Sunday, December 22, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, March 23, 1865

March 23, 1865.

I wrote you from Fayetteville. On our way thence the enemy struck our left flank and I turned on him and after three days maneuvering and fighting defeated him and drove him off towards Raleigh. The fight was near Bentonsville, 20 miles from here on the south side of the Neuse in the direction of Smithfield. I got here to-day and all the army will be in by to-morrow. Thus have I brought the army from Savannah in good order, beaten the enemy wherever he attempted to oppose our progress, and made junction with Schofield and Terry from Newbern and Wilmington on the 21st, one day later than I had appointed before leaving Savannah. It is far more difficult and important than the Savannah march. Besides the immediate results we have forced the Rebels to abandon the whole sea coast.

I almost fear the consequences of the reputation this will give me among military men. I have received one letter from you and one from Minnie, also a vast package from everybody. I now have a staff officer, Maj. Hitchcock,1 to answer them. I only have time to make general orders, and to write special letters. I must be more careful, as I find silly people to claim my acquaintance publish my letters or extracts. You know how hurriedly I always write and that I might be falsely placed by such things. I will be here some weeks. I should see Grant before assuming the offensive and I think he will come down. I could have time to run to Washington, but prefer to stay with my troops. It gives me great power with them to share the days and nights. I always encamp and am now in a shaky fly, open, with houses all round occupied by Rebels or staff officers. Soldiers have a wonderful idea of my knowledge and attach much of our continued success to it . And I really do think they would miss me, if I were to go away even for a week. I notice that you propose to take part in a Sanitary Fair at Chicago. I don't much approve of ladies selling things at a table. So far as superintending the management of such things, I don't object, but it merely looks unbecoming for a lady to stand behind a table to sell things. Still do as you please. I have nothing that would engross the profits — my saddlebags, a few old traps, etc. I could collect plenty of trophies but have always refrained and think it best I should. Others do collect trophies and send home, but I prefer not to do it.

I have no doubt that you will be sufficiently gratified to know that I have eminently succeeded in this last venture, and will trust to luck that in the next still more hazardous I will be again favored. I don't believe anything has tended more to break the pride of the South than my steady persistent progress. My army is dirty, ragged and saucy. I have promised them rest, clothing and food, but the railroads have not been completed as I expected and I fear we may be troubled thereby. I am just informed that the telegraph line is finished from the sea to this place, so our lines of communication will be shortened. Strange to say we are all in fine health and condition, only a little blackened by the pine smoke of our camp fires. I would like to march this army through New York just as it appears today, with its wagons, pack mules, cattle, niggers and bummers, and I think they would make a more attractive show than your fair. . . .

1 Major Henry Hitchcock, judge-advocate on Sherman's staff.

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 334-6.  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 2/21

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