Best Defense
Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Sherman (XI): The Confederates I worry about most after the war will be the young men with guns and horses — but no land

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 25, 2014.  Let’s finish off this week’s celebration of the defeat of the Confederacy with a look at a lengthy letter written in September 1863, in which Gen. William T. Sherman laid out his concerns about postwar reconstruction. His biggest worry, he wrote, ...

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Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 25, 2014. 

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally ran on April 25, 2014. 

Let’s finish off this week’s celebration of the defeat of the Confederacy with a look at a lengthy letter written in September 1863, in which Gen. William T. Sherman laid out his concerns about postwar reconstruction.

His biggest worry, he wrote, was a certain type of Confederate soldier — specifically…

The young Bloods of the South, sons of Planters, lawyers about Town, good billiard players and sportsmen. Men who never did work, or never will. War suits them: and the rascals are fine, brave riders, bold to rashness, and dangerous subjects in every sense…. As long as they have a good horse, plenty of Forage. This is a larger class than most men suppose, and are the most dangerous set of men which this war has turned loose upon the world. They are splendid riders, shots, and utterly reckless. Stuart, John Morgan, Forrest, and Jackson are the types & leaders of this class. They must all be killed, or employed by us before we can hope for Peace. They have no property or future & therefore cannot be influenced by anything except personal considerations. I have two Brigades of these fellows to my Front…. They are the best Cavalry in the world."

Tom again: As I read this over again, I wondered if this note contains the essence of how the Union lost Phase IV of the Civil War, or at least didn’t win it until 1964. Forrest became a major member of the Ku Klux Klan, of course. I wonder how many cavalry vets rallied to him.

BTW, Morgan’s nephew won the Nobel Prize in medicine.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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