Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Major General William T. Sherman to Senator John Sherman, January 17, 1863

Jan. 17, 1863.

Dear Brother:

. . . The gun boats were handled beautifully, and without them we should have had hard work, with them it was easy. Our entire loss will be less than 1000. We took 5000 prisoners, killed and wounded some 500, took 16 guns, ammunition, corn and wagons, mules and all sorts of traps of which you will hear enough. My official report is in, will go up to Grant at Memphis to-morrow and right on to Washington. Halleck will let you see it, and you can understand the whole thing by a glance at the maps I send along. But McClernand's reports will precede it and of course will be the accepted history. . . .

On the supposition that Banks will have taken Fort Hudson and reached Vicksburg, we start back for that place to-morrow. Of ourselves we cannot take Vicksburg. With Banks and a fleet below us and a fleet above, we may make a desperate attempt, but Vicksburg is as strong as Gibraltar, and is of vital importance to the cause of the South. Of course they will fight desperately for it. We must do the same, for all are conscious that the real danger of the war, anarchy among our people, begins to dawn. The people of the North mistake widely if they suppose they can have peace now by opposing this war. . . .

Mr. Lincoln intended to insult me and the military profession by putting McClernand over me, and I would have quietly folded up my things and gone to St. Louis, only I know in times like these all must submit to insult and infamy if necessary. The very moment I think some other is at hand to take my corps I’ll slide out. . . .

I hope the politicians will not interfere with Halleck. You have driven off McClellan, and is Burnside any better? Buell is displaced. Is Rosecrans any faster? His victory at Murfreesboro is dearly bought. Let Halleck alone, and if things don't go to your liking don’t charge it to men but to the condition of things. Human power is limited, and you cannot appreciate the difficulty of moulding into an homogeneous machine the discordant elements which go to make up our armies. A thousand dollars a day would not pay me for the trouble of managing a volunteer army. I never dreamed of so severe a test of my patriotism as being superseded by McClernand, and if I can keep down my tamed (?) spirit and live I will claim a virtue higher than Brutus. I rarely see a newspaper and am far behind the times, indeed, am not conscious that a Congress sits, though I know it must. Do think of the army and try and give us the means to maintain discipline, prevent desertion, pillage and absenteeism. Under the present system of mere threats and no punishment, our armies melt away like snow before the sun. I doubt if Burnside, Rosecrans, Grant and Curtis now have, all combined, 300,000 in their front ranks. This army, 30,000 a month ago, though reinforced by 2400 men, is now down to 24,000, though we have lost only 2500 in battle — sickness and detachments make a perfect stream to the rear. Blair has a brigade in my corps and sees now the practices of war as contrasted with its theory, and could give some useful hints on these points.



SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 181-2

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