I received a letter from one of General Buell’s Friends asking for my recollections on the war so far. I am not in favor of writing about the history at this time. Now is the time to fight and settle the war. History is for later.
JOHN M. WRIGHT
HeadQuarters, 15th Army Corps, Camp on Big Black, Mississippi September 2, 1863
Major J. M. Wright-A.A.G., Louisville, Kentucky
My Dear Friend,
Yours of August 25th is received. I am here guarding the Line of Black River, and drilling my Corps after a short rest made necessary by the preceding seven 7 months of continual labor. I have none of the Books or Memoranda of dates, that would enable me to speak with precision of Events or the state of facts in Kentucky at the time, General Buell relieved me, nor am I willing yet to give my full ideas of the political and military state of affairs at that exact time; though always willing to say, that I then regarded the task, on which he entered a most difficult and delicate one.
I feel towards General Buell great personal and official respect and will do all I can, to secure to him the respect of his Fellow Soldiers and Fellow men, and with this remark I take the liberty to add, that I do not believe General Buell as a Soldier or Citizen will be benefitted by a Publication, which will be regarded as a mere personal matter. The time for history is, after the end is attained. That end may yet be far off in the future, and when War is over, and people settle down to the Arts of Peace, they will regard all questions according to the new state of affairs. I fear the northern people are again settling back into one of their periodical states of apathy, on the supposition, that War is over, whereas we all know and feel; that the Leaders of the South are buckling on their armor and preparing for a new, and it may be, a more successful display of desperate physical energy.
General Buell’s friends may well, and very properly collect and collate all facts, illustrating his important part of the Great Whole, but to segregate his administration and connect it with the former and subsequent periods of the War may raise personal controversies, that will further embarrass him and impair his future usefulness. The Record of the Court, which sat so long in Cincinnati in his Case, and his own answer, which I and all his friends have read with satisfaction are full and comprehensive. But even then the claim set up, that he saved Grant’s Army at Shiloh has raised a prejudice against him, in the minds of many worthy Officers, who have gone on and strengthened their fame, so that, if a controversy should arise, Buell would get the worst of it. I advise Buell and all men to stop writing but to join the Army in the field in any capacity, for we need the actual Service of every man in the Military Service. There should be no idlers now.
When War is over, we may have a Century, in which to scramble for personal fame. Current events are still too absorbing for any patriot to stop to discuss the Past. Let us all go on to secure the object of the War, save the Ship of State, before we undertake to explain, how it was done, or who did it. To us, with an angry, embittered enemy in front and all round us, it looks childish, foolish, yea criminal for sensible men to be away off to the Rear, sitting in security, torturing their brains and writing on reams of foolscap to fill a gap, which the future Historian will dispose of by a very short, and may be an unimportant chapter, or even paragraph.
I would like General Buell to know, what I say. I am his friend, have been always, and always hope to be; and my advice is for him to stop writing, but to join some one of our armies, as a Commander if possible, or as a Subordinate otherwise. Like in a Race, the end is all, that is remembered by the Great World. Those, who are out at the end will never be able to magnify the importance of intermediate actions, no matter how brilliant and important. Assuring you of my personal Respect.
I am truly your friend.
W.T. Sherman, Major General