Monday, May 23, 2022

William T. Sherman to George Mason Graham, July 23, 1860

LOUISIANA STATE SEMINARY, Alexandria, July 23, 1860.

DEAR GENERAL: Charles whom we sent for the mail has just returned without the mail, but had your Sunday letter which I have just read with great satisfaction. The idea of our first examination without your presence would have been truly the play of Hamlet without the Prince, but as it is I am satisfied. I had already made all the checks except that for Mr. St. Ange, who did not apply for it because I suppose I told him I wanted all persons to pay the Seminary their dues to the stores, which in his case will take a good part of his month's pay. I may be too severe a stickler in finance, but as I view the case clothing, being sold without profit, is cash and should not be allowed to stand on our books like a store account.

I have every cadet's account made up to the cent. All orders are stopped and this cash balance cannot be changed. In actually paying Jarreau in checks I exceeded your authority, but his bill necessarily entered into all the cadet's accounts, and it was important these accounts should thus be closed before the hurly-burly of the examination. In two hours of Wednesday I can pay every account and dismiss all hands. Whilst the examination progresses the Board of Supervisors can pass a few formal resolutions. One authorizing the publication in Alexandria or New Orleans of three hundred Registers. There is already a resolution authorizing me to compile and have printed one thousand regulations. Professor Smith at my suggestion wrote his uncle 5 and ascertained the cost of two thousand regulations to have been in Richmond $250. Ours is less in volume, and ought not to exceed for one thousand copies say $150, yet this expenditure had better be left blank. I think a more compact volume would be neater and more appropriate.

I have the regulations done in manuscript and bound ready for the printer; would like you to examine it though a large task; but it must be in print next November for it is wrong thus to hold young men to obedience to rules, imperfectly understood. Both Hillan and Spencer want to come back in the fall, and we might receive them on the ground of being “minors” whose acts are incomplete without the ratification of parents, and their parents both roundly disapproved their course.

I have so written to Spencer's father, but said I could not commit the Board, who might prefer a more stringent rule. I want you to frame some word – less harsh than "deserted" or "dismissed” for such cadets, who have simply quit. I am at a dead loss. “Deserted” is all the word I know that tells the story, but it may be too severe for this condition of things.

Very many of our cadets have diarrhea, owing they say to fritters and molasses for supper. They complained so much of the melted butter, that Captain Jarreau agreed to give fritters and molasses. These and melons and fruit are causes enough. We have ordered toast and tea for supper, and will discourage stale fruit and melons.

I hope they will recover this week. Otherwise they may make a sorry appearance. I bear in mind your suggestion to get Dr. Smith to have a resolution passed, asking for the quota of [arms for] 1861. The governor's silence and that of his adjutant-general look to me ominous.

I try to write plain, but it is no use. For so many years I have had clerks to copy my letters hastily and illegibly written that the habit is fixed, and I trust you will not think my seeming haste is an intentional tax on your sight and time. Where hard to read you can skip, with the knowledge that you lose nothing.


1 F. H. Smith, superintendent of Virginia Military Institute. – ED.

SOURCE: Walter L. Fleming, General W.T. Sherman as College President, p. 245-7

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