On Board Gun boat Juliet, Mouth of White River
January 28, 1864
It was my intention to have written you again at Memphis before starting but time slipped along so fast that I had to start at the appointed time without fulfilling my purpose. I wrote you on Monday and Sent you a check for $250; all I could Spare, and I will receive no more till I get back from this expedition. Knocking about so much my expenses are heavy, and I am in debt to Dayton.
I sent you a paper about the banquet which was really a fine affair, the hall of the Gayoso was crammed and the utmost harmony prevailed. Every thing passed off well my remarks as reported by the Argus were about right. The Bulletin got mere incoherent points. I cannot speak consecutively, but it seems that what I do say is vehemently applauded. The point which may be wrongly conceived was this. As the South resorted to war, we accepted it, and as they fought for slaves and States Rights they could not blame us if they lost both as the result of the war. That they the South prided themselves on high grounds of honor I was willing to take issue, adopting their own Rules, or those of the most fashionable clubs of Paris, London, New Orleans and Paris. If a member goes into an election he must abide the result or be blackballed or put in Coventry. Now as the Southern People went into the Presidential Election they as honorable men were bound to abide the result. I also described the mode & manner of seizure of the Garrison & arsenal at Baton Rouge & pronounced that a breach of soldierly honor, and the firing on boats from behind a cotton wood tree. People at the North may not feel the weight of these points but I know the South so well that I know what I said will be gall & wormwood to Some but it will make others think.
I was at Memphis Tuesday & part of Wednesday. The Festival was on Monday. Several real old Southerners met me and confessed their cause would be recorded in History as I put it. I was not aware of the hold I had on the People till I was there this time. Hurlbut did not mingle with them & was difficult of access, and everytime 1 went into a theatre or public assemblage there was a storm of applause. 1 endeavored to avoid it as much as possible, but it was always so good natured that I could not repel it. If I succeed in my present blow I would not be surprised if Mississipi would be as Tennessee, but I do not allow myself to be deceived. The Old Regime is not yet dead, and they will fight for their old privileges yet.
So many of our old Regiments are going on furlough that we will be short handed. If we had our Ranks full I know we could take Mobile & the Alabama River in 30 days and before summer could secure all of Red River also, leaving the grand Battle to come off in East Tennessee or Georgia in June. We could hold fast all we have & let the South wriggle but our best plan is activity. I have had my share but cannot avoid the future. Surely if we do succeed as we have in the past I ought to be allowed rest.
If I could be sure of employment in California I would go this spring but I fear that my motives would be misconstrued. Beside you are so situated that you and the children are dependent on my Salary & before I could get a start at something else you would suffer. I am now on the wave of popularity and the next plunge is away down, down. I know it well and would avoid it, but how is the question. I am about to march 200 miles straight into danger with a comparatively small force and that composed of troops in a manner strange to me, but my calculations are all right and now for the Execution.
I expect to leave from Vicksburg in a very few days, and will cut loose all communications so you will not hear from me save through the Southern papers till I am back to the Mississippi. You of course will be patient and will appreciate my motives in case of accident, for surely I could ask rest and an opportunity for some one Else, say McPherson, but there are double reasons. I will never order my command where I am not willing to go, and besides it was politic to break up the force at Memphis which was too large to lie idle & Hurlbut would not reduce it. I had to bring him away & make a radical change. He ranks McPherson and we have not confidence enough in his steadiness to put him on this expedition. He is too easily stampeded by rumors. I have a better sense of chances. I run two chances: 1st: In case the Enemy has learned my plans or has guessed them he may send to Meridian a superior force or 2nd: Bad Roads may prevent my moving with the celerity which will command success. Would that I had the 15th Corps that would march in Sunshine or storm to fulfill my plans without asking what they were. I almost wish I had been left with that Specific command, but confess I prefer service near the Old Mississippi which enables us to Supply ourselves so bountifully. I hear but little from Huntsville, but suppose all our folks are comfortable there..
I sent Majors Taylor, Fitch & MacFeely back to Huntsville from Memphis & have with me only my aids and Quarter Master. I don’t want any non combatant mouths along to feed, and am determined this time not to have a tribe of leeches along to consume our food. Not a tent Shall be carried or any baggage save on our horses. The wagons & packs shall carry ammunition & food along. I will set the example myself. Experience has taught me if one tent is carried any quantity of trash will load down the wagons. If I had ten more Regiments I would be tempted to try Mobile, but as it is if I break at Meridian & Demopolis I will cut off one of the most fruitful corn supplies of the Enemy and will give Mississippi a chance to rest.
The State is now full of conscripts gangs carrying to their armies the unwilling, the old & young. We will take all provisions and God help the Starving families. I warned them last year against this last visitation, and now it is at hand.
I will write to Tommy, and will send him some photographs in lieu of the picture which I promised to draw him. Indeed I have no time and want Tommy to feel that I do not neglect him. I admit my heart was too much wrapped up in Willy, that I was too partial to him—he was so near me, and so confiding and Seemed to reflect the better parts of my nature that I dreamed that he would be so much better & yet like myself. I know Tommy has more intellect and all the Elements of a fine boy and I will love him & cherish him as well.
You think I Slight Lizzie for Minnie. I do not feel so at all. I am uneasy lest Minnie should mature an awkward, uneducated girl, and therefore dwelt on her case more. Lizzie is different, much gentler and will develop slower and more gradually. The truth is I fear I shall see less of them in after years than I have in the past, but promise to do by all as near right as I can.
I feel the full load of care and anxiety you bear-mourning for Willy, fearing for the future and oppressed with intense anxiety for parents. I believe you can bear all, and that you will for our sake. Just think of me with 50,000 lives in my hands, with all the anxieties of their families. This load is heavier than even you imagine. I will write again.
W. T. Sherman