Sunday, December 23, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Tuesday, Dec. 24, 1861

“I had not the faith”

It is Christmas Eve and across the nation tens of thousands of families must face a Christmas with fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers absent. In army camps, cooks are preparing—in some cases, with limited resources—for a holiday dinner on the morrow. And, at Benton Barracks nears St. Louis, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman ponders recent events and shares his thoughts.

To his foster father, Sen. Thomas Ewing in Washington, Sherman candidly admits, “I was convinced in Kentucky that I could not guide events, that I either grossly misapprehended them or was unprepared to lead in them. To guide I had not the faith that would inspire success.” He rejects his foster father’s advice to bring a libel suit against the newspapers, preferring to remain silent. He finds no fault with the Lincoln administration’s conduct of the war, but thinks that fighting on Southern ground puts the Union at a great disadvantage.

He also tells Senator Ewing that Maj. Gen. Halleck, his superior officer, has assigned him to duty at Benton Barracks where “a large body of men” await arming and training. (Pictured above: Indiana volunteers arrive at St. Louis.) Presumably, Halleck thinks a training camp is a place where his friend Sherman will not careen out of control.

To his brother John, Cump apologizes “for the stain I may have cast on you all, of my name.” He repeats his belief that the Union is at a disadvantage for standing “in the nature of invaders,” and once again admits, “I have not the faith for a leader.” He still fears that the “House committee” (presumably the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War) “will fix on me more than my share in the Bull Run disaster.”

After explaining he is in charge of drilling and supplying 12,000 men at Benton Barracks, he concludes, “All I ask & hope for is to be allowed to remain in as much obscurity as possible till we see some …hope of ending the war….”

Cump will not get his wish.

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