January 20, 1890
William T. Sherman Recalls His Trip to the Levant, and Teases His Lady Friend about Harem Life
The ex-Commanding General of the United States Army was sixty, the widow of his chief of staff but thirty-five, and whether he bedded her six weeks after her husband’s death in 1880 is neither proven nor disproven here. What is clear is that ten years after Joseph Audenreid died, Sherman was intimately involved in Mary Audenreid’s life, and in that of her wayward daughter, Florence; and fond enough, still, of Colonel Audenreid, to have mentioned him not once but twice, in this joshing missive about travel and the Levant. Recalling the ten month trip he made in 1871 to Europe and the Holy Land – accompanied only by Audenreid and President Grant’s son Fred – Sherman teases the Philadelphia-born Mrs. Audenreid, then in Egypt with her daughter, about what she is doing, and what she ought to do:
You say that it is agreed by the parties concerned that you go to Cairo, the Holy Land, Smyrna, Constantinople, Athens &c &c. No wonder like Hamlet you see the ghosts of Audenreid and Sherman beckoning you on to the End. You are at this moment on our footsteps of 1872 only we were men and you are women. And I will not be the least astonished if the mysterious cable announces that those [you] Philadelphia girls have been abducted into the harem of some rich merchant of Smyrna, squatting on the divan, eating sweet meats and delighted when the little bell tinkles and tells his favorite that he wants her. Florence would realize the dream of Byron in his Bride of Abydos: but what would Audenreid think? No! the world has changed. Woman is no longer the slave of the man, but his equal. The life of an American is the family, on which all society is based - take away the Mother and the world goes back to chaos….Please infer that I want Florence to realize that the woman is no longer the play thing of the man, but has been exalted to a higher sphere of Wife & Mother… I saw enough in Cairo, in Smyrna, and Constantinople to satisfy me that our system is far better than this, and that if our girls would see & learn the lessons of the Old East, they would come back home, to fulfill their true destiny of Wife & Mother…
Sherman, an enthusiastic and indefatigable tourist, enjoyed his own trip abroad immensely. He called upon on every head of State from Queen Victoria to Sultan Abdul Aziz, climbed the pyramids, and came home with a gift - from the Khedive of Egypt - of a diamond necklace so magnificent it covered almost all of a lady’s chest. All of this was fine for the conquering hero, but for Mary Audenreid, he had other plans: “get through this foreign mania as soon as possible,” he said, “and come home where [you] rightfully belong.”
Autograph Letter Signed ("W.T. Sherman"), 4 pages, octavo, 75 W. 71st Street, New York City, January 20, 1890. To Mrs. Joseph (Mary) Audenried in Egypt.