Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, July 5, 1863

20 miles east of Vicksburg, July 5, 1863.

You will have heard all about the capitulation of Vicksburg on the 4th of July, and I suppose duly appreciate it. It is the event of the war thus far. Davis placed it in the scale of Richmond, and pledged his honor that it should be held even if he had to abandon Tennessee. But it was of no use. and we are now in full possession. I am out and have not gone in to see, as even before its surrender Grant was disposing to send me forth to meet Johnston who is and has been since June 15th collecting a force about Jackson, to raise the siege. I will have Ord's corps, the 13th (McClernand's), Sherman's 15th and Parkes' 9th. All were to have been out last night, but Vicksburg and the 4th of July were too much for one day and they are not yet come. I expect them hourly. I am busy making three bridges to cross Black River, and shall converge on Bolton and Clinton, and if not held back by Johnston shall enter Jackson and there finish what was so well begun last month and break up all the railroads and bridges in the interior so that it will be impossible for armies to assemble again to threaten the river.

The capture of Vicksburg is to me the first gleam of daylight in this war. It was strong by nature, and had been strengthened by immense labor and stores. Grant telegraphs me 27,000 prisoners, 128 field guns and 100 siege pieces. Add to these 13 guns and 5,000 prisoners at Arkansas Post, 18 guns and 250 prisoners at Jackson, 5 guns and 2,000 prisoners at Port Gibson, 10 heavy guns at Grand Gulf, 60 field guns and 3,500 prisoners at Champion Hill and 14 heavy guns at Haines' Bluff, beside the immense amounts of ammunition, shot, shells, horses, wagons, etc., make the most extraordinary fruits of our six months' campaign. Here is glory enough for all the heroes of the West, but I content myself with knowing and feeling that our enemy is weakened by so much, and more yet by failing to hold a point deemed by them as essential to their empire in the Southwest. We have ravaged the land, and have sent away half a million of negroes, so that this country is paralyzed and cannot recover its lost strength in twenty years.

Had the eastern armies done half as much war would be substantially entered upon. But I read of Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia being threatened and Rosecrans sitting idly by, writing for personal fame in the newspapers, and our government at Washington chiefly engaged in pulling down its leaders, — Hooker now consigned to retirement. Well, I thank God we are free from Washington and that we have in Grant not a 'great man' or a 'hero,' but a good, plain, sensible, kind-hearted fellow. Here are Grant and Sherman, and McPherson, three sons of Ohio, [who] have achieved more actual success than all else combined, and I have yet to see the first kindly notice of us in the state, but on the contrary a system of abuse designed and calculated to destroy us with the people and the army; but the Army of the Tennessee, those who follow their colors and do not skulk behind in the North, at the hospitals and depots far to the rear, know who think and act, and if life is spared us our countrymen will realize the truth. I shall go on through heat and dust till the Mississippi is clear, till the large armies of the enemy in this quarter seek a more secure base, and then I will renew my hopes of getting a quiet home, where we can grow up among our children and prepare them for the dangers which may environ their later life. I did hope Grant would have given me Vicksburg and let some one else follow up the enemy inland, but I never suggest anything to myself personal, and only what I deem necessary to fulfil the purposes of war. I know that the capture of Vicksburg will make an impression the world over, and expect loud acclamations in the Northwest, but I heed more its effect on Louisiana and Arkansas. If Banks succeed, as he now must, at Port Hudson, and the army in Missouri push to Little Rock, the region west of the Mississippi will cease to be the theatre of war save to the bands of robbers created by war who now prefer to live by pillage than honest labor. Rosecrans' army and this could also, acting in concert, drive all opposing masses into the recesses of Georgia and Alabama, leaving the Atlantic slopes the great theatre of war.

I wish Halleck would put a guard over the White House to keep out the committees of preachers, grannies and Dutchmen that absorb Lincoln's time and thoughts, fill up our thinned ranks with conscripts, and then handle these vast armies with the single thought of success regardless of who shall get the personal credit and glory.

I am pleased to hear from you that occasionally you receive kindness from men out of regard to me. I know full well there must be a large class of honest people North who are sick of the wrangling of officers for power and notoriety, and are sick of the silly flattery piled by interested parties on their favorites. McClernand, the only sample of that sort with us, played himself out, and there is not an officer or soldier here but rejoices he is gone away. With an intense selfishness and lust of notoriety he could not let his mind get beyond the limits of his vision, and therefore all was brilliant about him and dark and suspicious beyond. My style is the reverse. I am somewhat blind to what occurs near me, but have a clear perception of things and events remote. Grant possesses the happy medium and it is for this reason I admire him. I have a much quicker perception of things than he; but he balances the present and remote so evenly that results follow in natural course.

I would not have risked the passing the batteries at Vicksburg and trusting to the long route by Grand Gulf and Jackson to reach what we both knew were the key points to Vicksburg. But I would have aimed to reach the same points by Grenada.1

But both aimed at the same points, and though both of us knew little of the actual ground, it is wonderful how well they have realized our military calculations.

As we sat in Oxford last November we saw in the future what we now realize, and like the architect who sees developed the beautiful vision of his brain, we feel an intense satisfaction at the realization of our military plans. Thank God, no President was near to thwart our plans, and that the short-sighted public could not drive us from our object till the plan was fully realized.

Well, the campaign of Vicksburg is ended, and I am either to begin anew or simply make complete the natural sequences of a finished job. I regard my movement as the latter, though you and others may be distressed at the guesses of our newspaper correspondents on the spot (Cairo) and made to believe I am marching on Mobile, on Chattanooga, or Atlanta. . . .

1 In a letter of August 20, 1863, Sherman wrote: "I confess to feel some pride that I have linked my name with Grant's in achieving one of the stupendous works of this war." In his Personal Memoirs (I, 543 n.) Grant wrote: "Sherman gave the same energy to make the campaign a success that he would or could have done if it had been ordered by himself."

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 269-72.  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 2/06.

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