I returned to Cairo from Paducah aboard the gunboat, Juliet, to have further conversation with Admiral Porter. On the trip, I wrote this letter to Minnie:
U.S. Gunboat “Juliet” Near Cairo
January 6, 1864
My Dear Minnie,
I am now on board the pleasant little Gunboat Juliet, in the Ohio River, approaching Cairo, having been to Paducah to examine that Post. I shall delay a few hours at Cairo and pass down to Columbus, and down to Memphis. It is all we can do to get along for the ice, which is fast closing up the River, but the ice rarely if ever closes the Mississippi below Cairo.
I cannot tell you how bad I felt to leave you alone at that School in Cincinnati but it is so important you should now be studying that I could not help it. I hope the next day you got out to Mount Notre Dame, and that you met there not only Kind Sisters, but congenial Companions. While I want you to learn all a young lady should Know, I am equally anxious that you should be associated with agreeable pleasant People. Though but a Child in Years you know how we love you, how for years in California, in Kansas, Louisiana and on the Battlefield my little Minnie has been the object of almost adoration. Oh, how I have hoped that Some chance would allow me to get you all together in some home where we could travel along our Earthly journey together.
Already Willy is gone from us, and you are growing into womanhood, before I have had the time to Know you. But I feel assured that you will in some way remember me and make my later years compensation for our long separation. There is nothing I have or can obtain that you shall not have by asking if for your good, and in return you must tell me every thing that happens to you or interests you, no matter what, tell me, and you need not fear. I want you to be acquainted with all whom you naturally meet, but reserve your friendship for such as you specially admire, or who are likely to be your associates in after life.
I know Girls will think of their beaus. I don’t want you to be an exception, on the contrary, but marriage should not be even thought of or promised until after sixteen. Indeed 18 or 20 are better, but all I will ever ask you is always to be frank and candid in this as well as all other Subjects to your Mama & me. We are the best friends you will ever have in this world, and sensible as we are, we will never impose on you any unreasonable restraints or conditions. I would rather think of Minnie as a little child creeping up to me for protection, but I know She is no longer a Child and only ask her to retain that affection & confidence of childhood, which is the most beautiful & loving feature of women of any life or station.
I want you to Know Mrs. Colonel Swords, and the favorites of Mr. L’Hommedieu and Larz Anderson as they may come to See you or may send for you at some vacation. Write to me as often as you can, and to Mama & Lizzie quite as often. Never forget or neglect Lizzie who will be to you as a companion long after I am gone, & may be forgotten.
You may not hear from me or of me for some weeks, but you Know that I think of you always, and that I will write when I can. Many friends have already enquired for you, and more will down at Vicksburg, and all will be made happy to Know that you are recovered from the sickness of last Summer.
Your affectionate father,
W. T. Sherman