TO JOSEPH P. THOMPSON
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, Gaylesville, Ala. Oct. 21, 1864.
Rev. Jos. P. Thompson:
I have received your letter of Oct. 3d and acknowledge the hit, but as you have wit and sense I can with safety devote to you a part of my usual nights labor. When the Soldier sleeps the General is watchful, and such are my habits and if as you say you spent some time in my camp, I beg you to bear testimony to a fact never noticed that in my camps the soldier sleeps quietly and undisturbed by Long Rolls & False alarms.
This is not accident but a truth for which I feel sure all soldiers will give me credit, and as you say, I am not the heartless Boor I am often represented. I rarely see my children, but were you to behold them watching for my expected coming, and rush to me with eyes all love, you would not say that I was heartless. Again when the final day of reckoning comes I will risk a comparison with men professing more, for examples of acts of charity where the Left hand knoweth not what the Right hand gives, but when my mind is intent on a purpose it is jealous of all clogs & obstructions.
How many of our plans have been defeated, how many lives lost because our columns have been clogged with useless baggage & civilians? Go to our Camps and towns, as you say you have done & see if the commander thinks of destroying an Enemy or is engaged in answering complaints of women, cotton and trade speculators or citizens who study to use the cover of an army to buy cheap commodities and answer on your conscience if I am not right as a Rule to declare Citizens about an army a “nuisance.” The Rule is right and is proved by the exceptions. Let every thought of the mind, every feeling of the heart, every movement of a human muscle all be directed to one sole object, Successful War and consequent Peace, and you have the ideal I aim at. But all ideals are dreams but they form the directions of Real Results and the closer they can be followed the better.
But as I said, I see you have wit and sense and I will trust you to do this noble army justice. Who can know the daily toils, the dangers the hopes and fears of this vast army? I know them and all here know them and the time will come when they will return to their homes and be the living witnesses of the acts of their Fellows and leaders.
For my reward I trust to them and still more in my confidence that God will not permit this fair land and this Brave People to subside into the anarchy and despotism that Jeff Davis has cut out for them. I have this faith as clear & distinct as you see the sacrifice of Gods own Son in your mental vision to secure to us an immortal Reward. I have read the Editorials but not the sermon, but shall read it too. In the mean time you may assure your congregation that this army fights, that they may sleep in peace and enjoy the protection of a civilized government.
W. T. Sherman Major General