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HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSOURI,
To THE PRESIDENT :
Dear Sir : It is hard for me to conceive you would purposely do me an unkindness, unless under the pressure of a sense of public duty, or because you do not believe me sincere.
I was in hopes, since my letter to you of the 31st of January, that you had concluded to pass over that purpose of yours, expressed more than once in conversation, to organize a new command for me in the East, with headquarters in Washington ; but a telegram from General Grant of yesterday says that " the order was issued ordering you" (me) "to Atlantic division"; and the newspapers of this morning contain the same information, with the addition that I have been nominated as "Brevet General." I have telegraphed to my own brother in the Senate to oppose my confirmation, on the ground that the two higher grades in the army ought not to be complicated with brevets, and I trust you will conceive my motives aright. If I could see my way clear to maintain my family, I should not hesitate a moment to resign my present commission and seek some business wherein I would be free from those unhappy complications that seem to be closing about me, spite of my earnest efforts to avoid them ; but necessity ties my hands, and I must submit with the best grace I can, till I make other arrangements.
In Washington are already the headquarters of a department, and of the army itself, and it is hard for me to see wherein I can render military service there. Any staff-officer with the rank of Major could surely fill any gap left between those two military offices ; and by being placed in Washington I shall be universally construed as a rival to the General-in-Chief, a position damaging to me in the highest degree. Our relations have always been most confidential and friendly, and if, unhappily, any cloud of difficulty should arise between us, my sense of personal dignity and duty would leave me no alternative but resignation. For this I am not yet prepared, but I shall proceed to arrange for it as rapidly as possible, that when the time does come (as it surely will if this plan is carried into effect), I may act promptly.
Inasmuch as the order is now issued, I cannot expect a full revocation of it, but I beg the privilege of taking post at New York, or any point you may name within the new military division other than Washington.
This privilege is generally granted to all military commanders, and I see no good reasons why I, too, may not ask for it ; and this simple concession, involving no public interest, will much soften the blow which, right or wrong, I construe as one of the hardest I have sustained in a life somewhat checkered with adversity.
With great respect, yours truly,
(Signed) W. T. SHERMAN,
- William Sherman