General, thank you serving this nation in the time of need during the Civil War, you were truly a brillant mind in defeating the enemy, remembering you after 120 years ago today, may you rest in peace!
William Tecumseh Sherman (February 8, 1820 – February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched earth" policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States. Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart famously declared that Sherman was "the first modern general."
Sherman served under General Ulysses S. Grant in 1862 and 1863 during the campaigns that led to the fall of the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River and culminated with the routing of the Confederate armies in the state of Tennessee.
In 1864, Sherman succeeded Grant as the Union commander in the western theater of the war. He proceeded to lead his troops to the capture of the city of Atlanta, a military success that contributed to the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman's subsequent march through Georgia and the Carolinas further undermined the Confederacy's ability to continue fighting. He accepted the surrender of all the Confederate armies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida in April 1865.
When Grant assumed the U.S. presidency in 1869, Sherman succeeded him as Commanding General of the Army (1869–83). As such, he was responsible for the U.S. Army conduct in the Indian Wars over the next 15 years, in the western United States. He steadfastly refused to be drawn into politics and in 1875 published his Memoirs, one of the best-known firsthand accounts of the Civil War.
General Sherman's record as a tactician was mixed, and his military legacy rests primarily on his command of logistics and on his brilliance as a strategist. The influential 20th century British military historian and theorist B. H. Liddell Hart ranked Sherman as one of the most important strategists in the annals of war, along with Scipio Africanus, Belisarius, Napoleon Bonaparte, T. E. Lawrence, and Erwin Rommel.
Liddell Hart credited Sherman with mastery of maneuver warfare (also known as the "indirect approach"), as demonstrated by his series of turning movements against Johnston during the Atlanta Campaign. Liddell Hart also stated that study of Sherman's campaigns had contributed significantly to his own "theory of strategy and tactics in mechanized warfare", which had in turn influenced Heinz Guderian's doctrine of Blitzkrieg and Rommel's use of tanks during the Second World War.
Another WWII-era student of Liddell Hart's writings about Sherman was George S. Patton, who "'spent a long vacation studying Sherman's campaigns on the ground in Georgia and the Carolinas, with the aid of [LH's] book'" and later "'carried out his [bold] plans, in super-Sherman style'".
Sherman's greatest contribution to the war, the strategy of total warfare—endorsed by General Grant and President Lincoln—has been the subject of much controversy. Sherman himself downplayed his role in conducting total war, often saying that he was simply carrying out orders as best he could in order to fulfill his part of Grant's master plan for ending the war.
Like Grant, Sherman was convinced that the Confederacy's strategic, economic, and psychological ability to wage further war needed to be definitively crushed if the fighting were to end. Therefore, he believed that the North had to conduct its campaign as a war of conquest and employ scorched earth tactics to break the backbone of the rebellion, which he called "hard war".
Sherman's advance through Georgia and South Carolina was characterized by widespread destruction of civilian supplies and infrastructure. Although looting was officially forbidden, historians disagree on how well this regulation was enforced. The speed and efficiency of the destruction by Sherman's army was remarkable. The practice of bending rails around trees, leaving behind what came to be known as Sherman's neckties, made repairs difficult. Accusations that civilians were targeted and war crimes were committed on the march have made Sherman a controversial figure to this day, particularly in the South.
The damage done by Sherman was almost entirely limited to the destruction of property. Though exact figures are not available, the loss of civilian life appears to have been very small.
Consuming supplies, wrecking infrastructure, and undermining morale were Sherman's stated goals, and several of his Southern contemporaries noted this and commented on it. For instance, Alabama-born Major Henry Hitchcock, who served in Sherman's staff, declared that "it is a terrible thing to consume and destroy the sustenance of thousands of people", but if the scorched earth strategy served "to paralyze their husbands and fathers who are fighting ... it is mercy in the end."
The severity of the destructive acts by Union troops was significantly greater in South Carolina than in Georgia or North Carolina. This appears to have been a consequence of the animosity among both Union soldiers and officers to the state that they regarded as the "cockpit of secession". One of the most serious accusations against Sherman was that he allowed his troops to burn the city of Columbia.
In 1867, Gen. O.O. Howard, commander of Sherman's 15th Corps, reportedly said, "It is useless to deny that our troops burnt Columbia, for I saw them in the act." However, Sherman himself stated that "[i]f I had made up my mind to burn Columbia I would have burnt it with no more feeling than I would a common prairie dog village; but I did not do it ..."
Sherman's official report on the burning placed the blame on Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton III, who Sherman said had ordered the burning of cotton in the streets. In his memoirs, Sherman said, "In my official report of this conflagration I distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and confess I did so pointedly to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was in my opinion a braggart and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina." Historian James M. McPherson has concluded that:
The fullest and most dispassionate study of this controversy blames all parties in varying proportions—including the Confederate authorities for the disorder that characterized the evacuation of Columbia, leaving thousands of cotton bales on the streets (some of them burning) and huge quantities of liquor undestroyed ... Sherman did not deliberately burn Columbia; a majority of Union soldiers, including the general himself, worked through the night to put out the fires.
In this general connection, it is also noteworthy that Sherman and his subordinates took steps to protect Raleigh, North Carolina, from acts of revenge after the assassination of President Lincoln.
Autobiography and memoirs:
Sheet music for "Sherman's March to the Sea"Around 1868, Sherman wrote (or at least began) a "private" recollection for his children about his life before the Civil War–identified now as his unpublished "Autobiography, 1828-1861". This manuscript is held by the Ohio Historical Society. Much of the material in it would eventually be incorporated in revised form in his memoirs.
In 1875, ten years after the end of the Civil War, Sherman became one of the first Civil War generals to publish a memoir. His Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. By Himself, published by D. Appleton & Co., in two volumes, began with the year 1846 (when the Mexican War began) and ended with a chapter about the “military lessons of the [civil] war” (1875 edition: Volume I; Volume II ).
The memoirs were controversial, and sparked complaints from many quarters. Grant (serving as President when Sherman’s memoirs first appeared) later remarked that others had told him that Sherman treated Grant unfairly but "when I finished the book, I found I approved every word; that ... it was a true book, an honorable book, creditable to Sherman, just to his companions — to myself particularly so — just such a book as I expected Sherman would write."
In 1886, after the publication of Grant’s memoirs, Sherman produced a "second edition, revised and corrected" of his memoirs with Appleton. The new edition added a second preface, a chapter about his life up to 1846, a chapter concerning the post-war period (ending with his 1884 retirement from the army), several appendices, portraits, improved maps, and an index (1886 edition: Volume I, Volume II).
For the most part, Sherman refused to revise his original text on the ground that "I disclaim the character of historian, but assume to be a witness on the stand before the great tribunal of history" and "any witness who may disagree with me should publish his own version of [the] facts in the truthful narration of which he is interested." However, Sherman did add the appendices, in which he published the views of some others.
Sherman in his later years, in civilian evening clothesSubsequently, Sherman shifted to the publishing house of Charles L. Webster & Co., the publisher of Grant’s memoirs. The new publishing house brought out a "third edition, revised and corrected" in 1890. This difficult-to-find edition was substantively identical to the second (except for the probable omission of Sherman's short 1875 and 1886 prefaces).
After Sherman died in 1891, there were dueling new editions of his memoirs. His first publisher, Appleton, reissued the original (1875) edition with two new chapters about Sherman’s later years added by the journalist W. Fletcher Johnson (1891 Johnson edition: Volume I, Volume II).
Meanwhile, Charles L. Webster & Co. issued a "fourth edition, revised, corrected, and complete" with the text of Sherman’s second edition, a new chapter prepared under the auspices of the Sherman family bringing the general’s life from his retirement to his death and funeral, and an appreciation by politician James G. Blaine (who was related to Sherman's wife). Unfortunately, this edition omits Sherman’s prefaces to the 1875 and 1886 editions (1891 Blaine edition: Volume I, Volume II).
In 1904 and 1913, Sherman’s youngest son (Philemon Tecumseh Sherman) republished the memoirs, ironically with Appleton (not Charles L. Webster & Co.). This was designated as a "second edition, revised and corrected". This edition contains Sherman’s two prefaces, his 1886 text, and the materials added in the 1891 Blaine edition. Thus, this virtually invisible edition of Sherman's memoirs is actually the most comprehensive version.
There are many modern editions of Sherman’s memoirs. The edition most useful for research purposes is the 1990 Library of America version, edited by Charles Royster. It contains the entire text of Sherman’s 1886 edition, together with annotations, a note on the text, and a detailed chronology of Sherman’s life. Missing from this edition is the useful biographical material contained in the 1891 Johnson and Blaine editions.
Many of Sherman's official war-time letters (and other items) appear in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Some of these letters are rather personal in nature, rather than relating directly to operational activities of the army. There also are at least five published collections of Sherman correspondence:
Sherman's Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860–1865, edited by Brooks D. Simpson and Jean V. Berlin (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999) – a large collection of war-time letters (November 1860 to May 1865).
Sherman at War, edited by Joseph H. Ewing (Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1992) – approximately thirty war time letters to Sherman's father-in-law, Thomas Ewing, and one of his brothers-in-law, Philemon B. Ewing.
Home Letters of General Sherman, edited by M.A. DeWolfe Howe (New York: Charles Scribner's Son, 1909) – edited letters to his wife, Ellen Ewing Sherman, from 1837 to 1888.
The Sherman Letters: Correspondence Between General Sherman and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, edited by Rachel Sherman Thorndike (New York: Charles Scribner's Son, 1894) – edited letters to his brother, Senator John Sherman, from 1837 to 1891.
General W.T. Sherman as College President, edited by Walter L. Fleming (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1912) – edited letters and other documents from Sherman's 1859–1861 service as superintendent of the Louisiana Seminary of Learning and Military Academy.
Death and posterity:
Sherman died in New York City on 14 February 1891.
On 19 February, there was a funeral service held at his home, followed by a military procession. Sherman's body was then transported to St. Louis, where another service was conducted on 21 February 1891 at a local Catholic church. His son, Thomas Ewing Sherman, a Jesuit priest, presided over his father's funeral mass.
General Joseph E. Johnston, the Confederate officer who had commanded the resistance to Sherman's troops in Georgia and the Carolinas, served as a pallbearer in New York City. It was a bitterly cold 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 [Sherman's] place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat." Johnston did catch a serious cold and died one month later of pneumonia.
Sherman is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. Major memorials to Sherman include the gilded bronze equestrian statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the main entrance to Central Park in New York City and the major monument by Carl Rohl-Smith near President's Park in Washington, D.C. Other posthumous tributes include the naming of the World War II M4 Sherman tank and the "General Sherman" Giant Sequoia tree, the most massive documented single-trunk tree in the world.
WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN was born at Lancaster, Ohio, on 8 February 1820; upon his father's death, was adopted into the family of Thomas Ewing, 1829; was educated in a local academy, then attended the United States Military Academy, 1836-1840; was commissioned a second lieutenant, July 1840, and posted to the 3d Cavalry in Florida; was promoted to first lieutenant, November 1841, and served at various southern stations; served in California during the Mexican War as adjutant and aide to Generals Stephen W. Kearny, Persifor F. Smith, and Richard B. Mason, 1847-1850; married Ellen Ewing, 1850; was appointed captain, September 1850, and assigned to commissary duty in St. Louis and New Orleans, 1850-1853; resigned his commission, September 1853; engaged unsuccessfully in banking and law, 1853-1859, then successfully as superintendent of a military college at Alexandria, Louisiana, 1859-1861; was reappointed in the Regular Army as colonel, 13th Infantry, May 1861; was appointed brigadier general of volunteers, May 1861, and commanded a brigade at Bull Run in July; served in Missouri and Kentucky and commanded the Department of the Cumberland and the District of Paducah, 1861-1862; was appointed major general of volunteers, May 1862; commanded a division in the Tennessee-Mississippi campaigns and was wounded at Shiloh, April 1862; commanded the District of Memphis and the Vicksburg expedition 1862; commanded the XV Corps in the Vicksburg operations to its surrender and was appointed brigadier general in the Regular Army, July 1863; commanded the Army of the Tennessee in the Chattanooga-Knoxville operations, 1863-1864; commanded the Division of the Mississippi, 1864-1865, leading the Union forces in the invasion of Georgia; was promoted to major general, August 1864; commanded the Armies of the Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia in the final operations in the South, receiving the surrender of Confederate forces there, April 1865; was promoted to lieutenant general while in command of the Division of the Mississippi, July 1866; was on a special mission to Mexico, November-December 1866; commanded the Division of the Missouri, 1866-1869; was promoted to general, March 1869; was commanding general of the United States Army, 8 March 1869-1 November 1883; was acting secretary of war, 6 September-25 October 1869; sought to establish senior officer control over bureau heads, pressed for Army control over Indian affairs, urged consolidation of troops at strategic locations, and established a school for infantry and cavalry; retired from active service, February 1884; died in New York City on 14 February 1891.
Daniel Huntington (1816-1906) painted the portraits of presidents and generals, writers and artists, Astors and Vanderbilts during seventy productive years as a working artist. About a thousand of his twelve-hundred known works are portraits; of these, fifteen are of secretaries of war and two of secretaries ad interim who also were incumbent commanding generals (Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman). Army records indicate that Huntington painted Sherman and Grant from life at a fee of $300 per portrait. His portrait of General William T. Sherman came into Army holdings in 1875, and is reproduced from the Army Art Collection.