Sunday, October 13, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, January 28, 1863

CAMP NEAR VICKSBURG, January 28, 1863.

... The politician thinks results can be had by breath, but how painfully it begins to come home to the American people that the war which all have striven so hard to bring on and so few to avert is to cost us so many thousands of lives. Indeed do I wish I had been killed long since. Better that than struggle with the curses and maledictions of every woman that has a son or brother to die in any army with which I chance to be associated. Of course Sherman is responsible. Seeing so clearly into the future I do think I ought to get away. The President's placing McClernand here and the dead set to ruin me for McClernand's personal glory would afford me a good chance to slide out and escape the storm and trouble yet in reserve for us. Here we are at Vicksburg on the wrong side of the river trying to turn the Mississippi by a ditch, a pure waste of human labor. Grant has come and Prime1 is here and they can figure it out, but the canal won't do. We must carry out the plan fixed up at Oxford. A large army must march down from Oxford to Grenada and so on to the rear of Vicksburg, and another army must be here to cooperate with the gun-boats at the right time. Had Grant been within sixty miles of Vicksburg, or Banks near, I could have broken the line of Chickasaw Bayou, but it was never dreamed by me that I could take the place alone. McClernand or Grant will not undertake it. Not a word of Banks. I doubt if he has left or can leave or has any order to leave New Orleans. Therefore here we are to sit in the mud till spring and summer and maybe another year. Soldiers will soon clamor for motion, life, anything rather than canal digging. The newspapers are after me again; I published an order they must not come along on pain of being treated as spies. I am now determined to test the question. Do they rule or the commanding general? If they rule I quit. I have ordered the arrest of one, shall try him, and if possible execute him as a spy. They publish all the data for our enemy and it was only by absolute secrecy that we could get to the Post of Arkansas without their getting ahead. They did reveal our attempt to attack Haines's Bluff. I will never again command an army in America if we must carry along paid spies. I will banish myself to some foreign country first. I shall notify Mr. Lincoln of this if he attempt to interfere with the sentence of any court ordered by me. If he wants an army he must conform to the well established rules of military nations and not attempt to keep up the open rules of peace. The South at the start did these things, and the result has been, they move their forces from Virginia to Mississippi and back without a breath spoken or written. . . .

1 Captain Prime of the Engineer Corps.

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 237-9.  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 1/150.

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