Center hopes to buy letters written by Gen. Sherman

50 handwritten orders priced at $400,000

April 24, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA - Fifty letters handwritten by Gen. William T. Sherman during his Civil War campaign to capture and destroy Atlanta were displayed Monday at the Atlanta History Center, which is seeking $400,000 from private donors to purchase the collection.

It includes floridly written orders Sherman wrote to his generals during the 1864 campaign. In one, he threatens to shoot his men for shirking their duty: "The only proper fate of such miscreants is that they be shot as common enemies to their profession and country, and all officers and patriots sent to arrest them will shoot them without mercy on the slightest impudence or resistance."

All of the orders "are real. A lot of scholarship has gone into making sure," said Jim Bruns, director of the history center.

The collection has 52 special field orders. In addition to the 50 written by Sherman himself, one of the orders was written by an adjutant, probably a colonel, and signed by Sherman. Another was written by an assistant but not signed by Sherman. Some have "confidential" written in the corners, though all orders were considered top secret.

Bruns said the price - asked by the Seth Kaller Inc. historical documents company in White Plains, N.Y. - might seem steep but that the letters would be valuable to the history center "and especially to all of Atlanta."

"They are in Sherman's own handwriting," said Gordon Jones, vice president of exhibitions and collections at the center. "They are cool."

The private viewing Monday was open only to potential donors, from board members to those who have given significant gifts to the history center in the past.

Although the letters were to be returned to New York later in the week, Bruns expects the history center to raise the needed $400,000 from private donors.

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