CAMP ON BEAR CREEK, 20 MILES N. W.
OF VICKSBURG, June 27, 1863.
I am out here studying a most complicated geography and preparing for Joe Johnston if he comes to the relief of Vicksburg. As usual I have to leave my old companions and troops in the trenches of Vicksburg, and deal with strange men, but I find all willing and enthusiastic. Although the weather is intensely hot I have ridden a great deal, and think I know pretty well the weak and strong points of this extended line of circumvallation, and if Johnston comes I think he will have a pretty hard time to reach Vicksburg, although from the broken nature of the country he may feign at many points and attack but at one. Black River, the real line, is now so low it can be forded at almost any point and I prefer to fight him at the ridge along which all the roads lead. Of these there are several some of which I have blocked with fallen trees and others left open for our own purposes, and which will be open to him if he crosses over. . . .
My military family numbers by the tens of thousands and all must know that they enjoy a part of my thoughts and attention. With officers and soldiers I know how to deal, but am willing to admit ignorance as to the people who make opinions according to their contracted knowledge and biassed prejudices, but I know the time is coming when the opinion of men ‘not in arms at the country's crisis, when her calamities call for every man capable of bearing arms’ will be light as [compared] to those of men who first, last and all the time were in the van. . . .
I doubt if history affords a parallel to the deep and bitter enmity of the women of the South. No one who sees them and hears them but must feel the intensity of their hate. Not a man is seen; nothing but women with houses plundered, fields open to the cattle and horses, pickets lounging on every porch, and desolation sown broadcast, servants all gone and women and children bred in luxury, beautiful and accomplished, begging with one breath for the soldiers’ rations and in another praying that the Almighty or Joe Johnston will come and kill us, the despoilers of their homes and all that is sacred. Why cannot they look back to the day and the hour when I, a stranger in Louisiana, begged and implored them to pause in their career, that secession was death, was everything fatal, and that their seizure of the public arsenals was an insult that the most abject nation must resent or pass down to future ages an object of pity and scorn? Vicksburg contains many of my old pupils and friends; should it fall into our hands I will treat them with kindness, but they have sowed the wind and must reap the whirlwind. Until they lay down their arms and submit to the rightful authority of the government they must not appeal to me for mercy or favors. . . .
SOURCES: M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Editor, Home Letters of General Sherman, p. 267-9. 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 2/05.