Friday, March 11, 1864

Steamboat Westmoreland-approaching Memphis

March. 10, 1864

Dearest Ellen,
Again I am approaching you. I have done all I undertook & am now en route for Huntsville, but must stop, it may be a week, at Memphis to complete certain matters made necessary by General Grant’s orders received yesterday. I expect to come to Cairo, and Louisville and Huntsville. I do not think I can come to Cincinnati, for too much rests with me now. However disposed I must go on for the Spring Campaign which I judge will be the most Sanguinary of all.

I have all your letters up to the 26 of February. I was prepared to hear of your mother’s death, and feel that it is a mercy to her & us all that she is now beyond bodily pain, and when during a long and good life she would wish to be. Indeed have we been afflicted this year. Had I or Hugh or Charley been killed it would have been natural & Expected but whilst we have been permitted to look death in the face daily, till it is a familiar thing, without hardly a scratch, Death has taken your mother, and our almost too loved boy, also Father Lange who was almost as of the Family. I had been so much separated from Willy. He had lived more in my thoughts than a real person that I yet can dream of him as alive. I can recall him at any moment. It seemed to me a dream as a few days since, when I crossed Black River at Messengers, saw the ruins of our old Camp, and rode over that familiar Road to the Railroad where but a few months ago, Willy ran to me, his whole heart beaming in his face. All came back as a flash, and I could hardly realize that I should never see him again.

On reflection I agree with you that his name must remain sacred to us forever. He must remain to our memories as though living, and his name must not be taken by any one. Though dead he is still our Willy and we can love him as God only knows how we loved him. I know that he felt at all times of his life that we loved him better than we did ourselves and I feel no sense of reproach for so doing. Tommy felt slighted then, but as he grows, he too will recall the memory of his brave & manly brother. Oh that he now could take his map and trace the course in life of his father as he labors to secure to his children a home and a Government that will stand the Shocks of human passion and the world’s ambition.

I have just received from General Grant a letter in which he gives me & McPherson credit for having won for him his present high position. I have just answered it and as we approach Memphis will dispatch to him a special Courier with my answer, and full Reports of all my doings down here. As usual, as soon as I have time to record these papers I will send them to you as the Custodian of all family Records.

I have no doubt you were amused at the thousand & one stories about my Meridian trip. It certainly baffled the Sharp ones of the Press and stampeded all Alabama, but in fact was a pleasant excursion. Weather was beautiful, roads good & plenty to eat. What fighting we had was all on one side. Our aggregate Loss is 21 killed, 68 wounded, and 81 missing = 170 all told, but in a day or two I will send you my Report which will be clear & explicit. I have sent 10,000 men up Red River under General A. J. Smith with Admiral Porter to cooperate with General Banks. They are to be gone only 30 days when they come round to me at Huntsville. I want to make up my army to 40,000 men, so when we cross the Tennessee look out. Grant in command; Thomas the Center; Schofield the Left & Sherman Right. If we can’t whip Joe Johnston we will Know the reason why.

Banks in the mean time to come out of Red River & swing against Mobile. If we had been smart, he could have walked into Mobile when I was at Meridian. I am down on William Sooy Smith. He could have come to me, I know it, and had he, I would have captured Polk’s Army. But the Enemy had too much Cavalry for me to attempt it with men afoot. As it was I scared the Bishop out of his senses, he made a clean run and I could not get within a days march of him. He had Railroads to help him, but these are now gone.

Had I tolerated a Corps of newspaper men how could I have made that march a secret? Am I not right? And does not the world now see it? As you Know & have scolded me for it, my mind looks to remote effects and I can’t help it. You have told me often I was not listening to you, but afterwards found out I heard all & was making the application. So in all moments my mind jumps to the next thing, not the present. It might be better were it otherwise, but the best results in life come from each one acting his rational Character.

Hugh is wrong again. He has Command of a Division that will make him a Major General if he holds on, but if he gives up that Division for a command in Louisville or elsewhere he is gone helplessly. I know it and you may tell him so. I have recommended no one for Major General, and do not intend to now, because there are no vacancies and the War Dept. do not desire to be pressed on the point. If the list be cleared and I am notified I will make my names, and Hugh knows I will be honest at any and all events. That I lean against him is not so. I have twelve Brigadiers Commanding Divisions and you Know how the friends & family of each naturally and properly exaggerate the claim of their member, but I shall judge from my own Stand Point. I have done well by Charley & by Hugh. Instead of feeling against me, they Should let me accomplish results in my own way. They do me injustice if they act otherwise. You Know I will give them if in want, the last dollar or shirt I have, but I will not ask the U.S. to bestow on them office & Reward till as compared with others in the Same Race they win it fairly and manfully. What would you think were I to use my office to favor Hoyt or Moulton, or Henry Reese? But I will not discuss it. Let me act my own game and even you will be satisfied. I want you of course always to tell me everything no matter what its bearing, but don’t allow yourself to be drawn into Conclusions unfavorable to me. For better or worse, we must glide down the hill of life together & for Godssake and Willy’s sake let it be in harmony.

The boat shakes so I can hardly write, but you are a better scholar than I and must decypher my letters. You will expect a letter from me by this mail, and I expect to Send off a Bearer the moment we reach Memphis. I could tell you many things of interest but will recall them in my subsequent letters. At New Orleans I was entertained by General Banks, and other families. I was there but two days, one of which I was 8 hours at table, breakfasting out & dining out. I saw Storm who is married again to a Creole Blonde. Mrs. Banks was there and is a smart Yankee woman. I saw Mr. & Mrs. Day but for a few minutes. I drove to their house on Magazine Street above where we used to live, but as F. W. Sherman with his one leg was waiting for me in the carriage I could only exchange words. They are both old and broken, but appeared better than I expected.

On my way down I picked up at Natchez a prisoner of war Professor Boyd, my favorite among the officers of the Academy at Alexandria. I never saw a man evince more gratitude. He clung to me till I came away. Stone promised to be Kind to him, and to exchange him the first opportunity. He told me all about the People up the River and said they talked about me a great deal, some with marked respect and others with bitter hatred.

Smith now commands a Battery on James River below Richmond. Clark is at Alexandria an ordnance officer, Louisa Boyce is with him. Judge Boyce is on the Plantation and so is Major Graham. The latter is cross, and don’t harmonize with any of the mixed elements of society. Many of the Negroes are gone, and the present trip up Red River will clean out the Balance. Boyd tells me the motto over the door of the Seminary is chiseled out. You remember it in my letter of Resignation: “By the liberality of the General Government of the U.S. The Union, Esto perpetua.” The fools. Though obliterated it lives in the memory of thousands and it may be restored in a few days.

I wanted to go up Red River, but as Banks was to command it in person I thought best not to go. Grant wanted me to command, but I reported my reason as before stated. Banks ranks Grant and myself. But now Grant will be Lt. General and will command all he pleases. Of course I can get any thing I want but as soon as the Spring Campaign is over I want to come here and look after the Mississippi. Like the Story in Gil Bias: “Here lies my Soul.” Though Willy died here, his pure & brave Spirit will hover over this the Grand Artery of America. I want to live out here & die here also, and don’t care if my grave be like De Soto’s in its muddy waters.

I suppose I must undergo a new infliction of the Memphisites: Mrs. Shover, Phebe and Valeria. I don’t want to swear, but I think you would pardon it if I would indulge a little on this score. Valeria has another baby and wants me to Stand for it. Poor woman, her brother committed suicide on a similar event, and to ensure the consummation of her mission I think I will advise her to follow her brothers example.

Well Ellen in truth I wanted to write you a good long letter, but this will be to you no pleasure but the boat trembles so I cannot write. I’ll promise better in a day or two at Memphis. Write me care of General Reid, Cairo. I sent you $1000 or thousand dollars from Vicksburg about Feb. 28, which I hope reached you safely. You are therefore flush. You had better stay quiet in your father’s house though it must be sad enough now. Still do as you think best. I cannot promise anything better as long as War lasts, and I see no end yet.

My love to all. Your distribution of Mrs. Klein’s presents are all Right. She merely asked me the name of the Youngest child & marked the things accordingly.

Yours Ever,
W.T. Sherman

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