TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
Gayoso Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee Oct. 6, 1863 7 A.M.
I have got up early this morning to Steal a short period in which to write to you but I can hardly trust myself. Sleeping, waking, everywheres I see Poor Little Willy. His face & form are as deeply imprinted on my memory as were deep seated the hopes I had in his Future. Why, oh Why should that child be taken from us? leaving us full of trembling & reproaches. Though I know we did all human beings could do to arrest the ebbing tide of Life, still I will always deplore my want of judgment in taking my family to so fatal a climate at so critical period of the year. You Know why. I know why but to it must be traced the loss of that child on whose future I had based all the Ambition I ever had. If human sympathy could avail us aught, I Know & feel we have it. I see it in every eye and in every act. Poor Malmbury, an old scarred Soldier, whom the world would Style unfeeling, wept like a babe as he came to See me yesterday, and not a word was spoken of Poor Willy.
My Judgment teaches me that the bitter pang that has nearly killed us will gradually heal, and leave Willy’s memory as a more tender link between us, and our other children, who are all we could ask. Each seems to have a distinct character and disposition, but all are good and loving to us. I follow you in my mind and almost estimated the hour when all Lancaster would be shrouded in gloom to think that Willy Sherman was coming back a corpse. Dear as may be to you the Valley of Hocking, no purer, noble boy ever will again gladden it.
I am in the large Room occupied by the children. Hugh is with me.
The Staff & officer is in camp in a Grove near the Convent. General Corse is up, but his Division is still on the River. I hope to get all out to Corinth by next Sunday & move them to Tuscumbia by Land. Write to me here say till Oct. 15, after that according to what you hear. Look out for me about Huntsville, Alabama, or Athens about the 15 or 20th instant.
The railroad agent, Coolbaugh got back from Canton on Wednesday, found Joe Johnston, Stephen J. Lee, Jackson Cosby &c all at Canton with a large force of cavalry, 7000. Some important movement is on hand, yet they were stampeded by the move I made the day we left camp.
My command will be much smaller than the world thinks, but I do not even name the fact to those about me. Our country Should blush to allow our thinned Regiments to go on till nothing is left. I will go on to the End but feel the Chief Stay to my faltering Heart is now gone. I must not dwell so much on it. I will try and make Poor Willy’s memory the cure for the defects which have sullied my character.
W. T. Sherman