Monday, October 7, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, July 31, 1862

MEMPHIS, July 31, 1862.

. . . As to freeing the negroes, I don't think the time is come yet. When negroes are liberated either they or masters must perish. They cannot exist together except in their present relation, and to expect negroes to change from slaves to masters without one of those horrible convulsions which at times startle the world is absurd. The war this fall and winter will be very bloody, and the South will get the advantage. They now have the advantage in numbers and position. They are concentrated and we scattered. They were nearly out of bacon and salt meat, but the desire of our people to trade has soon supplied this. Cincinnati has sent enough salt to supply all their army for six months. In like manner the Jews and speculators have sent in enough gold to get all the cartridges necessary, so the two wants of the army are supplied, a whole year lost to the war, and some Jews and speculators have made ten per cent profit. Of course our lives are nothing in the scales of profit with our commercial people. The buying of cotton by the people of the South was one act of folly, but our buying the refuse of them for gold and especially shipping salt, which from scarcity has risen to $100 a barrel, is a greater act of folly. I have stopped it instanter on reaching the river, but the thing is going on all round me, by consent of the Board of Trade of Cincinnati, Louisville, etc. I am getting tired of this, and of the volunteer service, and would escape if I could. . . .

Our camp is a pleasant one, ground enough, but contracted, Secesh on both sides and all round. The idea of making them take the oath is absurd. Of course I know, and everybody knows, they prefer the South to the North, and that they hope and pray that the Southern army will in due time destroy us. I go on the theory that all the leading men are Secesh and the laborers and mechanics neutral or tired of war. . . .  We are in our enemy's country and I act accordingly. The North may fall into bankruptcy and anarchy first, but if they can hold on the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 229-30.  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 1/147.

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