William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, October 29, 1859

    Source citation
    William T. Sherman to Ellen Sherman, October 29, 1859, in Walter L. Fleming, ed., General W. T. Sherman as College President... (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1912), 43-45.
    Recipient (to)
    Sherman, Ellen
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from General W. T. Sherman as College President (1912), edited by Walter L. Fleming
    Adapted by Brian Bockelman, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following transcript has been adapted from General W. T. Sherman as College President... (1912).

    Steamer L. M. Kennett [at Cairo], Saturday, Oct. 29, 1859.

    . . . Should my health utterly fail me or abolition drive me and all moderate men from the South, then we can retreat down the Hocking and exist until time puts us away under ground. This is not poetically expressed but is the basis of my present plans.

    I find southern men, even as well informed as -- as big fools as the abolitionists. Though Brown's whole expedition proves clearly that [while] the northern people oppose slavery in the abstract, yet very few [will] go so far as to act. Yet the extreme southrons pretend to think that the northern people have nothing to do but to steal niggers and to preach sedition.

    John's position and Tom's may force me at times to appear opposed to extreme southern views, or they may attempt to extract from me promises I will not give, and it may be that this position as the head of a military college, south may be inconsistent with decent independence. I don't much apprehend such a state of case, still feeling runs so high, where a nigger is concerned, that like religious questions, common sense is disregarded, and knowledge of the character of mankind in such cases leads me to point out a combination of events that may yet operate on our future.

    I have heard men of good sense say that the union of the states any longer was impossible, and that the South was preparing for a change. If such a change be contemplated and overt acts be attempted of course I will not go with the South, because with slavery and the whole civilized world opposed to it, they in case of leaving the union will have worse wars and tumults than now distinguish Mexico. If I have to fight hereafter I prefer an open country and white enemies. I merely allude to these things now because I have heard a good deal lately about such things, and generally that the Southern States by military colleges and organizations were looking to a dissolution of the Union. If they design to protect themselves against negroes and abolitionists I will help; if they propose to leave the Union on account of a supposed fact that the northern people are all abolitionists like Giddings and Brown then I will stand by Ohio and the northwest.

    I am on a common kind of boat. River low. Fare eighteen dollars. A hard set aboard; but at Cairo I suppose we take aboard the railroad passengers, a better class. I have all my traps safe aboard, will land my bed and boxes at Red River, will go on to Baton Rouge, and then be governed by circumstances.

    The weather is clear and cold and I have a bad cough, asthma of course, but hope to be better tomorrow. I have a stateroom to myself, but at Cairo suppose we will have a crowd; if possible I will keep a room to myself in case I want to burn the paper of which I will have some left, but in case of a second person being put in I can sleep by day and sit up at night, all pretty much the same in the long run. . .

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