Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Dec. 12, 1861

“Who’s Insane?”

Fuming over a Cincinnati newspaper story headlined “General William T. Sherman Insane,” Cump spends the day writing two letters. One is addressed to his influential father-in-law, Sen. Thomas Ewing in Washington, and is a detailed defense of his behavior.

“In these times tis hard to say who are sane and who insane,” Cump admits, but goes on to explain why he raised alarms in Kentucky and Missouri. In Kentucky, Sherman tells Ewing, “I knew of the impatience of the country for results, but to expect us…with troops many which were unarmed to assume the offensive whilst a well organized army lay at Washington was unfair,” he writes, referring to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s mostly inert Army of the Potomac. In Missouri, Cump says, he became alarmed when he found Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck’s troops poorly positioned, and so he re-positioned them.

Sherman also writes General Halleck in St. Louis to ask if the actions the Ohioan had taken in Missouri strike Halleck as “evidence of a want of mind.”

Although Sherman’s apprehensions about Kentucky will not be fulfilled, his reasoning about the state’s exposure to attack and its defensive needs seem persuasive. (And he certainly is right that McClellan’s army “lay at Washington” unused.) In a few days, Halleck--an old friend of Sherman--will reply favorably. And Cump’s wife, Ellen, and other members of his family will rally to his defense in the days to come.

>>> If Sherman’s problem is too much press attention, another Ohioan is complaining of just the opposite. Stuck in winter quarters in western Virginia and seeing no action worthy of press attention, a frustrated Capt. Tom Taylor of the 47th Ohio writes wife Netta a letter filled with sarcasm:

We have an accomplished German artist in our regiment whom we have excused from all duty in order to embalm our…march through this state in picture. Other regiments are extolled by reporters. Our artist and his pictures will extol us in the future…when the poor newspaper is passed away…. Won’t it be glorious?

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