TO ELLEN EWING SHERMAN
Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Savannah Geo. Jan. 15 1865
I have all your letters up to the 4th as also yours to Charley which I have read in his absence, so that I am now well advised of all matters. It may be some days yet before I dive again beneath the Surface to turn up again in Some mysterious place. I have a clear perception of the move, but take it for granted that Lee will not let me walk over the track without making me sustain some loss. Of course my course will be north. I will feint on Augusta & Charleston, avoid both and make for Columbia, Fayetteville and Newbern N.C. Don’t breathe for the walls have ears and foreknowledge published by some mischievous fool might cost many lives. We have lived long enough for men to thank me for Keeping my own counsels, and Keeping away from Armies those pests of newspapermen. If I have attained any fame it is pure & unalloyed by the taint of parasitic flattery and the result is to you and the children more agreeable, for it will go to yours & their benefit more than all the Surface flattery of all the Newspaper men of the country.
Mr. Stanton has been here and is cured of that Negro nonsense which arises not from a love of the negro but a desire to dodge Service. Mr. Chase 8c others have written to me to modify my opinions but you Know I cannot for if I attempt the part of hypocrite it could break out at each Sentence. I want soldiers made of the best bone & muscle in the land and won’t attempt military feats with doubtful materials. I have said that Slavery is dead and the Negro free and want him treated as free & not hunted & badgered to make a soldier of when his family is left back on the Plantations. I am right & wont Change.
The papers of the tenth are just in and I see Butler is out: that is another of the incubi of the Army. We want & must have professional soldiers, young & vigorous. Mr. Stanton was delighted at my men and the tone which pervades the army. He enjoyed a good Story which is true told of one of my old 15 corps men. After we reached the Coast we were out of bread, and it took Some days for us to get boats up. A foraging party was out and got a boat & pulled down the Ogeechee to Ossabaw & met a steamer coming up. They hailed her & got answer that it was the Nemeha, and had Major General Foster on board. The Soldier answered Oh H— 1, we’ve got 27 Major Generals up at Camp, what we want is hard tack.
The soldiers manifest to me the most thorough affection, and a wonderful Confidence. They haven’t found out yet where I have not been. Every place we go, they hear I lived there once, and the usual Exclamation is, The “Old Man” must be “omnipresent” as well as omnipotent. I was telling some officers the other day if events should carry us to Charleston I would have advantage because I Knew the ground &c. &c. They laughed heartily at my innocence for they Knew I had been everywhere. But really my long sojourn in this quarter of the world from 1840 to 1846 was & is providential to me.
I have read most of the current discourses about me, those you sent including, but take most interest in the London Spectator, the same that reviewed my Knoxville Campaign. He is surely a critic, for he catches the real points well. The Times utterly overstates the case, and the Dublin papers are too fulsome. Our American papers are Shallow. They don’t look below the Surface. I receive letters from all the Great Men, so full of real respect that I cannot disregard them, yet I dread the Elevation to which they have got me. A single mistake or accident my pile, though well founded would tremble, but I base my hopes of fair fame on the opinion of my own army, & my associates.
I know nothing as yet of the project to present us a farm or house. I would personally prefer land cleared & improved as property but won’t think of it till asked, or I will say nothing if you conduct the whole matter as I cannot expect ever to have a local habitation. I would rather have such a property settled on the children, or entailed on the survivor of the name. For myself individually, I Should hardly accept. I Sent you a check for 1100 from Atlanta and 800 since my arrival here. I can hardly expect any more for two months as I will surely be off in the course of this week, and you will hear of me only through Richmond for two months. You have got used to it now and will not be concerned though I think the chances of getting killed on this trip about even. If South Carolina lets me pass across without desperate fighting her fame is gone forever.
Charley is still absent north, but I look for him hourly. He should not go beyond Washington, or be there more than one day. He will have written & telegraphed you. No doubt you will see several persons who have seen me here, and the newspapers complete the picture. Savannah would be an agreable place to me less burdened with the cares of armies, women, cotton negroes and all the disturbing Elements of this war. I would not be surprised if I would involve our Government, with England. I have taken all the Cotton as prize of war: 30,000 bales, equal to 13 millions of dollars, much of which is claimed by English merchants. I disregard their Consular Certificates on the ground that this cotton has been notoriously employed to buy cartridges & arms, and practical Ships, and was collected here for that very purpose. Our own merchants are equally Culpable. They buy cotton in advance and take the chances of capture, and then clamor.
I am glad Tommy is now fairly established at School. I will risk his being a Priest. Of course I should regret such a choice and ask that no influence be let to produce that result. Let him have a fair manly Education, and his own instincts will lead him right. I don’t care how strict he may be in Religion, but don’t want him a Priest, but he is too young for even the thought. As to myself don’t distress yourself, I am as good as the average and must take my chances, and exposed as I have been and Still am, you may rest assured I have given death a fair study, and fear it but little. I fear somewhat your mind will settle into the “Religio Melancholia,” which be assured is not of divine inspiration, but rather a morbid state not natural or healthful