TO EMILY HOFFMAN
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Near Atlanta, Georgia August 5,1864
Miss Emily Hoffman, Baltimore.
My Dear Young Lady,
A letter from your Mother to General Barry on my Staff reminds me that I owe you heartfelt sympathy and a sacred duty of recording the fame of one of our Country’s brightest & most glorious Characters. I yield to none on Earth but yourself the right to excel me in lamentations for our Dead Hero. Better the Bride of McPherson dead, than the wife of the richest Merchant of Baltimore. Why oh! Why should deaths darts reach the young and brilliant instead of older men who could better have been spared. Nothing that I can record will elevate him in your mind’s Memory, but I could tell you many things that would form a bright halo about his image.
We were more closely associated than any men in this Life. I knew him before you did, when he was a Lieutenant of Engineers in New York we occupied rooms in the Same house. Again we met at St. Louis almost at the outset of this Unnatural war, and from that day to this we have been closely associated. I see him now, so handsome, so smiling, on his fine black horse, booted & spurred, with his easy seat, the impersonation of the Gallant Knight. We were at Shiloh together, at Corinth, at Oxford, at Jackson, at Vicksburg, at Meridian, and on this campaign. He had left me but a few minutes to place some of his troops approaching their position, and went through the woods by the same road he had Come, and must have Encountered the Skirmish Line of the Rebel Hardee’s Corps, which had made a Circuit around the flank of Blairs troops. Though always active and attending in person amidst danger to his appropriate duties on this occasion he was not exposing himself. He rode over ground he had twice passed that same day, over which hundreds had also passed, by a narrow wood road to the Rear of his Established Line.
He had not been gone from me half an hour before Colonel Clark of his staff rode up to me and reported that McPherson was dead or a prisoner in the hands of the Enemy. He described that he had Entered this road but a short distance in the woods some Sixty yards ahead of his Staff 8c orderlies when a loud volley of muskets was heard and in an instant after his fine black horse came out with two wounds, riderless. Very shortly thereafter other members of his staff came to me with his body in an ambulance. We Carried it into a house, and laid it on a large table, and examined the body. A single bullet wound, high up in the Right breast, was all that disfigured his person. All Else was as he left me, save his watch & purse were gone.
At this time the Battle was raging hot & fierce quite near us and lest it should become necessary to burn the house in which we were I directed his personal Staff to Convey the body to Marietta & thence north to his family. I think he could not have lived three minutes after the fatal Shot, and fell from his horse within ten yards of the path or road along which he was riding. I think others will give you more detailed accounts of the attending circumstances. I Enclose you a copy of my official letter announcing his death.
The lives of a thousand men such as Davis and Yancey and Toombs, and Floyd, and Buckner, and Greeley, and Lovejoy would not atone for that of McPherson. But so it is in this world Some men by falsehood and agitation raise the Storm which falls upon the honorable, and young who become involved in its Circles.
Though the Cannon booms now, and the angry rattle of musketry tells me that I also will likely pay the same penalty yet while Life lasts I will delight in the memory of that bright particular star which has gone before to prepare the way for us more hardened Sinners who must struggle on to the End.
With affection & respect,
W. T. Sherman