Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Senator John Sherman, August 9, 1862

LANCASTER, OHIO, Aug. 9, 1865.

Dear Brother:

After I get fixed in St. Louis, I will cast about for some chance to be independent of our Government, for I feel there is a desire to be rid of me. Stanton, in Grant's absence, has ordered one of my chief staff-officers away from me, Beckwith, without as much as “by your leave.” Now this was never done save by Jeff Davis when he was Secretary of War, for orders to the army officers always should go by command of the commander-in-chief, but Stanton orders about as though it was his lawful prerogative. I would resist publicly, but don't want to bring on another controversy. Of course, if my staff-officers are taken away without my being consulted, they will feel little dependence on me, and my influence will subside. But that is a small matter compared with turning the army into a machine auxiliary to politics. If the War Department is to give orders direct to the army below us and not through us, you can see that we are dissolved from all control, responsibility, or interest. The true way is for the War Department to indicate to us what the Administration wants done, and then hold us responsible for the means used. But if the Secretary handles the army behind us, how can we take an interest? My own opinion is the Administration will either break itself down or drive us out. Grant is so anxious for harmony that he will not interfere until it is too late, when he will find somebody else commands instead of him.

I think the agitation of the suffrage question now before the people has got far enough advanced to show how they (the negroes) can make a living, and will give trouble, but we hope still that even that question will be allowed to rest until the forms and shapes of the States South are adjusted. . . . I fear you will all have a burden to carry in the form of Military Governments South, which are awkward and expensive. My command1 only embraces Arkansas, and there things seem quiet, though I know but little of the actual state of affairs. In no other point of my command do these questions arise.

Yours affectionately,

1 General Orders No. 118 of June 27, 1865, divided the whole country into nineteen departments and five military divisions, the second of which was the military division of the “Mississippi,” afterwards changed to “Missouri.” This division embraced the Departments of the Ohio, Missouri, and Arkansas, and was to be commanded by General Sherman, with headquarters at St. Louis.

SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman Letters: Correspondence Between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 253-4

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