Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, February 26, 1863

CAMP NEAR VICKSBURG, February 26, 1863.

I have yours of the 14th inst. and indeed I think all your letters have come somewhat in bunches, but I think all are at hand up to that of the 14th. Of course, I will heed your counsel about the newspaper correspondents, but it is hard for me to know that they are used to spy out and report all our acts of omission and commission to be published at home to prejudice the cause and advance that of the enemy. It is hard enough to know that we have a strong well organized and vindictive enemy in front and a more dangerous insidious one within our very camp. These causes must defeat us unless the people have resources enough to learn by the slow and sad progress of time what they might so much easier learn from books or the example of our enemy. We look in vain to their newspapers for scraps from which to guess at the disposition of their forces, and know and feel all the time that every thing we do or attempt to do is paraded in all our newspapers which reach Vicksburg by telegraph from Richmond, Va. or Memphis long before we are ourselves advised. I feel also that our government instead of governing the country is led first by one class of newspapers, then another, and that we are the mere shuttle-cocks flying between. We get all the knocks and rarely see one grain of encouragement from “home.”  I see the eulogies of the brave and heroic acts of men at Springfield, Illinois, and Cincinnati, and rarely anything but the paid and hired encomiums of some worthless regiment here, that, understanding the notions of our people, can get cheap reputation by writing for the press, and neglecting all their duties here. The further we penetrate, the further we remain from home, the less we are esteemed or encouraged. I did not intend to resign unless the public opinion of the North made it prudent for the President to recall me nominally to some other command, or unless I detected in my own corps some symptoms of the natural results of the continued attacks of the press. In either event being foot-loose I would be justified before God and man in making my own choice of vocation. My old troops believe in me, but in this move I had a new batch that did not know me and I had reason to apprehend mistrust on this point, as some of them are known to me, like, to be mere politicians who come to fight not for the real glory and success of the nation but for their own individual aggrandizement. Let any accident befall me or any temporary rumor like that at Vicksburg, the same howl will be renewed because these buzzards of the press who hang in scent about our camps know full well that death awaits them whenever I have the power or when time develops their true character and influence. You in Ohio have one or two papers to conciliate, here we have all — St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Cincinnati, Charleston, Atlanta and Vicksburg. Now these are all antagonistic save in one particular, in esprit de corps. They stand by each other as a profession, but each gathers facts and draws its pictures to suit the home market, and really the Southern correspondents are the more fair. Were I to judge of public opinion by the tone of the press I would say we were here regarded as an enemy to the North and rather favorable to the South. Of course, I shall no longer attempt to exclude spies from camp, and allow these to come and go freely and collect their own budgets. The ram Queen of the West was captured by the enemy in Red River and yesterday came close up to Vicksburg with the Rebel flag flying in defiance. We have an iron boat below, the Indianola, but night before last heavy firing was heard until about one o'clock, when it ceased, and this fact being followed by the appearance of the captured ram looks bad. I fear the Indianola is gone, and that the enemy has recovered the use of the river below Vicksburg. This to us is a bad blow, and may lead to worse consequences. I at once established a battery of 20 pound rifles below the town and made other dispositions, but the ram has again gone below. I fear for the safety of the Indianola. If sunk it is not so bad, but if like the Queen of the West she has fallen into the hands of the enemy, it may prove a calamity. Rain, rain, — water above, below and all round. I have been soused under water by my horse falling in a hole, and got a good ducking yesterday walking where a horse could not go. No doubt they are chuckling over our helpless situation in Vicksburg. Accounts from Yazoo and Providence Lake favorable, but rain, rain, and men can't work —  indeed hardly a place to stand, much less lie down. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 239-42.  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 2/01.

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