Friday, September 9, 2022

Braxton Bragg to William T. Sherman, December 26, 1860

BATON ROUGE, LA., Dec. 26, 1860.

MY DEAR SHERMAN: The decision you have formed does not surprise me; indeed, I do not see how it could be otherwise under the circumstances in which you are placed; and you will yet do me the justice to believe it is most painful to realize the necessity. You are acting on a conviction of duty to yourself and to your family and friends. A similar duty on my part may throw us into an apparent hostile attitude, but it is too terrible to contemplate and I will not discuss it. You see the course of events — South Carolina is gone, nothing can recall her. The Union is already dissolved. Mississippi has just elected a convention all the same way. Alabama the same. There will be a strong fight in this state. The city delegation will probably control the convention, and both parties are making great efforts there. But it all amounts to nothing; the Union is already gone.

The only question now is; can we reconstruct any government without bloodshed? I do not think we can, and the question is momentous. Yet we find a few old political hacks and barroom bullies are leading public sentiment, and will in many cases represent us in convention. They can easily pull down a government, but when another is to be built who will confide in them? Yet no one seems to reflect that anything more is necessary than to “secede.” Such a chaotic mass to work on has never presented itself to my mind, and I can see nothing but confusion to come of it.

We have had a preliminary meeting of our “Military Board,” and laid down a plan for the formation of military companies. We have five thousand stands of arms – muskets; are to proceed to New Orleans to-morrow to see what can be done in enlarging it. All received from the government so far are gone – issued to volunteers companies and thrown away without the slightest accountability. Unless brought into service and kept under discipline how are we to prevent the same thing again? A regular force is the only alternative.

I shall still continue to hope, though without reason, that Providence will yet avert the great evil. But should the worst come we shall still be personal friends. What are we to do to keep up our Bantam?1 Is either of your professors fit to take your place? Can we get a suitable man elsewhere? Confer freely with General Graham on the subject. We all have full confidence in your judgment, and it will go far in deciding our course if you leave.

The trouble about your salary2 was an oversight in not amending the estimates after the bill was passed. No appropriation was made. There can be no difficulty in getting it through the next session. I will try and get it done early in the session. Whenever a supply of arms are sent to you the board will employ a man as armorer or authorize you to do it, for their preservation.


1 The Seminary. – ED.

2 At the session of 1860 a law was passed making Sherman superintendent of the State Central Arsenal, but the author of the act neglected to have the provision for the salary inserted in the appropriation bill. – ED.

SOURCE: Walter L. Fleming, General W.T. Sherman as College President, p. 319-21

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