Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

among civilized nations. No inhabitant was expelled from his home

and fireside by the orders of General Hardee or myself, and

therefore your recent order can find no support from the conduct of

either of us. I feel no other emotion other than pain in reading

that portion of your letter which attempts to justify your shelling

Atlanta without notice under pretense that I defended Atlanta upon

a line so close to town that every cannon-shot and many musket-

balls from your line of investment, that overshot their mark, went

into the habitations of women and children. I made no complaint of

your firing into Atlanta in any way you thought proper. I make

none now, but there are a hundred thousand witnesses that you fired

into the habitations of women and children for weeks, firing far

above and miles beyond my line of defense. I have too good an

opinion, founded both upon observation and experience, of the skill

of your artillerists, to credit the insinuation that they for

several weeks unintentionally fired too high for my modest field-

works, and slaughtered women and children by accident and want of


The residue of your letter is rather discussion. It opens a wide

field for the discussion of questions which I do not feel are

committed to me. I am only a general of one of the armies of the

Confederate States, charged with military operations in the field,

under the direction of my superior officers, and I am not called

upon to discuss with you the causes of the present war, or the

political questions which led to or resulted from it. These grave

and important questions have been committed to far abler hands than

mine, and I shall only refer to them so far as to repel any unjust

conclusion which might be drawn from my silence. You charge my

country with "daring and badgering you to battle." The truth is,

we sent commissioners to you, respectfully offering a peaceful

separation, before the first gun was fired on either aide. You say

we insulted your flag. The truth is, we fired upon it, and those

who fought under it, when you came to our doors upon the mission of

subjugation. You say we seized upon your forts and arsenals, and

made prisoners of the garrisons sent to protect us against negroes

and Indians. The truth is, we, by force of arms, drove out

insolent intruders and took possession of our own forts and

arsenals, to resist your claims to dominion over masters, slaves,

and Indians, all of whom are to this day, with a unanimity

unexampled in the history of the world, warring against your

attempts to become their masters. You say that we tried to force

Missouri and Kentucky into rebellion in spite of themselves. The

truth is, my Government, from the beginning of this struggle to

this hour, has again and again offered, before the whole world, to

leave it to the unbiased will of these States, and all others, to

determine for themselves whether they will cast their destiny with

your Government or ours; and your Government has resisted this

fundamental principle of free institutions with the bayonet, and

labors daily, by force and fraud, to fasten its hateful tyranny

upon the unfortunate freemen of these States. You say we falsified

the vote of Louisiana. The truth is, Louisiana not only separated

herself from your Government by nearly a unanimous vote of her

people, but has vindicated the act upon every battle-field from

Gettysburg to the Sabine, and has exhibited an heroic devotion to

her decision which challenges the admiration and respect of every

man capable of feeling sympathy for the oppressed or admiration for

heroic valor. You say that we turned loose pirates to plunder your

unarmed ships. The truth is, when you robbed us of our part of the

navy, we built and bought a few vessels, hoisted the flag of our

country, and swept the seas, in defiance of your navy, around the

whole circumference of the globe. You say we have expelled Union

families by thousands. The truth is, not a single family has been

expelled from the Confederate States, that I am aware of; but, on

the contrary, the moderation of our Government toward traitors has

been a fruitful theme of denunciation by its enemies and

well-meaning friends of our cause. You say my Government, by acts

of Congress, has confiscated "all debts due Northern men for goods

sold and delivered." The truth is, our Congress gave due and ample

time to your merchants and traders to depart from our shores with

their ships, goods, and effects, and only sequestrated the property

of our enemies in retaliation for their acts--declaring us

traitors, and confiscating our property wherever their power

extended, either in their country or our own. Such are your

accusations, and such are the facts known of all men to be true.

You order into exile the whole population of a city; drive men,

women and children from their homes at the point of the bayouet,

under the plea that it is to the interest of your Government, and

on the claim that it is "an act of kindness to these families of

Atlanta." Butler only banished from New Orleans the registered

enemies of his Government, and acknowledged that he did it as a

punishment. You issue a sweeping edict, covering all the

inhabitants of a city, and add insult to the injury heaped upon the

defenseless by assuming that you have done them a kindness. This

you follow by the assertion that you will "make as much sacrifice

for the peace and honor of the South as the best-born Southerner."

And, because I characterize what you call as kindness as being real

cruelty, you presume to sit in judgment between me and my God; and

you decide that my earnest prayer to the Almighty Father to save

our women and children from what you call kindness, is a

"sacrilegious, hypocritical appeal."

You came into our country with your army, avowedly for the purpose

of subjugating free white men, women, and children, and not only

intend to rule over them, but you make negroes your allies, and

desire to place over us an inferior race, which we have raised from

barbarism to its present position, which is the highest ever

attained by that race, in any country, in all time. I must,

therefore, decline to accept your statements in reference to your

kindness toward the people of Atlanta, and your willingness to

sacrifice every thing for the peace and honor of the South, and

refuse to be governed by your decision in regard to matters between

myself, my country, and my God.

You say, "Let us fight it out like men." To this my reply is--for

myself, and I believe for all the free men, ay, and women and

children, in my country--we will fight you to the death! Better

die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your

Government and your negro allies!

Having answered the points forced upon me by your letter of the 9th

of September, I close this correspondence with you; and,

notwithstanding your comments upon my appeal to God in the cause of

humanity, I again humbly and reverently invoke his almighty aid in

defense of justice and right. Respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. B. HOOD, General.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 11, 1864

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN.

Sir: We the undersigned, Mayor and two of the Council for the city

of Atlanta, for the time being the only legal organ of the people

of the said city, to express their wants and wishes, ask leave most

earnestly but respectfully to petition you to reconsider the order

requiring them to leave Atlanta.

At first view, it struck us that the measure world involve

extraordinary hardship and loss, but since we have seen the

practical execution of it so far as it has progressed, and the

individual condition of the people, and heard their statements as

to the inconveniences, loss, and suffering attending it, we are

satisfied that the amount of it will involve in the aggregate

consequences appalling and heart-rending.

Many poor women are in advanced state of pregnancy, others now

having young children, and whose husbands for the greater part are

either in the army, prisoners, or dead. Some say: "I have such a

one sick at my house; who will wait on them when I am gone?"

Others say: "What are we to do? We have no house to go to, and no

means to buy, build, or rent any; no parents, relatives, or

friends, to go to." Another says: "I will try and take this or

that article of property, but such and such things I must leave

behind, though I need them much." We reply to them: "General

Sherman will carry your property to Rough and Ready, and General

Hood will take it thence on." And they will reply to that: "But I

want to leave the railroad at such a place, and cannot get

conveyance from there on."

We only refer to a few facts, to try to illustrate in part how this

measure will operate in practice. As you advanced, the people

north of this fell back; and before your arrival here, a large

portion of the people had retired south, so that the country south

of this is already crowded, and without houses enough to

accommodate the people, and we are informed that many are now

staying in churches and other out-buildings.

This being so, how is it possible for the people still here (mostly

women and children) to find any shelter? And how can they live

through the winter in the woods--no shelter or subsistence, in the

midst of strangers who know them not, and without the power to

assist them much, if they were willing to do so?

This is but a feeble picture of the consequences of this measure.

You know the woe, the horrors, and the suffering, cannot be

described by words; imagination can only conceive of it, and we ask

you to take these things into consideration.

We know your mind and time are constantly occupied with the duties

of your command, which almost deters us from asking your attention

to this matter, but thought it might be that you had not considered

this subject in all of its awful consequences, and that on more

reflection you, we hope, would not make this people an exception to

all mankind, for we know of no such instance ever having occurred--

surely never in the United States--and what has this helpless

people done, that they should be driven from their homes, to wander

strangers and outcasts, and exiles, and to subsist on charity?

We do not know as yet the number of people still here; of those who

are here, we are satisfied a respectable number, if allowed to

remain at home, could subsist for several months without

assistance, and a respectable number for a much longer time, and

who might not need assistance at any time.

In conclusion, we most earnestly and solemnly petition you to

reconsider this order, or modify it, and suffer this unfortunate

people to remain at home, and enjoy what little means they have.

Respectfully submitted


E. E. RAWSON, Councilman.

S. C. Warns, Councilman.


IN THE FIELD, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, September 12, 1864.

JAMES M. CALHOUN, Mayor, E. E. RAWSON and S. C. Wares, representing

City Council of Atlanta.

GENTLEMEN: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a

petition to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from

Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your

statements of the distress that will be occasioned, and yet shall

not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the

humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in

which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep

interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta, but in all

America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates

our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat

the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and

Constitution that all must respect and obey. To defeat those

armies, we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses,

provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to

accomplish our purpose. Now, I know the vindictive nature of our

enemy, that we may have many years of military operations from this

quarter; and, therefore, deem it wise and prudent to prepare in

time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with

its character as a home for families. There will be no

manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here, for the maintenance of

families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to

go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for

the transfer,--instead of waiting till the plunging shot of

contending armies will renew the scenes of the past months. Of

course, I do not apprehend any such thing at this moment, but you

do not suppose this army will be here until the war is over. I

cannot discuss this subject with you fairly, because I cannot

impart to you what we propose to do, but I assert that our military

plans make it necessary for the inhabitants to go away, and I can

only renew my offer of services to make their exodus in any

direction as easy and comfortable as possible.

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is

cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into

our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can

pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I

will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.

But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the

United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will

go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The

United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once

had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and

I believe that such is the national feeling. This feeling assumes

various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit

the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the national

Government, and, instead of devoting your houses and streets and

roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your

protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come

from what quarter it may. I know that a few individuals cannot

resist a torrent of error and passion, such as swept the South into

rebellion, but you can point out, so that we may know those who

desire a government, and those who insist on war and its


You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these

terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way

the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet

at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting

that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

We don't want your negroes, or your horses, or your houses, or your

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