Friday, December 6, 2013

Major General William T. Sherman to Thomas Ewing, August 11, 1864

August 11, 1864.

I can well understand the keen feelings of apprehension that agitate you, as you sit with mind intent on the fate of a vast machine, like the one I am forced to guide, whose life and success depend on the single thread of rails that for near five hundred miles lies within an hostile or semi-hostile country. I assure you that to the extent of my ability, nothing has been left undone that could be foreseen, and for one hundred days not a man or horse has been without ample food, or a musket or gun without adequate ammunition. I esteem this a triumph greater than any success that has attended me in battle or in strategy, but it has not been the result of blind chance. At this moment I have abundant supplies for twenty days, and I keep a construction party in Chattanooga that can in ten days repair any break that can be made to my rear. I keep a large depot of supplies at Chattanooga and Allatoona, two mountain fastnesses which no cavalry force of the enemy can reach, and in our wagons generally manage to have from ten to twenty days' supplies.

I could not have done this without forethought beginning with the hour I reached Nashville. I found thousands of citizens actually feeding on our stores on the plea of starvation, and other citizens by paying freights were allowed to carry goods, wares and merchandise, to all the towns from Nashville to Chattanooga; also crowds of idlers, sanitary agents, Christian commissions, and all sorts of curiosity hunters loading down our cars. It was the Gordian Knot and I cut it. People may starve, and go without, but an army cannot and do its work. A howl was raised, but the President and Secretary of War backed me, and now all recognize the wisdom and humanity of the thing. Rosecrans had his army starving at Chattanooga, and I have brought an army double its size 138 miles further, and all agree that they were never better fed, clothed and supplied. I think you may rest easy on that score.

My only apprehension arises from the fact that the time of the three year men is expiring all the time, and daily regiments are leaving for home, diminishing my fighting force by its best material; and the draft has been so long deferred, and the foolish law allowing niggers and the refuse of the South to be bought up and substituted on paper (for they never come to the front) will delay my reinforcements until my army on the offensive, so far from its base, will fall below my opponent's, who increases as I lose. I rather think to-day Hood's army is larger than mine, and he is strongly fortified. I have no faith in the people of the North. They ever lose their interest when they should act — they think by finding fault with an officer they clear their skirts of their own sins of misfeasance. . . .

The good news has just come that Farragut's fleet is in Mobile Bay, and has captured the Rebel fleet there; also that Fort Gaines which guards the west entrance to the Bay has surrendered, and some prisoners we took this morning say it was the talk in their camp that the Yankees had the City of Mobile. So all is coming round well, only we should not relax our energies or be deluded by any false hope of a speedy end to this war, which we did not begin, but which we must fight to the end, be it when it may. . . .

SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 306-8

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