Thursday, July 31, 1862

Memphis, Tennessee

I am so busy with my duties here, I have not found time to write home.  Today, I sent the following letter to my wife, Ellen.


Memphis, July 31, 1862

Dearest Ellen,

When I was back in the country with no means of communicating I fell into the habit of not writing intending to make up when I got here but it is the old game over.  A man can’t feed his Legs without coming for a pass and nobody’s pass will do but the commanding officer. Every slave has run off, and of course I am supposed to be in immediate possession! Miss Nancy raised in her mistress’s bosom and nursed like her own children, has run off, and the whole family must rush to General Sherman. Father brother and all gone to fight us, but of course I must neglect all business to catch Miss Nancy.   Cases of that kind occur fifty times a day, besides real ones.

Now I have got 800 negroes at work on the Fort. The President’s order don’t embrace Tennessee & loyal as well as disloyal Slaves are embraced.  My orders are to take all who come in, and we will dispose of them when the Fort is done according to Law and the facts then. My notion is to pay the Kentuckyans slaves for their Stolen horses. As to freeing the slaves, I don’t think the time is come yet.  When Negroes are liberated, either they or masters must perish. They cannot exist together except in their present relation, and to expect negroes to change from Slaves to masters without one of those horrible convulsions which at times Startle the world is absurd.

The war this Fall & Winter will be very bloody, and the South will get the advantage. They now have the advantage in numbers & position. They are concentrated & we scattered. They were nearly out of Bacon & Salt meat, but the desire of our people to trade has soon supplied this. Cincinnati has sent enough salt to supply all the army meat for six months. In like manner the Jews & Speculators have sent in enough Gold to get all the cartridges necessary, so the two wants of the army are supplied, a whole year lost to the War, & some Jews & speculators have made 10 per cent profit.

Of course our lives are nothing in the Scales of profit with our commercial People. The Burning of cotton by the People of the South was one act of folly but our buying the refuse of them for Gold & especially shipping salt, which from scarcity has risen to $100 a barrel, is a greater act of folly.  I have stopped it instanter on reaching the River, but the thing is going on all round me, by consent of the Boards of Trade of Cincinnati, Louisville &c. I am getting tired of this, & of the volunteer service and would escape if I could.

Dayton & Hammond write you all about our Camp & the details of life: tents, mess &c. mosquitos. Our camp is a pleasant one ground enough but contracted. Secesh on both sides and all round. The idea of making them take the oath is absurd. Of course I Know & everybody knows they prefer the South to the North, and that they hope & pray that the Southern Army will in due time destroy us. I go on the theory that all the leading men are secesh, and the laborers & mechanics neutral or tired of war. A good many people have left & many more must or starve for there can be no concession.

Where the Enemy’s pickets come within sight, I send out 20 & 25 miles but must send a Regiment & their cavalry closes in right behind. If a Barrel of salt leave town it is on its way to Holly Springs & the Secesh camp in half an hour. We are in our Enemy’s country and I act accordingly. The North may fall into Bankruptcy & anarchy first but if they can hold on, the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the People.

Major Sanger, my aide has his second wife.  He is about 30 yrs. old, good rider, very cheerful, & my favorite to Hammond’s disgust, because he knows something about the military technology a thing Hammond can’t learn now.  Military language is peculiar & it is too Slow a process to give an order and then to peruse it, and define all its words.  Sanger was at West Point about Hugh’s time but did not graduate. I found him a major of the Illinois 55th & appropriated him.

I have seen John McCracken once.  He came out to camp which is a mile south & east of the Gayoso House the loafing center of Memphis.

I have received a letter from Charley and in it he copies a telegraphic order from Halleck to the commanding officer of the Battalion 13 Infantry enquiring why a former order had not been obeyed, and then ordering him “to proceed at once via Columbus to Corinth”.  Instead of taking this as an order, packing up & Starting out immediately, his commanding officer has ignored the order.  The fault that keeps Charley from coming here lies with his battalion commander, not with General Halleck.

My love to all.  Yours ever.

W. T. Sherman

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