Friday, April 17, 1863

I wrote the following to my wife, Ellen:


Camp Opposite Vicksburg, April 17, 1863
Dearest Ellen,

I have all your letters up to April. 8 inclusive. I think I have anticipated all your propositions. As to writing a good letter to the newspaper editor, Halsted, I doubt if I can without some provoking cause. On business I could make it short enough and to the point, but on any general topic, it would depend on the humor, so that if the letter I have written him is not to your liking wait till an occasion offers.

I once wrote to Gen. Meigs my opinion of Colonel Swords, also several times to John. Swords is an honest, strict and conscientious officer. You never hear of fraudulent contracts & charters with him. But Halleck thinks he is too close for the times; that he does not rise to the occasion. I remember once up the Tennessee he ordered up from Louisville some steamboats and Halleck thought his aim at economy lost time, which in military matters is awful. Halleck knows Swords as well as I do, and for me to recommend him to notice would be superfluous. I wish you would write to Mrs. Swords, and assure her of the deep friendship I entertain for the Colonel and herself, that I don’t claim or wish to pretend to any influence save in my own immediate command. But if ever it lies in my power to advance Colonel Swords interest, he may command me. John will also (I feel certain) advocate his interests, but the Truth is, in his Department there is no room for much advancement. He is now almost famous for having escaped the charges of corruption & fraud that have so lavishly been poured out on the army QuarterMasters. Assure Mrs. Swords of my oft expressed opinion that Colonel Swords is one of a Class of Gentlemen I fear that belongs to a Past age, who will serve his Government patiently, silently, honestly & well and never complain. But this is no reason why he should be overlooked in the disgraceful scramble for title & power, without the ability to wield it well.

I have never been considered the advocate of McClellan or anybody. I have often said that McClellan’s reputation as a scholar & soldier were second to none after Mexico. I heard Gen. Persifor F. Smith in 1849, pronounce him better qualified to command than any of our then Generals. I remember once, when we were riding along and talking of certain events in Mexico, he named some half dozen young officers who he thought should at once be pushed forward & McClellan was the first in order after Lee. I admit the Right &: duty of Mr. Lincoln to select his own agents and when one displeases him, there can be no accord, and he should set him aside. He is ex necessitate to that Extent, King & can do no wrong. At all events, every body must & should submit with good Grace. But Knowing the very common clay out of which many of our new Generals are made, I have trembled at any shifting of Commanders, until the Army feels assured that a change is necessary. I know Hooker well, and tremble to think of his handling 100,000 men in the presence of Lee. I dont think Lee will attack Hooker in position because he will doubt if it will pay. But let Hooker once advance or move laterally and I fear the result.

Rosecrans in like manner is obliged to act. Every yard he advances diminishes his strength, and exposes his roads to the incursions of the Southern Guerillas & Cavalry that are bolder and better than ours. Properly, he keeps his army massed, and in that shape will fight well, but he must move. The moment an army moves in this country it draws itself out in a long thin string exposed to all manner of Risk.


About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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