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“War is a hard master.”
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The Commander of the Department of the Missouri and the future Commanding General of the U.S. Army is not about to show favoritism to family when it comes to duty. He has some stern advice for his younger foster brother, Charley, delivered through his older brother.

WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN. Autograph Letter Signed, to his foster brother and former General Thomas Ewing Jr. Saint Louis, Missouri, June 30, 1867, 4 pp., quarto.

Inventory #23562.01       Price: $1,850

Complete Transcript

Saint Louis Mo, June 30, 1867

Dear Tom,

            I have your letter of June 9th which came when I was up on the Platte, and since my return I have been so busy getting some papers ready for the coming session of Congress that I have had no time for private letters till today Sunday, and at home.

I am delighted to hear that both Hugh and Charley have mustered off altogether. I never knew two persons who were less fitted to drink. If either could see himself, as I have seen them they would never again be tempted to put themselves in John Barleycorn’s grasp. It seems to me that Hugh’s place was cut out for him and I hope he may long retain it. <2> As to Charley I fear both he and you have a radically wrong idea. He is a Captain of a company & should be with his men, or should make a vacancy now. He has no right to trifle with the lives of men. He does the Army a great wrong by making it a mere personal convenience. Were I in Chief command and he or any body else would prolong a leave of absence and in position and when he had exhausted every possible device, then concluded to serve another year to prepare to resign, I would announce his Resignation accepted, and declare a vacancy, & fill it. I know that others think and act on a different hypothesis, but if an officer will not subordinate himself to the duties of his station he can make no claim to being a real officer. <3> Now if Charley intends to make the army a convenience, then he should resign at once, and begin his new career. Out on the Plains we are embarrassed beyond all measure by such cases, and I think soon, we must adopt a Rule as was done in the War. Declare all absentees discharged & fill the list with officers “present for duty.” It would result in personal hardship but war is a hard master. It would not spare me, and I don t see why I should not claim its Rules.

            I must start up again for the Kansas Frontier & leave Ellen & family to get to Madison with the help of one of my aids or an orderly. I will take Tom & Minnie to Fort Harker & start July 4. Ellen will leave about the 8th July. I learn by a letter from Ellen Cox that you & family will spend the summer in Long Island. I like the fresh spring water of Lake Wenona <4> better for bathing boating & fishing than the [Rising?] Atlantic, with its sand beach and surf but “chacun à son goût.” [“Each to one’s own taste”] I will write your father today also but I wish you will get this away from him.

            All are well with us

                        ever your affectionately

                                    WT Sherman

Historical Background

Appointed Commander of the Department of the Missouri just a few months after war’s end, Sherman’s main concern was protecting the workers and overseeing the progress of the first Transcontinental Railroad. Though the General often talked tough regarding Indian removal, negotiating was more effective than warfare, especially considering that limited troops had to cover vast areas of the Great Plains. In 1867, the U.S. Army was in the process of negotiating peace with the Plains Indians. As Sherman alludes, his younger foster brother and others embarrassed themselves and abused their positions and the Army by taking excessive leave and using their positions as mere conveniences. Less than a month later, Congress created the Indian Peace Commission and negotiated three treaties that collectively are known as the Medicine Lodge Treaty, signed between October 21 and 28, 1867.

William T. Sherman (1820-1891), a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, served as a corps commander under General Grant in successful campaigns down the Mississippi and in Tennessee. He then took command of the western armies when Grant was reassigned to the Virginia theatre. He was both recognized and criticized for his tactics of “scorched earth” and “total war,” evidenced by his capture of Atlanta and “March to the Sea” through Georgia. He followed this feat by a swift campaign north through the Carolinas to force the surrender of the last major Confederate army. Sherman served as Commanding General of the U.S. Army from 1869-1883, during a period of Westward expansion and Indian Wars.


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