TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Savannah, Jan. 5 1865
I have written several times to you and to the Children. Yesterday I got your letter of Dec. 23, and realize the deep pain and anguish through which you have passed in the pain and sickness of the little baby I never saw. All spoke of him as so bright and fair that I had hoped he would be spared to us to fill the great void in our hearts left by Willy, but it is otherwise decreed and we must submit. I have seen death in such quantity and in such forms that it no longer startles me, but with you it is different and tis well that like the Spaniards you realize the fact that our little baby has passed from the troubles of life to a better existence.
I sent Charley off a few days ago to carry to General Grant & to Washington some important dispatches, but told him he must not go farther than Washington as by the time he returns I will be off again on another Raid. It is pretty hard on me that I am compelled to make these blows which are necessarily trying to me, but it seems devolved on me and cannot be avoided. If the honors proffered and tendered me from all quarters are of any value they will accrue to you & the children. John writes that I am in everybody’s mouth and that even he is Known as my brother, and that all the Shermans are now feted as relations of me. Surely you and my Children will not be overlooked by those who profess to honor me. I do think that in the Several Grand Epochs of this war my name will bear a prominent part, and not least among them will be the determination I took at Atlanta to destroy that place & march on this City, whilst Thomas my Lieutenant should dispose of Hood. The idea, the execution and strategy are all good and will in time be understood. I dont Know that you comprehend the magnitude of the thing, but you can see the importance attached to it in England, where the critics stand ready to turn against any American General who makes a mistake or fails in its execution. In my case they had time to commit themselves to the conclusion that if I succeeded I would be a great General, but if I failed I would be set down a fool. My success is already assured so that I will be forced to sustain the title. I am told that were I to go north I would be feted and petted, but as I have no intention of going you must sustain the honors of the family. I know exactly what amount of merit attaches to my own conduct, and what will survive the clamor of time. The quiet preperation I made before the Atlanta Campaign, the rapid movement on Resaca, the crossing the Chattahoochee without loss in the face of a skilful General with a good army, the movement on Jonesboro, whereby Atlanta fell, and the resolution I made to divide my army, with one part to take Savannah and the other to meet Hood in Tennessee are all clearly mine, and will survive us both in History. I dont know that you can understand the merit of the latter, but it will stamp me in years to come, and will be more appreciated in Europe than in America. I warrant your father will find parallel in the history of the Greeks & Persians, but none on our Continent. For his sake I am glad of the success that has attended me and I Know he will feel more pride in my success than you or I do.
Oh! that Willy was living, how his Eyes would brighten and his bosom swell with honest pride if he could hear & understand these things. I may be mistaken but I dont think Tommy so entirely identifies himself in my fortunes. He is a fine manly boy, and it may be as he develops he will realize our fondest expectations, but I cannot but think that he takes less interest in me than Willy showed from the hour of his birth. It may be I gave the latter more of my personal attention at the time when the mind began to develop.
You will doubtless read all the details of our march & Stay in Savannah in the Papers whose spies infest our Camps spite of all I can do, but I could tell you thousands of little incidents which would more interest you. The women here are as at Memphis disposed to usurp my time more from Curiosity than business. They had been told of my burning & killing till they expected the veriest monster but their eyes were opened when Hardee, G. W. Smith, & McLaws, the three Chief officers of the Rebel Army fled across the Savannah River consigning their families to my special care. There are some very elegant people here, whom I Knew in Better days and who do not seem ashamed to call on the Vandal Chief. They regard us just as the Romans did the Goths and the parallel is not unjust. Many of my stalwart men with red beards and huge frames look like Giants, and it is wonderful how smoothly all things move for they all seem to feel implicit faith in me not because I am strong or bold but because they think I Know every thing.
It seems impossible for us to go anywheres without being where I have been before. My former life from 1840 to 1846 seems providential and every bit of knowledge then acquired is returned tenfold. Should it so happen that I should approach Charleston over that very ground where I used to hunt with Jim Poyas, and Mr. Quash, and ride by moonlight to save daytime it would be even more strange than here where I was only a visitor.
Colonel Kilburn arrived here from Louisville yesterday, and begged me to remember him to you. I continue to receive letters most flattering from all my old friends and enclose you two, one from General Hitchcock & one from Professor Mahan. Such men do not flatter and are judges of what they write.
I see by the papers that the movement to give us a farm originates with Mr. Hunter, Talmadge and Brazen and their paper precedes the taking of Savannah “where the wars is”. Tell Minnie & Lizzie that I will write them again before starting out, and I will send Tommy some papers that he will value, as parts of the history of the Campaign. My Report is nearly done, but will be General, short and uninteresting. I hope you are as comfortable as you expected. I sent you a check for $800 from here & $1100 from Atlanta which you should acknowledge.
W. T. Sherman