TO THOMAS EWING SR.
Head-Quarters Military Division of the Mississippi. Nashville, Tennessee April 27, 1864
Honorable Thomos Ewing, Washington D.C.
I am in receipt of yours of April 21, & have but a moment to answer. I see you have fallen into two errors. I had not the selection of General William Sooy Smith. General Grant selected him after a long personal and official association. If the failure to meet me at Meridian be personal as to General William Sooy Smith it is not mine.
At Chattanooga, Grant was with Thomas in person. He held back Thomas’ troops till Hooker got into position. We were delayed by Chattanooga Creek, impassable that day without a Bridge to construct which took time, 4 hours. If we were to dispose of such men as Thomas summarily, who would take his place? We are not masters as Napoleon was. He could make & unmake on the Spot. We must take the tools provided us, and in the order prescribed by Rank of which the Law judges.
We cannot be judged by the Rules of war in Europe, where a sovereign is master, whereas our master is “public clamor,” a hard thing to control. We have to fight with ideal armies, & with such men & officers as chance gives us. Our real fighting force is not 1/3 of our paper force, and the paper force is half what the Public supposes and by which standard we are judged.
The Real Power that controls us is a swarm of men who are trying to make money, who exalt those who minister to their schemes and pull down those who thwart them or make them subordinate to war. The Plantation lessees, & cotton thieves can reverse any policy that our Generals may devise and disperse our troops in weak bodies to cover their selfish plans. We are required to respect the Policy of the Government, which is to encourage common trade and the gathering of dishonest wealth. These things cannot change, till the whole character of our People is changed by the sad calamities of war, and self acquired experience. We will not heed the examples of Other People.
I have tried to buffet the storm, but must subside to Powers that no man can control.
I am with affection, your son,
W. T. Sherman