William Tecumseh Sherman

 

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Up | Quotes of General Sherman | General Sherman in the Civil War | Pictures of General William T. Sherman | General Sherman's Memoirs

Sherman, William Tecumseh, military officer ; born in Lancaster, Ohio, Feb. 8, 1820; graduated at West Point in 1840. His father died in 1829, when he was adopted by Thomas Ewing, whose daughter Ellen he married in 1850. He served in the Seminole War, and in September, 1850, was made commissary, with the rank of captain. In 1853 he resigned, became a broker in California, and, practicing law for a while in Kansas, was made superintendent of a new military academy established by the State of Louisiana. When the convention of that State passed the ordinance of secession, Captain Sherman resigned; was made colonel of United States infantry in May, 1861;

General William T. Sherman

and commanded a brigade at the battle of Bull Run, having been made brigadier-general of volunteers in May. In October, 1861,he succeeded General Anderson in the command of the Department of Kentucky. The Secretary of War asked him how many men he should require. He answered, " Sixty thousand to drive the enemy from Kentucky, and 200,000 to finish the war in this section." This estimate seemed so wild that he was reputed to be insane, and was relieved of his command;

Sherman on Horse

General William T. Sherman on Horseback

but events proved that he was more sane than most other people. After the capture of Fort Donelson he was placed in command of a division of Grant's Army of the Tennessee, and performed signal service in the battle of Shiloh. " To his individual efforts," said Grant, " I am indebted for the success of that battle." There he was slightly wounded, and had three horses shot under him. In May he was made a major general. From July to November, 1862, he commanded at Memphis; and throughout the campaign against Vicksburg (December, 1862, to July, 1863) his services were most conspicuous and valuable.

How fully General Grant appreciated the services of both Sherman and McPherson can be seen from the following letter:

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF TENNESSEE,

VICKSBURG, Miss., July 22, 1863.

His Excellency A. Lincoln, President of the United States, Washington, D. C.:
I would most respectfully but urgently recommend the promotion of Maj.-Gen. W. T. Sherman, now commanding the 15th Army Corps, and Maj.-Gen. J. B. McPherson, commanding the 17th Army Corps, to the position of brigadier-general in the regular army. The first reason for this is their great fitness for any command it may ever become necessary to intrust to them. Second, their great purity of character and disinterestedness in anything except the faithful performance of their duty, and the success of every one engaged in the great battle for the preservation of the Union. Third, they have honorably won this distinction upon many well-fought battlefields. I will only mention some of his services while serving under my command.

To General Sherman I was greatly indebted for his promptness in forwarding to me, during the siege of Fort Donelson, reinforcements and supplies from Paducah. At the battle of Shiloh, on the first day, he held with raw troops the key points to the landing. To his individual effort I am indebted for the success of that battle. Twice hit, and (I think three) horses shot under him on that day, he maintained his position with his raw troops. It is no disparagement to any other officer to say that I do not believe there was another division commander on the field who had the skill or experience to have done it. His services as division commander in the advance on Corinth, I will venture, were appreciated by the (now) general - in - chief beyond those of any other division commander. General Sherman's management, as commander of troops in the attack on Chickasaw Bluff, last December, was admirable. Seeing the ground from the opposite side of the attack, I see the impossibility of making it successful. The conception of the attack on Arkansas Post was General Sherman's. His part of the execution no one denies was as good as it possibly could have been. His demonstration on Haines's Bluff, in April, to hold the enemy at Vicksburg while the army was securing a foothold east of the Mississippi; his rapid march to join the army afterwards; his management at Jackson, Miss., in the first attack ; his almost unequalled march from Jackson to Bridgeport, and passage of that stream; his securing Walnut Hill, on May 18, and thus opening communication with our supplies—all attest his great merits as a soldier.

The siege of Vicksburg, the last capture of Jackson, and the dispersion of Johnston's army, entitle General Sherman to more credit than it usually falls to the lot of one man to earn.

General McPherson has been with me in every battle since the commencement of the rebellion, except Belmont. At Henry, Donelson, Shiloh, and the siege of Corinth, as a staff officer and engineer, his services were conspicuous and highly meritorious. At the second battle of Corinth his skill as a soldier was displayed in successfully carrying reinforcements to the besieged garrison when the enemy was between him and the point to be reached. In the advance through central Mississippi, last November and December, General McPherson commanded one wing of the army with all the ability possible to show, he having the lead in advance and the rear in return. In the campaign and siege, terminating in the fall of Vicksburg, General McPherson has borne a conspicuous part. At the battle of Port Gibson, it was under his immediate direction that the enemy was driven, late in the afternoon from a position that they had succeeded in holding all day against an obstinate attack. His corps—the advance always under his immediate eye— were the pioneers in the advance from Port Gibson to Hankerson's Ferry. From the North Fork of Bayou Pierre to the Black River it was a constant skirmish, the whole skillfully managed. The enemy was so closely pressed as to be unable to destroy their bridge of boats after them. From Hankerson's Ferry to Jackson the 17th Army Corps marched upon roads not traveled by other troops, fighting the battle of Raymond alone; and the bulk of Johnston's army at Jackson also was fought by this corps entirely under the management of General McPherson. At Champion Hill, the 17th Army Corps and General McPherson were conspicuous. All that could be termed a battle there was fought by two divisions of General McPherson's Corps and Hovey's division of the 13th Corps.

In the assault of May 22 on the fortifications of Vicksburg, and during the entire siege, General McPherson and his command won unfailing laurels. He is one of our ablest engineers and most skilful generals.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant, U. S. GRANT, Major-General.

Sherman commanded one of the three corps in the siege of Vicksburg. After the fall of Vicksburg he operated successfully against Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. In October, 1863, he was made commander of the Department of the Tennessee, and joined Grant at Chattanooga in the middle of November; was in the battle of Missionary Ridge (Nov. 25) ; and then moved to the relief of Burnside in east Tennessee. When he was called to Chattanooga, he left Gen. J. B. McPherson in command at Vicksburg; but soon after Bragg was driven southward from Chattanooga Sherman suddenly reappeared in Mississippi. At the head of 20,000 troops he made a most destructive raid (February, 1864) from Jackson to the intersection of important railways at Meridian, in that State.

His object was to inflict as much injury on the Confederate cause and its physical strength as possible. He believed in the righteousness and efficacy of making such a war terrible, and the line of his march eastward presented a black path of desolation. No public property of the Confederates was spared. The station-houses and rolling-stock of the railways were burned. The track was torn up, and the rails, heated by the burning ties cast into heaps, were twisted and ruined. Sherman intended to push on to Montgomery, Ala., and then, if circumstances appeared favorable, to go southward and attack Mobile. He waited at Meridian for Gen. W. S. Smith to join him with a considerable force of cavalry, but that officer was held back by the Confederate forces under Forrest and others. After waiting in vain for a week, Sherman laid Meridian in ashes, and returned to Vicksburg with 500 prisoners and 5,000 liberated slaves. This raid created great consternation, for General Polk, with his 15,000 men, made but a feeble resistance. Sherman's loss was 171 men.

Sherman was perhaps most famous for his March to the Sea, in which he destroyed all confederate property in a wide swatch across the South.

General Sherman was promoted major general, United States army, in August, 1864, and lieutenant - general in July, 1866. On March 4, 1869, he succeeded General Grant as general-in-chief of the armies of the United States. He was retired on his own request, Feb. 8, 1884, on full pay. He died in New York City, Feb. 14. 1891 in New York City, where he is memorialized by an equestrian statue created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and located at the southeast entrance to Central Park. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, who had commanded the resistance to Sherman's troops as they marched through Georgia and South Carolina, served as a pallbearer at Sherman's funeral. It was a very cold February day, and a friend of Johnston, fearing that the general might become ill, asked him to put on his hat. Johnston famously replied: "If I were in his place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat."

Johnston did catch a serious cold, and died soon afterwards.
 

 

 

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