As we have seen, Sherman reported that Confederate guerrillas were firing on unarmed civilian boats on the Mississippi, and he had declared a policy of retaliation by removing Southern-sympathizing families from the Memphis area when such incidents occurred. Here he responds cordially but firmly to a Memphis resident who has apparently appealed to him to delay retaliation. He promises to allow 15 days for the Confederate authorities to disavow support for the tactics of these “partisan rangers”; if they won’t, Sherman will go ahead with the removals.
MEMPHIS, October 22, 1862.
Miss P. A. FRASER, Memphis:
DEAR LADY: Your petition is received. I will allow fifteen days for the parties interested to send to Holly Springs and Little Rock to ascertain if firing on unarmed boats is to form a part of the warfare against the Government of the United States.
If from silence or a positive answer from their commanders I am led to believe such fiendish acts are to be tolerated or allowed it would be weakness and foolish in me to listen to appeals to feelings that are scorned by our enemies. They must know and feel that not only will we meet them in arms, but that their people shall experience their full measure of the necessary consequences of such barbarity.
The Confederate generals claim the Partisan Rangers as a part of their army. They cannot then disavow their acts, but all their adherents must suffer the penalty. They shall not live with us in peace. God himself has obliterated whole races from the face of the earth for sins less heinous than such as characterized the attacks on the Catahoula and Gladiator. All I say is if such acts were done by the direct or implied concert of the Confederate authorities we are not going to chase through the canebrakes and swamps the individuals who did the deeds, but will visit punishment upon the adherents of that cause which employs such agents. We will insist on a positive separation; they cannot live with us.
Further than that I have not yet ordered, and when the time comes to settle the account we will see which is most cruel-for your partisans to fire cannon and musket-balls through steamboats with women and children on board, set them on fire with women and children sleeping in their berths, and shoot down the passengers and engineers, with the curses of hell on their tongues, or for us to say the families of men engaged in such hellish deeds shall not live in peace where the flag of the United States floats.
I know you will say these poor women and children abhor such acts as much as I do, and that their husbands and brothers in the Confederate service also would not be concerned in such acts. Then let the Confederate authorities say so, and not employ their tools in such deeds of blood and darkness. We will now wait and see who are the cruel and heartless men of this war. We will see whether the firing on the Catahoula or Gladiator is sanctioned or disapproved, and if it was done by the positive command of men commissioned by the Confederate Government, you will then appreciate how rapidly civil war corrupts the best feelings of the human heard.
Would to God ladies better acted their mission on earth; that instead of inflaming the minds of their husbands and brothers to lift their hands against the Government of their birth and stain them in blood, had prayed them to forbear, to exhaust all the remedies afforded them by our glorious Constitution, and thereby avoid “horrid war,” the last remedy on earth.
Your appeals to me shall ever receive respectful attention, but it will be vain in this case if General Holmes does not promptly disavow these acts, for I will not permit the families and adherents of secessionists to live here in peace whilst their husbands and brothers are aiming the rifle and gun at our families on the free Mississippi.
W. T. SHERMAN,