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Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820-1891) to Colonel John E. Tourtelotte

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01216 Author/Creator: Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820-1891) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 7 July 1882 Pagination: 8 p. ; 21 x 13 cm. Order a Copy

Writes to his former aide-de-camp about land ownership and taxes. Advises Tourtelotte to sell his land in Minnesota. Informs that he and his family have decided to settle down in St. Louis, Missouri. Talks of his retirement and remarks, " ... our military family must break up - It is better we should in good health, than by death." States that Tourtelotte has no family and in some ways is more fortunate, because providing for a family is very expensive. Worries about his brother who fell from a ladder and is unconscious. Written on printed stationery of Headquarters, Army of the United States.

Tourtelotte's name is spelled Tourtellotte in some sources. He was inducted into the army in 1866 into the Volunteer 4th Minnesota Infantry.

General Sherman
Headquarters Army of the United States
Washington, D.C. July 7 1882
Dear Tourtelotte,
I received your letter from Mankato this morning, and gave it to Bacon to read - so I have it not before me at this writing. I am somewhat surprised at what you say about wheat - I supposed that the Soil and climate of Minnesota had proven adaptibility to Wheat and Grain. So far as my Experiences goes wild naked land is poor property, at any price. [2] Yielding nothing but taxes, and those imposed by interested parties on non-residents amounts to Confiscation, I have tried it several times and always at a loss - I had a Section on the Union Pacific RR. about 50 miles west of Omaha, on which the taxes were first $40 a year, but they steadily grew to $450 a year. So I let it go at a nominal price, that did not Equal the original price & back taxes. Every body, Especially of Our Race, wants to be a land owner - but [3] I doubt if Land has any value except to the Small farmer, who can make a bare living but nothing more. In Europe the net income of land is taxed say 10 pc - but in America the valuation is taxed say 1. to 3 pc. - which is ten times as much as in Europe - Indeed most of our farmers are working hard all year to pay their taxes. Unless at some future time you Expect to Settle down at Mankato, which I doubt, I advise you to Sell as opportunities offer - There is [4] so much land in America that it will never command the value it has in Europe, Where other methods prevail. - The weather here has been Exceptionally Cool. Only two days of real hot weather, and these Bacon & I spent at Old Point. I went up to Oakland Md. last Saturday night and staid over Tuesday - July 4. - Fitch, Minsin & their family arrived on Sunday Machura & Elly with their little girl Lirris went up with me. So we were all there together. I availed myself of that Chance to discuss fully our plans for the Future. I agreed to settle [5] down, on Retirement - at Washington - at St. Louis, [struck: and] or at Yonkers on the Hudson.
We all discussed freely and fairly all the chances, and finally agreed that St. Louis was our natural home. So I announced that all discussion must cease, and all must Shape their thoughts and plans on St. Louis, we will occupy this house 817 - 15th St - till next Spring, when we will vacate. The family will return to Oakland for the Summer [6] and in Sept-Oct move wholly to St. Louis, to reoccupy our house on Garrison Avenue - I will remain at Washington till actually retired. I want to break up here before Dec. 1883, but may remain till the last moment Feb 8. 1882 - to give you & Bacon time for promotions as Field Officers. Dodge is already Colonel of the 11th Infantry. Port & Morrow are Field Officers, and I think you and Bacon will be in all 1883.--I will appoint no one [7] in Dodge's place. Therefore in the winter of 1883-4, our military family must break up - It is better we should in good health, then by death. - Senators and Members of Congress tell me that they will not consent that I should leave simply in full vigorous health, but I answer that the Rule Established is fair, just and liberal and I must not he quoted as unwilling. Fitch is doing well & needs no further help from me - Machura is also doing well, but I must help him Some. [8] The others I can provide for well at St. Louis and take the chances. You have no family, and in some respects are fortunate as not having to provide for others. In modern times a family costs ten times what it did in 1840. - you as a single man are for richer than I am with a large salary & a large family. - I am now uneasy about my brother who fell with a ladder from his house at Des Moines, Iowa, and now lies unconscious and may die. - he too has a family that must be provided for. - all at Oakland were well yesterday, and at our headquarters. just as you left us -
Sincerely yours,
W. T. Sherman

Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891
Tourtelotte, John E., 1833-1891

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