Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Ellen Ewing Sherman, April 5, 1865

April 5, 1865.

I have now finished my Report and answered all letters that called for my personal action. These are being copied and sent by a courier to-morrow and then “What next” as old Lincoln says.1 That next is also thought over and it again takes me into danger and trouble, but you must now be so used to it that you can hardly care. I have no late letters from you, none since you went to Chicago, but you too are becoming a public character and the busy newspapers follow you. I see that the public authorities and citizens of Chicago paid you a public visit with speeches and music and that Bishop Duggan responded for you. If these give you pleasure I am glad of it for I would rather that you and the children should be benefitted by any fame I may achieve than that it should ensue to me personally. Of course as a General my case will be scrutinized very closely by men abroad as well as here, and my reputation will rather depend on their judgment than on any mere temporary applause. I have been trying to get some pay to send you, for I suppose you are “short,” but the paymasters cannot catch up, and in a few days I will be off again. I have pay due since January 1, and yet was unable the other day to buy a pair of shoes which I need. I have those big boots you sent me from Cincinnati, but the weather is getting warm and they are too close and heavy. They stood me a good turn however on the last march when for weeks we were up to our eyes in mud and water. When we got here the army was ragged and hard up, but already our new clothing is issued, and I will challenge the world to exhibit a finer looking set of men, brawny, strong, swarthy, a contrast to the weak and sickly fellows that came to me in Kentucky three years ago. It is a general truth that men exposed to the elements don't “catch cold,” and I have not heard a man cough or sneeze for three months, but were these same men to go into houses in a month the doctor would have half of them. Now the doctors have no employment. I myself am very well, though in a house for the time being, and too have the convenience of a table and chair to write, also to prevent the flaring of the candle which makes writing in a tent almost impossible. I write as usual very fast and can keep half a dozen clerks busy in copying. Hitchcock, nephew of the General, writes private letters not needing my personal attention, such as autographs and locks of hair; Dayton the military orders, but I must of course keep up correspondence with War Department, General Grant, my army commanders, governors of states, etc., and you should be satisfied even if my letters are hasty and ill digested. You can almost trace my progress through the world by the newspapers. . . .

I got a long letter from Bowman2 last night. He is resolved to write up my campaigns, and is anxious for the most authentic records. These are contained in my Letter and Order Books. You have some up to the time of my leaving Atlanta. Webster has those from Atlanta to Savannah, and I have here the balance. I would much prefer he would wait the end of the war, but he wants to make money out of the job, and I do not object, for he says that others less capable will do the thing, and make a botch of it. He can get access to my official Reports at Washington as also those of my subordinate Reports, but the letters I daily write give the gradual unfolding of plans and events better than Reports made with more formality after the events are past. The last March from Savannah to Goldsboro, with its legitimate fruits, the capture of Charleston, Georgetown and Wilmington, is by far the most important in conception and execution of any act of my life. . . .

I continue to receive the highest compliments from all quarters, and have been singularly fortunate in escaping the envy and jealousy of rivals. Indeed officers from every quarter want to join my “Great Army.” Grant is the same enthusiastic friend. Mr. Lincoln at City Point was lavish in his good wishes, and since Mr. Stanton visited me at Savannah he too has become the warmest possible friend. Of course I could not venture north, and it accords both with my pleasure and interest to keep close with my army proper. Officers and soldiers have in my foresight and knowledge a childlike confidence that is really most agreeable. Whilst wading through mud and water, and heaving at mired wagons the soldiers did not indulge a single growl, but always said and felt that the Old Man would bring them out all right; and no sooner had we reached the Cape Fear River at Fayetteville than a little squeaking tug came puffing up the river with news, and we had hardly spread out in the camps about Goldsboro than the locomotive and train came thundering along from the sea ninety-six miles distant, loaded with shoes and pants and clothing, as well as food. So remarkable and happy a coincidence, which of course I had arranged from Savannah, made the woods resound with a yell that must have reached Raleigh. Some of our officers who escaped from the enemy say that these two coincidences made the Rebel officers swear that I was the Devil himself, a compliment that you can appreciate. But enough of this vanity, save and except always when it redounds to your advantage and pleasure. My wants are few and easily gained, but if this fame which fills the world contributes to your happiness and pleasure, enjoy it as much as possible. Oh, that Willy could hear and see! His proud heart would swell to overflowing, and it may be that 'tis better he should not be agitated with such thoughts. . . .

The army is now well clad and fed. Our wagons are loading and on the 10th I will haul out towards Raleigh. I need not tell you my plans, but they are good, and I do not see but the next move and one more will determine the fate of this war, not conclude it, but assure the fact that the United States has not ceased to be a nation. If we can force Lee to let go Richmond, and can whip him in open fight, I think I can come home and rest and leave others to follow up the fragments. . . .

1 When Sherman took Savannah, Lincoln wrote to him, Dec. 26, 1864: “It brings those who sat in darkness to see a great light. But what next? I suppose it would be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide.”

2 S. M. Bowman, with R. B. Irwin, published in 1865 his volume, Sherman and His Campaigns.

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 338-42.  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 2/22

No comments: