Saturday, November 9, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, June 2, 1863

WALNUT HILLS [above Vicksburg], June 2, 1863.

Since our arrival here I have written you several short letters and one telegraph despatch, simply telling you of our safety. I suppose by this time you have heard enough of our march and safe arrival on the Yazoo whereby we re-established our communications, supplying the great danger of this roundabout movement. We were compelled to feel and assault Vicksburg, as it was the only way to measure the amount of opposition to be apprehended. We now know that it is strongly fortified on all sides and that the garrison is determined to defend it to the last. We could simply invest the place and allow famine and artillery to finish the work, but we know that desperate efforts will be made to relieve the place. Joe Johnston, one of the most enterprising of all their generals, is assembling from every quarter an army at Jackson and Canton, and he will soon be coming down between the Yazoo and Black. Of course Grant is doing all he can to provide against every contingency. He sent to Banks, but Banks is investing Port Hudson and asks for reinforcements from us. All the men that can be spared from West Tennessee will be called here, and I trust Rosecrans will not allow any of Bragg's army to be detached against us, but we hear he is planting gardens and it may be he will wait to gather a crop. The weather is now very hot and we are digging roads and approaches so that it tells on our men, but they work cheerfully and I have approaches and parallels within eighty yards of the enemy's line. Daily we open a cannonade and make the dirt fly, but the Rebels lay close in their pits and holes and we cannot tell what execution is done. I pity the poor families in Vicksburg. Women and children are living in caves and holes underground whilst our shot and shells tear through their houses overhead. Daily and nightly conflagrations occur, but still we cannot see the mischief done. We can see the Court House and steeples of churches, also houses on the hills back of town, but the city lies on the face of the hill towards the river, and that is hidden from view by the shape of ground. The hills are covered with trees and are very precipitous, affording us good camps. I have mine close up on a spur where we live very comfortably. I go out every morning and supervise the progress of work, and direct the fire of the guns. The enemy's sharpshooters have come very near hitting me several times, but thus far I have escaped unhurt. Pitzman, my engineer, was shot in the hip and is gone North. . . .

The Northern papers bring accounts of our late movements very much exaggerated, but still approximating the truth. I did not go to Haines' Bluff at all, because the moment I reached the ground in its rear I was master of it, pushed on to the very gates of Vicksburg and sent cavalry back to Haines to pick up the points of the strategic movement. Grant is now deservedly the hero. He is entitled to all the credit of the movement which was risky and hazardous in the extreme and succeeded because of its hazard. He is now belabored with praise by those who a month ago accused him of all the sins in the calendar, and who next week will turn against him if so blows the popular breeze.

Vox populi, vox humbug. We are in good fighting trim, and I expect still more hard knocks. The South will not give up Vicksburg without the most desperate struggle. In about three days we ought to be able to make another assault, carrying our men well up to the enemy's ditch under cover. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 263-5.  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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