During the summer while at Lancaster, Sherman wrote to several officers of the army with whom he had been associated, asking for their views on certain problems of military school organization. The following letter from Captain George B. McClellan is the only one that has been preserved. It was taken from the Seminary in 1864 by an officer of Gen. Banks's army and was returned to Louisiana State University in 1909. It bears the following endorsement by Sherman: "Capt. McC. went to Sebastopol and reported to our government. He spent more than a year in Austrian, Russian, and English camps and is a gentleman of singular intelligence."
GEORGE B. McCLELLAN TO W. T. SHERMAN
Illinois Central Railroad Company, Vice President's Office, Chicago, Oct. 23, 1859.
My DEAR SIR: I regret exceedingly that I have so long delayed replying to yours of the 3oth, ult. I hope this will reach you at Baton Rouge in time to serve your purposes, and must beg you to consider my rather multifarious duties as my excuse for the delay; in truth I was desirous of taking some little pains with my reply, and it has been difficult for me to find the time.
I think with you that the blue frock coat, and felt hat with a feather, with perhaps the Austrian undress cap, will be the most appropriate uniform, the grey coatee is rather behind the age.
If the academy is in the Pine Barrens, it would seem that the period from September 1 to June 20, with the two examinations you speak of, would answer every purpose. It would be almost impossible to have an encampment, I should suppose, yet you might in a very few days teach them how to pitch tents, and the more important parts of camp duty, such as guard duty, construction of field kitchens and ovens, huts for pioneers, etc.
You will find in Captain Marcy's new book The Prairie Traveller a great deal of invaluable information in reference to camps, taking care of animals, etc., on the prairies. I think you would find it worth while, if not to make it a text book, to require or advise to students to procure copies. It is a book they will read with great interest and profit-it fills a vacuum of no little importance.
I think I have at home the plates belonging to the French "Instruction pour 1'enseignement de la Gymnas- tique." This will give you all the information you need as to the appliances required for a gymnasium. The title is Instruction pour 1'enseignement de la Gymnas- tique dans les corps de troupes et les etablissements mil- itaire (Paris, I. Dumaine).
If my copy is lost I would advise you to import it. There is also a very good little work published by Dumaine, called Extrait de I'Instruction pour 1'enseignement de la Gymnastique, etc., par le Capitaine C. d'Argy.
In addition to the regular instruction in the infantry and artillery manuals, I would by all means have daily practice in the gymnasium, or fencing with the foil and bayonet, and the same exercise at least half an hour a day ought to be devoted to this.
With regard to the course of instruction necessary to lay the foundation for a thorough knowledge of engineering, I do not think that the general course at West Point can be materially improved upon. We have all felt the want of practical instruction on certain points when we left West Point-e.g. in the actual use of instruments, both surveying and astronomical, topography
and field sketches, railway engineering, etc. - but it is impossible to do everything in a limited time, and I would suggest that you follow in the main the West Point course, retrenching a little from some of the higher branches and adding a little to the practical instruction.
I know of no complete work on the construction of railways, it is thus far essentially a practical business. Collum and Holley's work on European Railways contains some valuable information. Lardner on the Steam Engine, Parbouron the Locomotive and Steam Engine, Collum on the Locomotive are all useful. Borden's Formulae for the Location and Construction of Railroads, Haupt on Bridge construction, Moseley's Mechanical Engineering, Edwin Clarke on the Brittania and Conway Tubular Bridges, Arolis series of Rudimentary treatise on Engineering, etc., are all of value.
I regret that I am rather pushed for time tonight, as I would have liked to write more fully, but I start for St. Paul in the morning and must do the best I can in a limited time. If I can give you any further information it will afford me great pleasure to do so at any time. With my best wishes for your success in Louisiana, I am very truly yours,
Geo. B. McCLELLAN.