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William Tecumseh Sherman, during an affair with a young widow, advises her on handling her teenage daughter, criticizes the power of the Catholic Church, recommends she select a younger man to marry, complains that his brother John’s home because it is too political, relates that his daughter caught a cold at the Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving Day football game, and reflects upon his own mortality. WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN.
Five Autograph Letters Signed to Mrs. Mary Audenried, widow of Sherman’s former Chief of Staff. 18 pages, April 21, 1885 – February 8, 1887.
William T. Sherman (1820-1891), a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, served as a corps commander under General Grant in successful Union campaigns down the Mississippi and in Tennessee, then took command of the western armies when Grant was reassigned to the Virginia theatre of war. His capture of Atlanta and subsequent “March to the Sea” through Georgia, was followed by a swift campaign north through the Carolinas to force the surrender of the last major Confederate army. He was Commanding General of the U.S. Army from 1869-1883.
In 1850, 30-year-old William T. Sherman married 26-year-old Ellen Boyle Ewing (1824-1888); they had four daughters and four sons. Mary Colket was 18 when she married 24-year-old Joseph C. Audenried in 1863. In 1867, they had a daughter, Florence. Audenried was a staff officer with General Grant at Vicksburg and General Sherman to Atlanta and on the “March to the Sea.” He remained with Sherman for the rest of his life, in the Indian Wars in the West and then on to Washington when Sherman became Commanding General. Col. Audenried was 41 when he died in 1880. In “Citizen Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman” (Random House: New York, 1995), biographer Michael Fellman writes of an affair between Sherman and Col. Audenried’s widow, 25 years younger than the General. The earliest of these five letters was written by the 65-year-old married General to the 40-year-old widow in 1885. Sherman’s wife was 64 when she died in 1888.
1. “With Catholics the church is Greater than God himself and they will abandon Father & Mother if the Church Commands.”
Autograph Letter Signed (“Affectionately / W. T. Sherman”), 3-1/2 pages, 5-1/4” x 7-3/4. St. Louis, April 21, 1885. “I have read your letter carefully and now write to repeat my advice of this morning that you allow Florence [her 18-year-old daughter] rope. Let her play her own game…Tell her to take her own way and you choose yours. If she becomes a nun she can do no harm and is dead to the world. Natures God intended all women to be mothers but if all breed too fast, wars, pestilence and famine come to destroy the surplus…I confess that I feared Florence would err on the other side, but if she has been indoctrinated let her go her course – you keep up your house ready & willing to afford her at all times a safe refuge…I remember well my feelings when Tom [29-year-old son, Thomas Ewing Sherman, his eldest living son] left me, his sisters & all for the Church and my judgment remains the same that it was an awful crime against nature for I had a right to depend on him in my old age to look after those dependent on me. I hope Cump [18-year-old son, Philemon Tecumseh Sherman, his youngest child] will take his place but even in that I have not absolute confidence…”
2. “Nearly every body agreed that St Louis was looking up – surely it is time, for ever since 1861, it has been behind.”
Autograph Letter Signed (“Most affectionately / W. T. Sherman”), 4 pages, 5-1/2” x 9-1/4”. Army Building, on Houston & Green, New York, November 2, 1886. “I got back from St. Louis this morning…I have no doubt you will make that house of yours a gem of a house for whomever may have the happiness to win your hand. If it be Gen Baird I surely will not object though being free I would suppose a younger man would be preferred. As to Florence she wont wait long for the new Love – soon forgetting the old one.” …” Gen. Baird may be 62-year-old Major General Absalom Baird whose wife had died in 1883. Gen. Sherman then tells Mrs. Audenried of the superb weather in St. Louis and “the change from muddy & dusty Streets to clean pavement. These extend all the way out from 4th St to include my house and I had to pay about $1500 besides the regular high taxes.” Sherman writes of all the improvements made to his own house by his tenant who has “taken out my back shelves, put an open wood fire place with a beautiful wood mantel in the front room, has bricked up the fire place in the back room and has papered these two rooms & the house with the richest sort of paper so that the whole interior is transformed. I have contributed a part of the cost of these changes, but not a half – so they add to the value of the property…”
3. “Rachel [his 25-year-old youngest daughter] went to Princeton last week. Thanksgiving Day – to witness the ball play – the day was horrid and she has been under the weather ever since having taken cold.”
Autograph Letter Signed (“Yours truly / W. T. Sherman”), 3 pages, 5-1/2” x 9-1/4”. Army Building, On Houston & Green (New York), November 30, 1886. The 66-year-old retired General is busy. “I have an engagement for tonight – Another for Tuesday evening and Saturday evening in Philadelphia for a McLellan testimonial…I will be at John Shermans during my Washington visit but shall not stay long as there is too much politics there to suit my taste. I will however manage to see most if not all my lady friends…Most of my engagements have been at Gentlemen dining clubs &c. Next Monday the 6th the St Nicholas Club at Delmonicos…” Just two years earlier, responding to Republicans who urged him to seek the presidential nomination, General Sherman made clear of his dislike of politics when he telegraphed a message to the convention asserting "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve." No wonder he did not plan to stay long at his younger brother John’s home in Washington because of “too much politics.” John, U.S. Senator from Ohio (1861-1877, 1881-1897), had sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1880 and 1884. The football game General Sherman’s daughter Rachel attended at Princeton on Thanksgiving, November 25th, was won by Yale 4-0 (a touchdown was 4 points). The day was horrid: it rained heavily through the entire game which was played, according to “The New York Times,” “in a sea of mud.”
4. “I am an older man than [U.S.] Grant, [George B.] McClellan, [Winfield S.] Hancock, [John A.] Logan &c who in the past year have been taken suddenly, almost without premonition.”
Autograph Letter Signed (“Affectionately / W. T. Sherman”), 4 pages, 5-1/2” x 9-1/4”. Army Building, New York, December 29, 1886. “I was in doubt of General Logan’s funeral. Now I am advised by John Sherman vice Prest and Jno. A. Logan Jr. that I am honored as one of the Pall Bearers and that the ceremonies will be in the Senate Chamber Friday Dec 31 at Noon…Florence arranged for the visit to Mrs [Grover] Cleveland…Genl Baird is a gentleman who is free to court any woman- Mr. Reed is embarrassed by a wife and his marked attentions will not be as favorably construed by a scandal loving world…” General John A. Logan had died at the age of 60 three days earlier. In this letter, General Sherman has promoted his younger brother John to Vice President. When Vice President Thomas Hendricks died in 1885, Ohio Senator John Sherman, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, took over the Vice President’s only constitutional duty, that of presiding over the U.S. Senate, and physically moved into his office; Sen. Sherman was never Vice President.
5. “From St. Louis, Washington and here I have received many reminders that I am this day sixty-seven years old, that I am ‘lagging superfluous on the stage’ and the sooner I depart the better for all concerned.”
Autograph Letter Signed (“Affectionately & lovingly / W. T. Sherman”), 4 pages, 5” x 8”. 5th Ave Hotel, New York, February 8, 1887. On his 67th birthday, Sherman recognizes Mrs. Audenried’s handwriting on a parcel he has received “containing a dozen of fine Cambric handkerchiefs marked with silk embroidery ‘W.T.S.’ which I infer comes from you…As we say in the army the lightning has struck very close several times: [U.S.] Grant, [George B.] McClellan, [John A.] Logan, [William B.] Hazen…and [Charles P.] Stone all younger men than me, all subjected to the same mental strain and physical weakness – yet today I stand almost the last of the Mohicans, an interval of eleven years existing between me and [Philip H.] Sheridan, [John M.] Schofield & my successors in office. Well! – so it is and all I can do is to stand ready for the final call. I confess I have reason to be thankful for length of years, and reasonable health, and am I hope duly thankful that plenty of young people, you of the number, will remember the better qualities and be charitable to the weaker.” General Grant, 63, and General McClellan, 58, had died in 1885. Now, within a month of each other, Generals Logan, 60, on December 26th, Hazen, 56, on January 16th, and Stone, 62, on January 24th, each younger than he was, died and Sherman reflects on his own mortality. He realizes that there aren’t many of his Civil War comrades still living and that he was 11 years older than Generals Sheridan (who died 18 months later at 57) and Schofield (who died at 74 in 1906). Sherman’s “final call” was in 1891, six days after his 71st birthday.