Gayoso Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee
7 a.m., October 6, 1863
I have got up early this morning to steal a short period in which to write to you, but I can hardly trust myself. Sleeping, waking, everywhere I see poor little Willy. His face and form are as deeply imprinted on my memory as were deep-seated the hopes I had in his future. Why, oh why, should that child be taken from us, leaving us full of trembling and reproaches? Though I know we did all human beings could do to arrest the ebbing tide of life, still I will always deplore my want of judgment in taking my family to so fatal a climate at so critical a period of the year. . . . To it must be traced the loss of that child on whose future I had based all the ambition I ever had. . . . I follow you in my mind and almost estimated the hour when all Lancaster would be shrouded in gloom to think that Willy Sherman was coming back a corpse. Dear as may be to you the Valley of Hocking,1 no purer, nobler boy ever will again gladden it. . . . My command will be much smaller than the world thinks, but I do not even name the fact to those about me. Our country should blush to allow our thinned regiments to go on till nothing is left. But I will go on to the end, but feel the chief stay to my faltering heart is now gone.
But I must not dwell so much on it. I will try and make poor Willy's memory the cure for the defects which have sullied my character.
1 Lancaster, Ohio, is on the Hocking, a tributary of the Ohio.
SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 275. 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 2/07.