FLAG-SHIP BLACK HAWK, North of Vicksburg
I wrote this letter to my wife, Ellen, yesterday before I left.
TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
HEADQUARTERS. 15 Army Corps, before Vicksburg, April 29, 1863 Dearest Ellen,
I got your letter from Cincinnati and am glad I did not misjudge you in Supposing you had too much sense to come down here on a wild goose errand. Mrs. Grant came down & poor Grant had to make so many & such antic apologies that even his wife must have been mortified. It will be quoted as one of the many pieces of evidence that he did nothing at Vicksburg & meant to do nothing, for I see in the horizon the first faint clouds that threaten Grants fair fame and history. Well, though I would rather See you than any one on earth, I say honestly & truly you did right not to come. -Indeed it would have been wrong to come. I will escape from the popular pen in which a supposed virtue & patriotism caught me along with others as soon as decency will permit. It may be in some safe place we may enjoy peace & each others society whilst the factions of a Demagoguism tears our Dear People to pieces.
The Noises & clamor have produced their fruits. Even Grant is cowed & afraid of the newspapers. He is down at Carthage, the Fleet is below Vicksburg, and I was on the point of following when the order was countermanded. Then I got an order that he would like to have a feint made on Haines Bluff provided I did not fear the People might style it a Repulse. I wrote him to make his plans founded on as much good Sense as possible & let the People mind their own business. He had ordered me to attack Vicksburg, & I had done so. Now to divert attention from his movement against Grand Gulf he wants another demonstration up Yazoo. Of course I will make it and let the People find out when they can if it be a Repulse or no. I suppose we must ask the People in the Press, or some half dozen little whippersnappers who represent the Press, but are in fact spies in our Camp too lazy, idle, & cowardly to be soldiers. These must be consulted before I can make a simulated attack on Haines Bluff in aid to Grant & Porter that I know are in a tight place at Grand Gulf. Therefore prepare yourself for another blast against Sherman blundering & being repulsed at Haines whilst McClernand charges gallantly ashore and Carries Grand Gulf.
But when they take Grand Gulf they have the Elephant by the tail. I say the whole plan is hazardous in the Extreme but I will do all I can to aid Grant. Should as the papers now intimate Grant be relieved & McClernand left in command, you may expect to hear of me at St. Louis, for I will not serve under McClernand. He is the impersonation of my Demon Spirit, not a shade of respect for truth, when falsehood is easier manufactured & fitted to his purpose: an overtowering ambition and utter ignorance of the first principles of war. I have in my possession his orders to do “certain things” which he would be ashamed of now. He knows I saw him cow at Shiloh. He knows he blundered in ignorance at the Post & came to me beseechingly, “Sherman what shall we do now?” And yet no sooner is the tempest past, and the pen in hand, his star is to be brightened and none so used to abuse, none so patient under it as Sherman. And therefore Glory at Shermans expense.
The day will come when they will know that Sherman has about as much feeling as is proper, and though he may bottle it up when it does come out somebody will feel it. Indeed McClernand was at the bottom of all the stories of mismanagement, of want of medicines, supplies &c. Fault finding during the period he was not in command. My own opinion is that this whole plan of attack on Vicksburg will fail must fail, and the fault will be on us all of course. But Grant will be the front, his recall leaves McClernand next. I could simply get a leave & Stay away. You keep easy at home.
I start in an hour to make the demonstration up the Yazoo. I shall have ten regiments of infantry, two ironclads, the Mohawk and De Kalb, and a parcel of mosquitoes. I don t expect a fight, but a devil of noise to make believe and attract any troops in motion from Vicksburg towards Grand Gulf back. I think Grant will make a safe lodgment at Grand Gulf, but the real trouble is and will be the maintenance of the army there. If the capture of Holly Springs made him leave the Tallahatchie, how much more precarious is his position now below Vicksburg with every pound of provision, forage and ammunition to float past the seven miles of batteries at Vicksburg or be hauled thirty-seven miles along a narrow boggy road? I will be up Yazoo about three days.
I am not concerned about the Cincinnati Gazette. The correspondent’s insinuations against Grant and myself about cotton are ridiculous. Grant is honest as old Zack Taylor, and I am a cotton-burner. I have even forbidden all dealing in cotton and not an officer of my command ever owned a bale. As to myself, I would burn every parcel of it as the bone of contention and apple of discord. Now that Mr. Chase has undertaken to manage cotton as well as finance I wish him a good time with it.
As ever yours,
W. T. Sherman