I want to start after Johnston as soon as possible. We must first cross the Big Black. Tuttle finished building a bridge from logs taken from cabins at Messinger’s. General Steele has crossed the river with his division, but is slowed by enemy pickets. General Parke reports that the bridge at Birdsong Ferry is gone and he will be delayed in crossing until another can be built. General Ord with the 13th corp is marching along the railroad tracks and have encountered Johnston’s cavalry pickets. There was heavy skirmishing with 3 enemy divisions between Messinger’s and Birdsong Ferry, but they retreated toward Jackson. The day is hot with temperature of 100 degrees.
Johnston is retreating. I had General Osterhaus forward the following by telegraph to General Grant:
OSTERHAUS’ HEADQUARTERS, July 5, 1863
I have reports from all points from Hall’s and Baldwin’s Ferries to Messinger’s Ford. There is not a single rebel anywhere, except a very small squad on the other side of Edwards Station. General Sherman’s scout (Tuttle), just in from a trip up the river from Hankinson’s Ferry to the bridge here, on the east side of the river, corroborates the above statement. He further reports that the whole train of General Breckinridge was ordered back to Jackson and the other side of Pearl River.
P. J. OSTERHAUS
I wrote the following to my wife, Ellen:
TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
Camp near Black River, 20 miles east of Vicksburg
July 5, 1863
You will have heard all about the capitulation of Vicksburg on the 4th of July, and I Suppose duly appreciate it. It is the event of the war thus far. Davis placed it in the scale of Richmond, and pledged his honor that it should be held even if he had to abandon Tennessee. But it was of no use, and we are now in full possession. I am out and have not gone in to See, as even before its surrender Grant was disposing to send me forth to meet Johnston who is and has been since June 15 collecting a force about Jackson to raise the siege. I will have Ords corps, the 13th (McClernand’s) Sherman’s 15th and Parke’s 9th. All were to have been out last night but Vicksburg & the 4th of July were too much for one day and they are not yet come. I expect them hourly.
I am busy making 3 bridges to cross Black River and Shall converge on Bolton and Clinton and if not held back by Johnston shall enter Jackson, and then finish what was so well begun last month. I will break up all the Railroads & bridges in the Interior so that it will be impossible for armies to assemble again to threaten the River.
The capture of Vicksburg is to me the first gleam of daylight in this war. It was strong by nature, and had been strengthened by immense labor & stores. Grant telegraphs me 27,000 prisoners, 128 Field Guns and 100 siege pieces. Add to these, 13 Guns, & 5000 Prisoners at Arkansas Post, 18 Guns & 250 prisoners at Jackson, 5 Guns & 2000 prisoners at Port Gibson; 10 heavy Guns at Grand Gulf, 60 field Guns & 3500 prisoners at Champion Hill, and 14 heavy Guns at Haines Bluff, beside the immense amounts of ammunition, shot shells, horses, wagons &c. make the most extraordinary fruits of our six months campaign. Here is Glory enough for all the Heros of the West, but I content myself with Knowing & feeling that our enemy is weakened so much, and more yet by failing to hold a point deemed by them as essential to their empire in the South West. We have ravaged the Land, and have sent away half a million of negroes so that this country is paralyzed and cannot recover its lost strength in twenty years.
Had the Eastern armies done half as much, war would be substantially entered upon. But I read of Washington, Baltimore & Philadelphia being threatened & Rosecrans sitting idly by, writing for personal favor in the newspapers, and our Government at Washington chiefly engaged in pulling down its leaders. Hooker is now consigned to retirement. Well I thank God, we are far from Washington and that we have in Grant not a Great man or a hero, but a good, plain sensible kindhearted fellow. Here are Grant, & Sherman & McPherson, three sons of Ohio, have achieved more actual success than all else combined and I have yet to see the first kindly notice of us in the State. On the contrary a system of abuse designed & calculated to destroy us with the People & the Army. But the Army of the Tennessee, those who follow their colors & do not skulk behind in the North, at the Hospitals & depots far to the Rear, Know who think & act, and if Life is spared us, our Countrymen will realize the Truth. I shall go on through heat & dust till the Mississippi is clear, till the large armies of the enemy in this quarter seek a more secure base. Then I will renew my hopes of getting a quiet hour when we can grow up among our children & prepare them for the dangers which may environ their later life.
I did hope Grant would have given me Vicksburg and let some one else follow up the enemy inland, but I never suggest anything to myself personal, and only what I deem necessary to fulfill the purposes of war. I know that the capture of Vicksburg will make an impression the world over, and expect loud acclamations in the North West, but I heed more its effects on Louisiana & Arkansas. If Banks succeed as he now must at Port Hudson, and the army in Missouri push to Little Rock, the Region west of the Mississipi will cease to be the Theater of war save to the Bands of Robbers created by war who now prefer to live by pillage than honest labor. Rosecran’s army & this could also, acting in concert, drive all opposing masses into the recesses of Georgia & Alabama, leaving the Atlantic slopes the great Theater of War.
I wish Halleck would put a Guard on the White House to keep out the Committees of preachers Grannies & Dutchmen that absorb Lincoln’s time & thoughts, fill up our thinned Ranks with conscripts, and then handle these vast armies with the Single thought of success regardless of who shall get the personal credit and Glory.
I am pleased to hear from you that occasionally you receive Kindness from men out of regard to me. I know full well there must be a large class of honest people north who are sick of the wrangling of officers for power and notoriety and are sick of the silly flattery piled by interested parties on their favorites. McClernand, the only sample of that List with us, played himself out, and there is not an officer or soldier here but rejoices he is gone away. With an intense selfishness and lust of notoriety he could not let his mind get beyond the limits of his vision and therefore all was brilliant about him and dark & suspicious beyond. My style is the reverse. I am somewhat blind to what occurs near me, but have a clear perception of things & events remote. Grant possesses the happy medium and it is for this reason I admire him. I have a much quicker perception of things than he, but he balances the present & remote so evenly that results follow in natural course. I would not have risked the passing the Batteries at Vicksburg & trusting to the long route by Grand Gulf & Jackson to reach what we both knew were the key points to Vicksburg, but I would have aimed to reach the same points by Grenada. But both arrived at the same points and though both of us Knew little of the actual ground, it is wonderful how well they have realized our military calculations.
As we sat in Oxford last November we saw in the future what we now realize and like the architect who sees developed the beautiful vision of his Brain, we feel an intense satisfaction at the realization of our military plans. Thank God no president was near to thwart our plans, and that the short sighted Public could not drive us from our object till the plan was fully realized.
Well, the campaign of Vicksburg is ended, and I am either to begin anew or simply make complete the natural sequences of a finished Job. I regard my movement as the latter, though you and others may be distressed at the guesses of our newspaper correspondent on the Spot (Cairo) and made to believe I am marching on Mobile, or Chattanooga or Atlanta. The weather is intensely hot, and dust terrible. I may have to march far & long, but unless Johnston fight at Clinton or Jackson I will not expect more than affairs of Cavalry till my return.
Dayton brought me the clothes, but the truth is I never undress now except semi-occasionally to put on clean under clothes. For near two months I have slept in my clothes ready to jump to the saddle, for I have been close upon an enemy since we crossed the Mississippi near two months ago. I have just written to Brooks Bros. New York to send me two Coats & two pants. Sweat & dust have made my clothes shabby, and the bushes have made me ragged below the Knee. Hill takes admirable care of things and I can always get clean drawers, socks & shirts by asking for them. Indeed I distress him sometimes by wearing shirts & socks too long. Still we manage to get along most admirably. He is the most faithful fellow I ever saw and my stable boy Carter keeps my horses seat fat. So I am well off.
Hammond is with me as cranky as ever, but as long as he can find buttermilk he lives. He has found some secesh relations and at this moment has gone to Bovina to See a cousin, a handsome widow, whose husband is in Vicksburg. Oh the wail of these secesh Girls when Vicksburg surrendered. They cried and tore their hair, but I told them they had better not- they would survive the humiliating thought and eat whatever bread with as much relish as they ever did the corn dodgers of Aunt Dinah, now Gone to the Land of Linkum.
It is hard to see as I do here an old preacher Mr. Fox, 40 years resident on this spot, with 17 children born to him lawfully & 11 still alive—carrying wood and milking cows. Two months ago he had a dozen house servants & 40 field hands, but now all gone, fences open & corn eaten up—garden pillaged by soldiers, house gutted of all furniture &c, indeed desolation, and he & his family compelled to appeal to us for the Soldier’s Ration. This you will say is the judgment of God, but stiff necked, he don’t see it.
Yesterday I expected to cross Black River today but the troops have not come out from the siege, but I hope to cross Black tomorrow and see who are behind the saucy pickets that sit their horses so jauntily in the Cornfield beyond.
Charley has written you, we are all well.
Love to all the folks.
W. T. Sherman