missouri should be held with as little feeling as possible, because of necessity her people must retain the rights of franchise and property. Wherever I see that persons miscalculate the state of feeling I endeavor to correct it, because a fatal mistake in war is to underrate the strength, feeling and resources of an enemy. . . .

1 Sherman's observations on this episode of the early days of the war in Missouri are fully recorded in the Memoirs, I, 200-202.

SOURCE: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman,  p. 197-8

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