I wrote this letter to my Brother In Law, Phil:
TO PHILEMON B. EWING
Camp on Black River, 18 miles East of Vicksburg, July 28, 1863
On the theory that Ellen and all the children are now coming down the Mississippi I propose to deposit with you for general information in our rather large family circle a description of our Location. Between the Yazoo and Black Rivers is a ridge of ground about 150 feet above Mississippi high water of a sandy clay soil which has washed in chasms & valleys of the most complicated shape. The west slopes are peculiarly steep & gutter-like, whilst the spires & valleys decline with Easier grade to the East. Nevertheless the soil is rich in the Extreme and the country was covered with a dense growth of forest trees and the sharp ravines and valleys filled with cane (fishing Rods). The Railroad from Vicksburg East crosses the Ridge by heavy grades and deep cuts and crosses Black River 12 miles due east of Vicksburg. That Bridge was destroyed, but a floating Bridge has been made by us, and has been used in Crossing the army on several occasions. That part of the RailRoad is also in good order and has 5 locomotives and plenty of cars found in Vicksburg after the siege. We use these cars to carry our stores to Black River which is our Depot. Our Division is there. Hugh now commands a Division at a Bridge which I built at a post 6 miles north & east of the Rail Road Known as Messengers. Another Division watches & guards another ford & ferry about 3 miles further up.
The 4th Division of my Corps occupies a central position a little in rear, and my Headquarters. are in front of this Reserve, about 4 1/2 miles north by east of the Railroad Bridge. I keep the Battalion of Regulars near me as a Guard. We are camped in a beautiful oak grove, with large abandoned fields to the front, as handsome a place as you would wish to See. We live in tents of course and have all our mess arrangements, complete with our horses close at hand perfectly independent of all the world.
Grant offered to send my Corps to Natchez but as he left it to my option I preferred to stay here for good reasons. This Land is stripped of slaves, and Everything, whereas the Country about Natchez is comparatively untouched. Were we to go to Natchez it would be one endless strife about run away slaves, plundering and pillaging soldiers and I am sick and tired of it. I have had my share of this trouble and am willing others should try it. Our men are now all Expert thieves, sparing nothing not even the clothes of women, children & Negroes. Nothing is left between Vicksburg & Jackson so I can have peace here.
Nearly all the officers & many of the men have gone on furlough, to enjoy the pleasing applause of friends north, but I remain to prepare for new labors as soon as the heats of summer will admit of motion. I have a healthy camp & have no fears of yellow or other fevers. All I ask is for the U.S. to give me 10,000 Recruits and I will have my corps ready for Mobile & Atlanta by October. One last campaign surely must satisfy all reasonable minds, and I must say that the Revolution is progressing as fast as is healthy. We have not only to combat open Rebellion, but inherent anarchy. I want to have the satisfaction to dispose of one mob, a city mob, like that in New York when I will feel that I have travelled the full circle and then be most happy to slide out & let younger & more ambitious men finish the job. Were your mother in better health I would expect your father down for in Vicksburg he would see much of deep interest. But I suppose he cannot leave now. Hugh is in good condition and Charley seems well pleased at his new Rank & office. We have all had good luck in dodging bullets of which we have heard a goodly quantity.
I was in hopes Morgan would pay Lancaster a visit in his course and give Charley a call, but I suppose he had wasted his fire before he got that far. Our last accounts are that with a fragment he passed through Nelsonville.
Give all the assurances of my best love, and if your Boy Tom remembers me tell him I often think of him. I have no doubt he will be a famous scholar.
As ever, yours affectionately,
W. T. Sherman