HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Camp near Alexandria, Va., May 21, 1865
General S. VAN VLIET, New York:
DEAR VAN: I have received several kind letters from you of late which I could not answer, as I was in motion. I am now getting ready for the review of Wednesday, after which I am to go before the war investigating committee, when, for the first time, I will be at liberty to tell my story in public. Don’t be impatient, for you will be amazed when the truth is narrated at how base Stanton and Halleck have acted toward me. They thought they had me down, and when I was far away on public business under their own orders, they sought the opportunity to ruin me by means of the excitement naturally arising from the assassination of the President, who stood in the way of the fulfillment of their projects, and whose views and policy I was strictly, literally following. Thus far I have violated no rule of official secrecy, though sorely tempted; but so much the worse for them when all becomes revealed. You may rest assured that I possess official documents that not only justify but made imperative my course in North Carolina, and you may say as much to my friends.
Yesterday General Grant and President Johnson, who know all, received me with marked courtesy and warmth. Mr. Stanton dare not come into my presence. He is afraid to meet me. I would not let Halleck review my troops at Richmond. I bade him keep to his room as my army passed through Richmond, and he had to stay indoors. I will insult Stanton in like public manner, but will not be drawn into an open, or even constructive, disrespect to the President or any “lawful authority of the United States.” My motives in the past, as at present, are as pure as you know them to have been in all my life, but I do not deny that my soul revolts at perfidy and meanness in quarters however high and seemingly exalted. I have sent for Mrs. Sherman to come and see the review, and as soon as I have discharged all the business pertaining to my official station, I will endeavor to come to New York, when I can tell you many things already known in all proper official circles, but which have been suppressed purposely, whilst the most silly, unfounded stories and suspicions have been sown broadcast to my personal injury and detriment. I have been down before in public favor as well as on the battle-field, but am blessed with a vitality that only yields to absolute death, and though terribly exposed have thus far escaped.
If I come to New York I will probably stop with my cousin, William Scott, Twenty-third street, and decline any public notice. But I will not conceal from you or the world that in the reorganization of civil government in the Southern States, which must be done, I prefer to give votes to rebel whites, now humbled, subdued, and obedient, rather than to the ignorant blacks that are not yet capable of self-government. But of all this in time. My love to Mrs. Van Vliet and the children.
As ever, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN