January 20, 1890

William T. Sherman Recalls His Trip to the Levant, and Teases His Lady Friend about Harem Life

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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.

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Transcript

No 75 - West 71 Str
New York.
Jan 20, 1890

Dear Mrs. Audenreid,

I am just in receipt of your letter of Jan 3rd dated Naples in which 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.

I doubt if this letter ever reaches you, but if it does, 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 of a ......... family. 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 --

Here the world moves along in its accustomed way -- we have had as yet no winter but a reasonable quantity of the Grippe from which my family is exempt. - Rachel is in Paris with the Reeds - but designs to go to Rome in February. She promises to come home in April and thereafter to the Continent. Katie Gordon is with us waiting for her father from St. Paul to take her to Paris. Of course when a girl goes to Paris I mark her name "out" as I used to do on the Army Register when an officer got the detail for Signal Service

Give my love to Florence & Mrs. Gallup - tell them to hurry up - get through this foreign mania as soon as possible, and come home where they rightfully belong.
For yourself accept my assurance of sympathy and affection.

Yours


W. T. SHERMAN