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for the moment Louisiana assumes a position of hostility, then this becomes an arsenal and fort. . . Let me hear the moment you think dissolution is inevitable. What Mississippi and Georgia do, this state will do likewise. . .
JOHN SHERMAN TO W. T. SHERMAN
Washington, D.C., December 9, 1860.
. . . I am clearly of the opinion that you ought not to remain much longer at your present post. You will in all human probability be involved in complications from which you cannot escape with honor. Separated from your family and all your kin, and an object of suspicion you will find your position unendurable. A fatal infatuation seems to have seized the southern mind, during which any act of madness may be committed. . . If the sectional dissensions only rested upon real or alleged grievances, they could be readily settled, but I fear they are deeper and stronger. You can now close your connection with the Seminary with honor and credit to yourself, for all who know you speak well of your conduct, while by remaining you not only involve yourself but bring trouble upon those gentlemen who recommended you.
It is a sad state of affairs, but it is nevertheless true, that if the conventions of the Southern States make anything more than a paper secession, hostile collisions will occur and probably a separation between the free and the slave states. You can judge whether it is at all probable that secession of this capital, the commerce of the Mississippi, the control of the territories, and the natural rivalry of enraged sections can be arranged without war. In that event you cannot serve in Louisiana against your family and kin in Ohio. The bare possibility of such a contingency, it seems to me renders your duty plain, to make a frank statement to all the gentlemen connected with you, and with good feeling close your engagement. If the storm shall blow over, your course will strengthen you with every man whose good opinion you desire; if not, you will escape humiliation. When you return to Ohio, I will write you freely about your return to the army, not so difficult a task as you imagine. . .
W. T. SHERMAN TO HIS DAUGHTER MINNIE
Alexandria, La., Dec. 15, 1860. Dearest Minnie: I have been intending to write you a good long letter, and now I wish I could send you all something for Christmas, but I thought all along that Mama and you and Lizzie, Willie, Tommy, and all would be here in our new house by New Year's day. The house is all done, only some little painting to be done. The stable is finished, but poor Clay6a has been sick. . . In the front yard are growing some small oak trees, to give shade in the hot summer days; now however it is raw and cold, the leaves are off and it looks like winter, though thus far we have had no snow. Maybe we will have some snow at Christmas. In the back yard I have prepared for a small garden, but the soil is poor and will not produce much, except early peas, lettuce and sweet potatoes. The house itself looks beautiful. Two front porches and one back, all the windows open to the floor, like doors, so that you can walk out on the porch either upstairs or downstairs. I know you would all like the house so much - but dear little Minnie, man proposes and God disposes - what I have been planning so long and patiently, and thought that we were all on the point of realizing, the dream and hope of my life, that we could all be together once more in a home of our own, with peace and quiet and plenty around us. All, I fear, is about to vanish, and again I fear I must be a wanderer, leaving you all to grow up at Lancaster without your Papa.
68 The horse given to Sherman by Mr. Ewing. - Ed.
Men are blind and crazy, they think all the people of Ohio are trying to steal their slaves, and incite them to rise up and kill their masters. I know this is a delusion - but when people believe a delusion, they believe it harder than a real fact, and these people in the South are going, for this delusion, to break up the government under which we live. You cannot understand this but Mama will explain it to you. Our governor here has gone so far that he cannot change, and in a month maybe you will be living under one government and I another.
This cannot last long, and as I know it is best for you all to stay in Lancaster, I will not bring you down here at all, unless some very great change takes place. If this were only a plain college I could stay with propriety, but it is an arsenal with guns and powder and balls, and were I to stay here I might have to fight for Louisiana and against Ohio. That would hardly do; you would not like that I know, and yet I have been asked to do it.*7 But I hope still this will yet pass away, and that our house and garden will yet see us all united here in Louisiana. Your loving papa, W. T. SHERMAN.
W. T. SHERMAN TO MRS. SHERMAN
December 15[?], 1860.
. . . I started to write a letter to Minnie but got drawn into this political strain that is not for her but you. Read her so much of the letter as you please and the rest to yourself.
Governor Moore has assembled the legislature in
"This probably means that he was asked to stay as a neutral in case of war. Sherman's later letters indicate that such a proposition was made. — En.
extra session at Baton Rouge and I have seen his message which is positive on the point of secession. You will doubtless have the substance of it before you get this; and I observe such men as Dick Taylor, the general's son, are in favor of immediate secession. I have scarce room now to doubt that Louisiana will quit the Union in all * January. The governor recommends the establishment of a large arsenal here. We now have a limited supply of arms.
I have announced my position; as long as Louisiana is in the Union I will serve her honestly and faithfully, but if she quits I will quit too. I will not for a day or even hour occupy a position of apparent hostility to Uncle Sam. That government is weak enough, but is the only thing in America that has even the semblance of a government. These state governments are ridiculous pretences of a government, liable to explode at the call of any mob. I don't want to be premature and will hold on to the last moment in hopes of change, but they seem to be pushing events ridiculously fast.
There is an evident purpose, a dark design, not to allow time for thought and reflection. These southern leaders understand the character of their people and want action before the spirit subsides. Robert Anderson commands at Charleston, and there I look for the first actual collision. Old Fort Moultrie, every brick of which is as plain now in my memory as the sidewalk in Lancaster, will become historical. It is weak and I can scale any of its bastions. If secession, dissolution and Civil War do come South Carolina will drop far astern and the battle will be fought on the Mississippi. The Western States never should consent to a hostile people holding the mouth of the Mississippi. Should I be forced to act promptly I will turn up either at St. Louis or at Washington. T. knows full well where I am, but he is angry at me about his charge against Ohio of nigger stealing. You remember my answer from Lancaster. I am very well. Weather cold and overcast. . .
* "In all January" means "all in January." Sherman made frequent use of this peculiar construction. — Ed.
W. T. SHERMAN TO MRS. SHERMAN
Alexandria, Dec. 18, 1860.
. . . I cannot remain here much beyond January 23, the time set for the state convention to dissolve the connection of this state with the U.S. The legislature only sat three days and passed unanimously the bills for arming the state and calling a convention. That convention has only to decree what has already been resolved on and proclaimed by the Governor, that Louisiana cannot remain under a Black Republican president. The opinion is universal that disunion is resolved on, and the only open questions are what states will compose the Southern Confederacy.
I regard the failure of Buchanan to strengthen Maj. Anderson at Ft. Moultrie as absolutely fatal, as the evidence of contemptible pusilanimity of our general government, almost convincing me that the government is not worth saving. No wonder Gen. Cass forthwith resigned. . .
W. T. SHERMAN TO MRS. SHERMAN
Alexandria, Dec. 23, 1860.
. . . There certainly are symptoms of a general breaking up or dissolution of all government everywhere. The people of the parish on the other side of Red River have constituted themselves into a kind of vigilance committee with power to execute their own sentence on suspected parties. These are the best gentlemen of the country and though I can never approve