Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 1862

“My Dear Brother”

Three weeks have passed since Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman returned to active duty following a respite at home to calm his rattled nerves. But Sherman is still agonizing over his panicked behavior in Kentucky. In a long letter his brother, Sen. John Sherman (pictured here) in Washington, Cump pours out his heart.

“I am fully conscious that in surrendering that command I confessed my inability to manage it,” he wrote. “This is mortifying but true.”

However, Sherman also describes in great detail all the problems he still believes Union forces have in Kentucky, from lack of troops and supplies to an unfriendly countryside. In doing so, he reveals a problem that will exist for much of the war: a shortage of resources for Western forces. “It is all very well for your politicians to sit and calculate what men should do, but this force in the West has been half armed….”

Washington’s concentration on the Army of the Potomac and the Eastern Theater at the expense of the Western had, of course, a great to do with the paired beliefs that the nation’s capital must be defended at all costs and that if the Confederate capital at Richmond could be seized, the Confederacy might die.

Sherman is almost in physical pain over the disgrace he believes he has brought upon the family:

What distresses me most is that you and Ellen and my children should suffer from my disgrace. Could I alone atone for it there would be some chance of endurance but I know full well hundreds and thousands who have been my friends will attribute to me the most unworthy motives, and then would adjudge against my children.

Also at Louisville I smoked too many segars & drank somewhat because of the nervous anxiety about which seemed to me beyond my control.”

The question now is whether redemption will ever be within Cump’s reach.

THE WAR ELSEWHERE: Same old, same old. Skirmishes here and there in Kentucky (no reports of casualties), Missouri (six Union men killed and 18 wounded), and western Virginia at Dry Fork, on the Cheat River), 6 Union men wounded. No Ohioans involved. And so goes another day of low-intensity combat in the first winter of the Civil War.

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Your suggestions, comments, and questions about this blog are always welcome. Address the author:

For more information about the author and his newest book, please go to

No comments: