Monday, November 11, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, June 11, 1863

WALNUT HILLS, June 11, 1863.

. . . I don't believe I can give you an idea of matters here. You will read so much about Vicksburg and the people now gathered about it that you will get bewildered, and I will wait till maps become more abundant. I miss Pitzman very much. I feel his loss just as I did that of Morgan L. Smith at Chickasaw, both wounded in the hip, reconnoitering. So far as Vicksburg is concerned the same great features exist. The deep washes and ravines with trees felled makes a network of entangled abattis all round the city, and if we had a million of men we would be compelled to approach it by the narrow heads of columns which approach the concealed trenches and casemates of a concealed and brave and desperate enemy. We cannot carry our men across this continuous parapet without incurring fearful loss. We have been working making roads and paths around spurs, up hollows, until I now have on my front of over two miles three distinct ways by which I can get close up to the ditch, but still each has a narrow front and any man who puts his head above ground has his head shot off. All day and night continues the sharp crack of the rifle and deep sound of mortars and cannon hurling shot and shell at the doomed city. I think we have shot twenty thousand cannon balls and many millions of musket balls into Vicksburg, but of course the great mass of these bury into the earth and do little harm. We fire one hundred shot to their one, but they being scarce of ammunition take better care not to waste it. I rode away round to McClernand's lines the day before yesterday, and found that he was digging his ditches and parallels further back from the enemy than where I began the first day. My works are further advanced than any other, but still it will take some time to dig them out. The truth is we trust to the starvation. Accounts vary widely. Some deserters say they have plenty to eat, and others say they are down to pea bread and poor beef. I can see horses and mules gently grazing within the lines and therefore do not count on starvation yet. All their soldiers are in the trenches and none know anything but what occurs close to them. Food is cooked by negroes back in the hollows in rooms cut out of the hills and carried to them by night. The people, women and children, have also cut houses underground out of the peculiar earth, where they live in comparative safety from our shells and shot. Still I know great execution must have been done, and Vicksburg at this moment must be a horrid place. Yet the people have been wrought up to such a pitch of enthusiasm that I have not yet met one but would prefer all to perish rather than give up. They feel doomed, but rely on Joe Johnston. Of him we know but little save we hear of a force at Yazoo City, at Canton, Jackson and Clinton. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 266-7.  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 2/05.

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