On Board the Silver Queen from Vicksburg to Memphis
I have time on this trip to write my wife, Ellen and daughter, Minnie.
TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
On Board Silver Cloud,
January 19, 1864
I am now returning from Vicksburg to Memphis, and will be there tomorrow. By the 25-6th instant, I expect to embark again for Vicksburg with General Hurlbut and a large part of his command to march inland for Meridian & Demopolis. If I can keep it from the enemy I will succeed, otherwise may be checkmated but we must in war risk a good deal.
The boat shakes so I can hardly write but you are so familiar with my scrawl that you can get my meaning if you can make out one word of three. I found Vicksburg as we left it: McPherson at Mrs. Edwards, two of the Girls at home, a third in the Country. Coolbaugh has gone to Mexico via New Orleans. Nobody is at our old Camp, but a Brigade is at the Railroad Bridge and another at the Creek where you remember we found a wagon upset and had to go round.
Where the newspapers represented 30,000 negro Soldiers, and General Thomas represented 6000, I found 2100. This ridiculous exaggeration in the end will kill Thomas as it should. He ought to know that the Truth will manifest itself. I had ordered General Hawkins who commands the negroes to have 4000 ready on my arrival, and he was mortified & feared I would blame him. There are some Negro troops at Port Hudson, at Natchez and Vicksburg but their aggregate will fall far short of public expectation, and if the Government depends on them and relaxes its efforts to procure white men we may lose the coming year.
We have not Seen a Guerilla on the River, and from all accounts Boats run to & from New Orleans with little Risk. As we went down, the River was full of floating ice. It is now clear, but we expect to meet some before we reach Memphis. The severity of the winter down here was as great as with you. At Memphis the Ponds froze 5 inches thick and at Vicksburg, ice formed in patches in the house. It is expected that the floating ice reached the Gulf of Mexico, which will be an extraordinary phenomenon. At Vicksburg they had no coal & all the wood was green so that People shivered around the dull fires. Now the Sun is bright & warm, and we hope the worst is past. February is usually a pleasant month South and I hope to have good weather for my trip.
I suppose the newspapers carried to you the fact that the People of Memphis offered me a public Demonstration and that I accepted. I must soon endure the affliction and will be as careful as possible. If I can yet avoid it without discourtesy I will but suppose I must submit. In what form it will appear I yet don’t know but I will be called on to Speak, & must be careful, as I know full well there is a clique who would be happy to catch me tripping. I do believe I can do more on the Mississippi that any General officer in the Service except Grant. Admiral Porter & myself are most friendly. He has given me a Gunboat, and I am now on board of one.
I enclose you a slip from the Memphis Bulletin which is a little strong but I would like to have it reprinted in California. If you write to Mr. & Mrs. Casserly, I wish you would enclose it & say that I am desirous my California friends should see I am doing good Service. I see that John Sherman has given “Mack” access to papers I have sent him & he is publishing them “without my consent.” Well so be it.
I hope your mother & father continue as well as when I left. I have as yet only the letter written by you the day after I left, but at Memphis shall receive more. Write me at Memphis till 15th February.
W. T. Sherman
I regret having to leave Minnie on her own at school. I think of her often.
TO MARIA BOYLE EWING SHERMAN
Steamboat Silver Cloud
January 19, 1864
I am now returning to Memphis from Vicksburg where I found General McPherson and all the Gentlemen we used to meet there except Colonel Coolbaugh who has gone to Mexico. All enquired very kindly for you and were delighted to know that you had recovered from your illness. I shall be in Memphis for about six days & then again for Vicksburg and hope to find there on arrival tomorrow a letter from you telling me of your first feelings on reaching the School. I wish I could have gone out with you, but you know it was impossible.
I wrote you from Memphis and fear I gave you too much advice. I would have you perfectly natural, and almost feel sorry that time will so soon change you from the loving little child to a woman, but we can’t help it. All I hope & pray for is that you may be to us the same good loving child you have ever been. You can hardly know how we love you, and what we would do to make you happy, but you must learn as other children do, so that when you become a woman you will feel easy among your equals. Don’t be impatient to become a young lady for that time will come fast enough and don’t hesitate to call me Papa, or anything that Seems to you natural. I would rather a million times that you should be happy than that I should become honored & famous.
I have many kind friends in New York, in California, in Missouri and all over our Country as well as Ohio, and it gives me more pleasure to think that in after years when I am dead and almost forgotten that Some of these kind friends will remember My Minnie and Lizzie and other children who must live long after me.
The War is not yet over, and I do not see its end. Many of us must die by it yet, and it may be my fate. But I feel certain Our Cause will prevail so that my children will reap the fruits of my labor. Were it not for this I would not feel the Same interest in Success.
People wonder why I don’t try to get more fame, but my Dear Minnie will remember that before she was born I lived much in South Carolina and afterwards in Louisiana, and that in every Battle I am fighting some of the very families in whose houses I used to spend some happy days. Of course I must fight when the time comes, but whenever a result can be accomplished without Battle I prefer it.
The Cold Nights that we felt at Morrowtown, and when we nestled so lovingly together in Cincinnati, froze the Rivers so that the ice was floating down the River all the way to Vicksburg, a thing that rarely occurs. But now it is warm and the Sun shines bright as with you in May. The ice has disappeared and the Mississippi River is in good order.
We are at this moment stopping at the mouth of White River and soon will be in motion, the boat will tremble so that one cannot write, therefore I must close, asking you to write to me at Memphis till February 10. Tell me everything in your own way and Know that any little thing that attracts your notice will be dear to me. I have just written to Mama, and will also to Lizzie before we reach Memphis.
Your loving father,
W. T. Sherman