IN THE FIELD, NEAR ATLANTA, Geo.,
July 26, 1864.
I got your long letter and one from Minnie last night and telegraphed you in general terms that we are all well. We have Atlanta close aboard, as the sailors say, but it is a hard nut to handle. These fellows fight like Devils and Indians combined, and it calls for all my cunning and strength. Instead of attacking the forts which are really unassailable I must gradually destroy the roads which make Atlanta a place worth having. This I have partially done, two out of three are broken and we are now maneuvering for the third.
I lost my right bower in McPherson,1 but of course it is expected, for with all the natural advantages of bushes, cover of all kinds, we must all be killed. I mean the general officers. McPherson was riding within his lines behind his wing of the army, but the enemy had got round the flank and crept up one of those hollows with bushes that concealed them completely. It has been thus all the way from Chattanooga, and if Beauregard can induce Davis to adopt the Indian policy of ambuscade which he urged two years ago, but which Jeff thought rather derogatory to the high pretenses of his cause to courage and manliness, every officer will be killed, for the whole country is a forest so that an enemy can waylay every path and road, and could not be found.
Poor Mac, he was killed dead instantly. I think I shall prefer Howard' to succeed him. . . .
1 The death of General McPherson, July 22, was a grievous personal and military loss to Sherman. Not long afterward he wrote to Mrs. Sherman: "You have fallen into an error about McPherson. He was not out of his place or exposing himself more than I and every General does daily — he was to the rear of his line, riding by a road he had passed twice that morning. The thing was an accident that resulted from the blind character of the country we are in. Dense woods fill all the ravines and hollows, and what little cleared ground there is is on the ridge levels, or the alluvion of creek bottoms. The hills are all chestnut ridges with quartz and granite boulders and gravel. You can't find an hundred acres of level, clear ground between here and Chattanooga, and not [a day] passes but what every general officer may be shot as McPherson was."
SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 301-3. 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 2/16