Sherman’s Red Flannel Drawers

Amanda Theodocia Jones, A Psychic Autobiography, New York: Greaves Publishing Company, 1910: 110-111.

There are many yet among us who can recollect the great anxiety of Northern Unionists during the month (December, 1864,) when Sherman’s army left Atlanta and struck across the State of Georgia to the sea.  Not once my faith had wavered in that prophecy that our loved country should emerge from gates of death and “rule” its own beyond all peradventure.  But I, too, suffered with the multitude, until it truly seemed the heart must break.  During that month (I cannot give the date at this late day, but history will furnish it), I said one night in my first sleep: “I will go down and find the General!” and I was well aware of traveling.  We have no chronoscope to measure intervals of time, minute as those that mark a spirit’s flight, but consciously I fled, and toward the South.  It was dark outside of Sherman’s tent, but not completely dark.  I lifted up the canvas (how could I do that?) and stepped within.  I had never seen a picture of the general, nor a bust, nor even read a line describing him.  In these days every daily keeps the faces of the notable before us, more or less distorted.  In those days headlines flared continually: “No News from Sherman’s Army!”  But he, himself, was not portrayed, save by his doughty deeds.

The General stood before me, not impressing me as physically great, but of commanding presence.  Florid, rather spare in flesh, with that wide prominent forehead, and a face that somehow made a radiance for itself by which I saw it perfectly.  His lips, I noticed, twitched as if with nervousness, but his whole frame was steady and alert.  He wore two garments only; a white shirt and red flannel drawers.  He was in the middle of his tent (and that was not a little one), standing sidewise to me, so that I saw his profile only, every line and feature well illuminated.

“General,” I said, “how goes the battle?”

He did not turn his face, but answered audibly: “Hard fighting and almost a rout along our flank.  The rebels drove us back.  I have sent on reinforcements, and now we are driving back the rebels.  We are conquering—WE SHALL CONQUER!”  He spoke with fire and energy.

No only did I see the General—as every picture I have seen of him and every bust has demonstrated, but I heard his voice!  Can anyone suppose that voice, vibrating from the State of Georgia to Lake Erie, had reached my outer ear and roused its dormant hearing?  I heard objectively, even as I saw objectively—quite independent of the mortal ear or eye.

When I told about my visit at the breakfast table, we remarked that “yesterday was Sunday,” and made record of the date, which, by our earliest advices from the re-united forces at Savannah, we were fully able to confirm.  Further than this: An article appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in the early eighties (I think in 1883), written by General A. C. McClurg, one of Sherman’s bodyguard throughout that famous march.  He says: “That Sunday’s fighting has been under-estimated” or words to that effect.  He writes the story out, of a most desperate struggle, ending in victory.  Word came to General Sherman “at ten o’clock” that Sunday night, of a disaster near to rout.  I quote: “Sherman leaped from his bed, ordered reinforcements sent, and stood for two hours in the middle of his tent, clad only in his shirt and flannel drawers, dictating and receiving his dispatches.”

Alexander C. McClurg, “The Last Chance of the Confederacy,” Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 50 (September 1882): 389-401 [at MOA Cornell].

On reading that account, I wrote at once to General McClurg (his house [Jansen, McClurg & Company] had published my third book—“A Prairie Idyl”), telling him my story, and laying stress upon the trivial fact that those same flannel drawers were “red.”  This he confirmed by letter, saying that account was wholly accurate.  “You must have seen the General himself,” he added.


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