General Lew Wallace has written me in search of a command and to complain of his treatment by Grant after Shiloh. Grant was disappointed that Wallace failed to arrive on the field of battle with his troops in a timely fashion. I have encouraged Wallace to seek a new command and will discuss the subject with Grant.
TO LEW WALLACE
Head Qrs. 15 Army Corps. Camp on Big Black Mississippi
August 27, 1863
Major General Lew Wallace, Crawfordsville, Indiana
I was much gratified at the receipt of your letter of August 16, and accept the tender you make of congratulations at the success which has marked our recent Campaign. I assure you that I regret exceedingly that General Grant had not carried with him throughout his entire campaign the Generals with which he opened it. Donelson was as important a beginning as the Capture of Vicksburg the End of the one Great Design. General Grant is now up the River and when he returns, I will endeavor to convey to him your proper expressions of confidence without in the least compromising your delicate sense of honor.
I have reasons to Know that the General esteems you as possessing as large a share of high soldierly qualities as would satisfy the ambition of most men, and that he would readily aid you to regain the high position you held in the Estimation of the Country. If I can aid you it will afford me real pleasure.
We have all made mistakes and Should be generous to each other. Some men possess one quality, others another, but all can be made to Subserve a great whole. General Grant possesses in an eminent degree that peculiar & high attribute of using various men to produce a Common result, and now that his Character is well established we can easily subordinate ourselves to him with the absolute assurance of serving the Common Cause of our Country. For my part I would be glad that every General officer should have an appropriate command, and that all should learn from one short military Career that we can only gain a permanent fame by subordinating ourselves, and our peculiar notions to that of the Common Commander.
I will not say that you have not always done this, but I do think that if I am you I would not press an inquiry into the old matter of the Crumps Landing and Shiloh march but leave that till War is over. Subsequent Events may sweep that into the forgotten of the Past. I would advise that as soon as possible you regain the command of a Division, identify yourself with it, keep as quiet as possible and trust to opportunity for a becoming sequel to the brilliant beginning you had.
I think I appreciate the feelings of Gentlemen such as you and many others of our General officers, but I do say that in war there can be but one solid foundation for a lasting Fame. A single occasion can give a meteor like Reputation, but real enduring fame can only result from long patient hard labor, study, courage and actual experience which can only be gained by continuous service with armies in the Field. I do not think General Grant or any officer has any unkind feelings towards you. Some one or more may have been envious of your early & brilliant career, but as I know, you must be ambitious of more lasting and Real fame. I feel that with the advice of unselfish friends that end is still within your Reach.
There are some of our Generals (necessarily chosen in haste by a distracted Government) that are concerned by a growing desire for Fame & notoriety who are miserable if any one achieves a little more than they, but I know you are not of that class. I believe you have a proper desire to be appreciated, but probably have been a little impatient at the slow process. Now that the Public mind is toned down to a pitch that will admit of waiting for the natural developments of Time I think you too would be willing to fall into our Slower School. I have been more frank than you probably expected, but I assure you that I will gladly serve you in the best way I know how, and that is in giving you very honest, unselfish advice. Avoid all controversies, bear patiently temporary reverses, get into the Current events as quick as possible, and hold your horses for the last home stretch.
The War is not yet over. The South still has a large army, and though we have made large inroads yet her People have an ugly, keen and desperate Spirit, and we must not presume too much. For all real hard working, and self sacrificing soldiers there is still a Larger Future. If these my ideas approximate your convictions it will afford me great satisfaction to assist you in regaining your true place among the Young and conspicuous Generals of this war.
With respect your friend,
W.T. Sherman, Major General