TO JOHN SHERMAN
Head-Quarters Military Division of the Mississippi, Nashville, Tennessee April 22, 1864
I got yours of April 17 is received. I understand exactly the force of your letters of introduction to me. You may further explain to each that my mind is so positively made up that men who come to the front for purposes of trade & civil business are out of their place and I invariably advise them to go north of the Ohio. The men who hang round our armies to make money out of the soldiers are like vultures and are entitled to little consideration. Such as want to buy cotton and Stolen horses are little better than public enemies for they play into the hands of the enemy. Our Sanitary Department is now so systematyzed that there is no use of any one, male or female, going south of Nashville. We here have a depot of Sanitary Supplies and forward them as fast as we can get means of hauling.
Every person who goes south of Nashville loads our cars to the extent of 200 pounds and takes that much from our men, or mules, and besides they eat bread & meat which we need there. You can have no idea of the crowds of men & women who come here on seeming errands of charity, but they might as well stay at home for they simply aggravate the trouble. We cannot feed our army & animals much less the suffering and patriotic Tennesseeans. I enclose my last orders and you may be sure I will enforce them. I know the pressure brought to bear on the Secretary of War, and officials, but I must and will give preference to the Army proper, over the wants of others however meritorious. We cannot carry on War & Peace at the Same time.
As to Negroes, whatever the proper authorities resolve on I must do. I think the negro question is run into the ground. Negroes should be allowed to make some provision for their families and to pass through a preparatory state before being called on for war. Of course Forrest & all southerners will kill them and their white officers. We all knew that, and should not expose small detachments. We were using them in moderation and in connection with whites as fast as the demands of service justified, but it was made a Policy, and all had to bend to it. Then it became the means by which Massachusetts and other states could dodge their share. They raised the cry that a negro man was as good to stop a Rebel bullet as a white man. But is it the only use you can put a soldier to to stop a bullet? I thought a soldier was to be an active machine, a fighter. Dirt or cotton will stop a bullet better than a mans body. We ought not to engraft a doubtful element in an army now; it is too critical a period.
Our own soldiers have prejudices and these are aroused by the foolish squabbles of Governors to show they have given their quotas. Every man in the United States must fight irrespective of quotas and those who don’t or wont fight must drift into the character of a woman, non combatant or mere denizen of the Land. Of course, some must work & raise corn, and why not use in a great measure the negro labor we have Captured, instead of scattering it and dissipating it in a poor quality of soldiery and in raising cotton. Of course, all the Leasehold plantations on the River will be cleaned out, for no army can protect them. Their establishment is merely calculated to scatter along a weak line, what if compressed would be self protection. I take it for granted that Forrest & bands of that Kind will supply themselves bountifully out of the mules & horses which lessees have got seemingly for that very purpose. A limited quantity of negro troops can be used, but it will be years before any General officer would use them in open Battle, and even in Fortifications, they must form the moiety If in the service, they must be protected. I feel certain the war will soon become barbarous, but it is inevitable. Prisoners should not be exchanged, but the war should be with desperation, the sooner the better.
W. T. Sherman