Friday, November 8, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, May 25, 1863

WALNUT HILLS, May 25, 1863.

Whilst the men are making roads and ditches to enable me to get close up to the enemy's parapet without crossing within full view and fatal effect [from] their well prepared forts and trenches, I have availed myself of the favorable opportunity to pitch a tent and get out writing materials to write up. . . . Devastation and ruin lay behind us, and a garrison of some fifteen or twenty thousand men are before us, cooped up in Vicksburg with about five or six thousand people, women and children. The forts are well built and command the roads, and the hills and valleys are so abrupt and covered with fallen trees, standing trunks and canebrake that we are in a measure confined to the roads. We have made two distinct assaults all along the line, but the heads of columns are swept away as chaff thrown from the hand in a windy day. We are now hard at work with roads and trenches, taking all possible advantage of the shape of the ground. We must work smart, as Joe Johnston is collecting the shattered forces, those we beat at Jackson and Champion Hill, and may get reinforcements from Bragg and Charleston and come pouncing down on our rear. The enemy in Vicksburg must expect aid from that quarter, else they would not fight with such desperation. Vicksburg is not only of importance to them, but now is a subject of pride and its loss will be fatal to their power out west. Grant's move was the most hazardous, but thus far the most successful of the war. He is entitled to all the credit, for I would not have advised it. We have now perfect communication with our supplies, plenty of provisions, tools and ammunition, and if vast reinforcements do not come from the outside Vicksburg is ours as sure as fate.

I suppose you have all been in intense anxiety. Charley was very conspicuous in the first assault and brought off the colors of the battalion which are now in front of my tent, the staff ¼ cut away by a ball that took with it a part of his finger. . . . We brought off nearly all our dead and all the wounded, and the enemy called from their pits warning the burial parties not to come down as they could take care of those left. Our pickets are up so close that they can hardly show their heads without drawing hundreds of shots. In like manner we can hardly show a hand without the whir of a minnie ball. Our artillery is all well placed and must do havoc in the town. We have over a hundred cannon which pour a constant fire over the parapets, the balls going right towards their Court House and depot.

In about three days our approach will be so close that another assault will be made, but the enemy like beavers are digging as hard as we. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 262-3.  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 2/04.

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