Walnut Hills, Near Vicksburg, Mississippi
Earlier this week, I sent the following letter to my wife, Ellen:
TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
Walnut Hills, Mississippi. June 2,1863
Since our arrival here I have written you several short letters and one telegraph dispatch simply telling you of our safety. I suppose by this time you have heard enough of our march and safe arrival on the Yazoo whereby we reestablished our communications supplying the great danger of this round about movement. We were compelled to feel and assault Vicksburg as it was the only way to measure the amount of opposition to be apprehended. We now Know that it is strongly fortified on all sides and that the Garrison is determined to defend it to the last. We could Simply invest the place and allow famine and artillery to finish the work but we Know that desperate efforts will be made to relieve the place.
Joe Johnston, one of the most enterprising of all their Generals is assembling from every quarter an army at Jackson & Canton and he will soon be coming down between the Yazoo & Black. Of Course Grant is doing all he can to provide against every contingency. He sent to Banks, but Banks is investing Port Hudson & asks for reinforcement from us. All the men that can be spared from West Tennessee will be called here, and I trust Rosecrans will not allow any of Bragg’s army to be detached against us. But we hear Rosecrans is planting Gardens and it may be he will wait to gather a crop.
The weather is now very hot and we are digging Roads and approaches so that it tells on our men. But they work cheerfully and I have approaches and parallels within 80 yards of the Enemy’s Line. Daily we open a Cannonade and make the dirt fly, but the Rebels lay close in their pits and holes and we cannot tell what execution is done.
I pity the poor families in Vicksburg. Women & children are living in caves and holes underground whilst our shot & shells tear through their houses overhead. Daily & nightly conflagrations occur but still we cannot see the mischief done. We can see the Court House and Steeples of Churches, also houses on the hills back of town, but the City lies on the face of the Hill towards the River, and that is hidden from view by the shape of ground.
The hills are covered with trees and are very precipitous affording us good Camps. I have mine close up on a spur where we live very comfortably. I go out every morning and supervise the progress of work and direct the fire of the Guns. The enemy’s sharp shooters have come very near hitting me several times, but thus far I have escaped unhurt. Pitzman my engineer was shot in the hip and is gone north. Hugh & Charley are well the latter hurt in the finger only as I wrote you. He has also written you as he says a fearfully long letter and has told you doubtless much that would not occur to me.
Mr. Yeatman of St. Louis was here today and I took him all through the trenches. He is an excellent Gentleman, President of the Sanitary Commission, and we have made such arrangements that my men get a full share of the vegetables and other articles supplied by that association. We work in perfect harmony, and he is always delighted with his visits to my camps and men. Our camps have been visited by Governors & civilians but the great crowd of curiosity seekers are not allowed to come up the Yazoo. Some Ladies have come as far as the Chickasaw which is now an admirable Base of supplies. All the points of my winter movement loom up in their real importance, and I am surprised to find how perfectly I comprehended the whole topography of the place with such limited means of Knowledge. Everybody now admits that I accomplished there all that was possible.
The Northern papers bring back accounts of our late movements very much exaggerated, but still approximating the truth. I did not go to Haines Bluff at all, because the moment I reached the ground in its rear I was master of it and pushed on to the very gates of Vicksburg. I sent cavalry back to Haines to pick up the points of the strategic movement. Grant is now deservedly the hero. He is entitled to all the Credit of the movement which was risky & hazardous in the Extreme and succeeded because of its hazard. He is now belabored with praise by those who a month ago accused him of all the vices in the Calendar, and who next week will turn against him if so blows the popular breeze. Vox populi—vox humbug.
We are in good fighting trim, and I expect still some hard Knocks. The South will not give up Vicksburg without the most desperate struggle. In about three days we ought to be able to make another assault, carrying our men well up to the enemys ditch under cover.
I got the shirts 8c socks by Hammond. I needed them. Tell Dayton to remain till he is well enough to be of service. A sick man cannot be of much use here. Hammond’s return settles Sanger. Of course he will not now return, and I may appoint Charley Inspector General with the Rank of Lieutenant Colonel, unless he should succeed to the command of the Battalion. We have heard nothing positive of Capt. Washington whom we suppose to be wounded in the Hospitals of Vicksburg, poor fellow pursued by our Shot & Shells.
Tell Minnie & Willie I will write them soon. Love to Lizzie & all. I am rejoiced to hear your mother is so much better.
W. T. Sherman