Lincoln’s Letter of Thanks and Appreciation to Gen. Sherman is a Sample Letter for CEOs Today
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
Sherman’s famous March to the Sea, in retrospect, seems like the logical choice for a general who had just taken Atlanta. Not so.
His bosses had other ideas. Secretary of War Stanton feared that Sherman was taking too great a chance–without a supply line, without communication with other Union forces, completely surrounded by enemy fighters, in bitterly hostile country. “A misstep now by Sherman might be fatal to his army,” Stanton wired Grant.
Lincoln and Stanton and Grant all worried about General Hood, whose army had been badly beaten but was still dangerous, and Hood was heading north. Should Sherman pursue him? Grant wanted him to. Sherman should finish off Hood’s forces, and then he could march south—preferably to Mobile and crush resistance on the Gulf Coast.
Back and forth they argued by telegraph. It took all of Sherman’s persuasive powers to gain permission to march his detached army to Savannah—225 river-swollen, rain-drenched, swampy miles to the southeast.
It took 24 days. During those days, no reliable word came to Washington about Sherman’s fate, only rumors and exaggerated reports in Confederate newspapers about Confederate victories.. All the time Lincoln could only hope and pray that Sherman had made the right call.
Lincoln would not have been human had he not felt doubts. Time after time his generals had promised successes that ended disastrously. Sherman’s march might be the worst of them all. An entire army of 62,000 dead or captured. If that happened, it could be the end of it all.
Then, on December 22, Sherman sent Lincoln a message that read, “I beg to present you the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
Grant, ever generous to his friend, congratulated Sherman “upon the splendid results of your campaign, the like of which is not read of in past history.” His generosity is all the more striking when you recall that Grant was locked in a long, costly, deadly siege near Richmond. Sherman was getting the headlines.
But it is Lincoln’s letter to Sherman, written the day after Christmas, that is remarkable:
“My dear General Sherman, Many. many thanks for your Christmas gift—the capture of Savannah. When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic Coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that “nothing risked, nothing gained” I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours; for I believe that none of us went farther than to acquiesce. And, taking the work of Gen.Thomas into the count, as it should be taken, it is indeed a great success. But what next? I suppose it would be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide. Please make my grateful acknowledgments to your whole army, officers and men. Yours very truly,
If you want to use Lincoln’s words as a sample letter, pay attention to the spirit of his message. There is heart in it. You can feel relief, and pride in Sherman and his army.
If you want your letters to stand out, let them reveal some feeling. Lincoln does not hesitate to be enthusiastic, and it comes through. It is not “Thank you for what you did,” but “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift….”
Lincoln revealed that he had read Sherman’s message, hence the reference to the Christmas gift. It can do nothing but help you if you quote the individual to whom you re writing.
Be honest and be generous. There was no false humility about Lincoln. He was an ambitious man, and he loved praise. He need not have generously given Sherman all the credit. But he did. “None of us went farther than to acquiesce,” Lincoln wrote.
Finally, in the midst of your praise, remind the reader that more needs to be done. Praise and exhort. “What next?”
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—Gene Griessman is an award-winning professional speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-435-2225 or firstname.lastname@example.org Learn more about Gene Griessman at presidentlincoln.com and atlantaspeakersbureau.com
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