Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Real War Has Not Yet Begun

This entry is from Home letters of General Sherman by William T. Sherman.  Sherman is writing to his wife, telling her about Bull Run, and what the future forebodes, "the destruction of all able-bodied men of this generation.".  He knew exactly what he was getting into. It was about this time that Lincoln appointed him a brigadier general.
Washington, August 3, 1861.

I sent you a long letter a few days ago, telling you all about Bull Run. The disaster was serious in its effect on the men who, whether they ought or not to be, are discouraged beyond measure. All the volunteers continue in a bad state, but we must do the best we can with them. " It seems regulars do not enlist, because of the preference always given to volunteers, whose votes are counted even in the ranks. I doubt if our democratic form of government admits of that organization and discipline without which an army is a mob. Congress is doing all that is possible in the way of laws and appropriations, and McClellan is determined to proceed slowly and cautiously.

I wish we had more regulars to tie to. We must be the assailant and our enemy is more united in feeling, and can always choose their ground. It was not entrenchments but the natural ground and woods of which they took good advantage, while we in pursuit had to cross open fields and cross the crests of hills which obstructed a view of their forces. This must continue to be the case . . . .
.  .  . Beauregard must have suffered much, else his sagacity would have forced him to take Washington, which he well might.

I prefer you should go to housekeeping in Lancaster. Don't come here. I would not permit you to visit my camp. I have as much as I can do to keep my officers and men from living in Washington, and shall not set a bad example. I never expect again to move you from Lancaster.

The simple chances of war, provided we adhere to the determination of subduing the South, will, of course, involve the destruction of all able-bodied men of this generation and go pretty deep into the next. 'Tis folly to underestimate the task, and you see how far already the nation has miscalculated. The real war has not yet begun.
An illustration from the book, Life and Deeds of General W T Sherman , Including the Story of His Great March to the Sea  by Henry Davenport Northrup

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