TO THOMAS EWING SR.
Head-Quarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, near Atlanta Ga.
Aug. 11, 1864
Hon. Thos. Ewing, Lancaster Ohio
I can well understand the keen feelings of apprehension that agitate you, as you sit with mind intent on the fate of a vast machine, like the one I am proud to guide, whose life & success depend on the single thread of Rails that for near five hundred miles lays within an hostile or semi hostile country. I assure you that to the Extent of my ability, nothing has been left undone that could be foreseen, and for 100 days not a man or horse has been without ample food, or a musket or gun without adequate ammunition.
I esteem this a triumph greater than any success that has attended me in Battle or in Strategy, but it has not been the result of blind chance at this moment I have abundant supplies for twenty days. I keep a Construction Party in Chattanooga that can in ten days repair any break that can be made to my Rear. I keep a large depot of supplies at Chattanooga & Allatoona, two mountain fortresses which no cavalry force of the enemy can reach, and in our wagons generally manage to have from 10 to 20 days supply.
I could not have done this without forethought beginning with the hour I reached Nashville. I found thousands of citizens actually feeding on our stores on the plea of starvation, and other citizens by paying freights were allowed to carry goods, wares, & merchandize to all the towns from Nashville to Chattanooga, also crowds of idlers, Sanitary agents, Christian commissioners & all sorts of Curiosity hunters loading down our cars. It was the Gordian knot and I cut it. People may starve, and go without but an army cannot & do its work. A howl was raised, but the President and Secretary of War backed me, and now all recognize the wisdom & humanity of the thing.
Rosecrans had his army starving at Chattanooga, and I have brought an army double its size 138 miles from there, and all agree that they were never better fed, clothed & supplied. I think you may rest easy on that Score. My only apprehension arises from the fact that the times of the 3 year men is expiring all the time & daily Regiments are leaving for home, diminishing my fighting force by its best material, and the draft has been so long deferred, and the foolish law allowing former slaves and the refuse of the South to be brought up and substituted on paper (for they never come to the Front) will delay my reinforcements until my army on the offensive, so far from its base, will fall below my opponents, who increases, as I lose. I rather think today Hood’ s army is larger than mine, and he is strongly fortified. I have no faith in the People of the North. They ever lose their interest when they Should act. They think by finding fault with an officer they clean their shirts of their own sins of misfeasance. I have fought right through the mountain fastnesses of Georgia to the Line of the Chattahoochee, which was my task while Banks took Mobile & advanced to Montgomery, but his Red River expedition kept that back & let me to meet the whole South. The good news has just come that Farraguts Fleet is in Mobile Bay, and has captured the Rebel fleet there. Also that Fort Gaines which guards the best Entrance to the Bay has surrendered. Some prisoners we took this morning say it was the talk in their camp that the Yankees had the City of Mobile. So all is coming round well, only we should not relax our Energies or be deluded by any false hope of a speedy end to this war, which we did not begin, but which we must fight to the End, be it when it may.
I have made no professional mistakes but one, in consenting that Stoneman should make the premature attempt to reach our prisoners of war at Macon & Anderson & release them. Stoneman begged for it & I consented, my judgment being warped by our Feelings for 20,000 poor men penned up like cattle.
All well. Yours with great affection,
W. T. Sherman