General William T. Sherman

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General William T. Sherman
Biography and History

William T. Sherman
General William T. Sherman.jpg
General William T. Sherman


Sherman, William T., lieutenant-general, was born at
Lancaster, Fairfield county, Ohio, Feb. 8, 1820. Left an
orphan at nine years of age, he was adopted by Thomas Ewing,
later secretary of the interior, and attended school at
Lancaster until 1836, when he was appointed a cadet at the
West Point military academy. Graduating in 1840, sixth in a
class of forty-two, he was made a second lieutenant and
assigned to duty in Florida where he was engaged from time to
time in incursions against the hostile Seminole Indians. On
Nov. 30, 1841, he was promoted to first lieutenant, and until
the outbreak of the Mexican war, was stationed at various
posts in the South, including St. Augustine, and Forts Pierce,
Morgan and Moultrie. At one time he undertook the study of
law, with no thought of making it his profession, but to be
prepared "for any situation that fortune or luck might offer."
In 1846, he was stationed at Pittsburg, as recruiting officer,
but shortly after, in consequence of repeated applications for
active service, was sent to California, where, contrary to
expectation, he was uneventfully engaged as acting assistant
adjutant-general of the 1Oth military department under Gen.
Stephen W. Kearny, and later under Col. R. B. Mason. In 1850,
he returned to the Atlantic states as bearer of despatches,
and was stationed at St. Louis, Mo., as commissary of
subsistence with the rank of captain. In March, 1851, he
received the commission of captain by brevet, to date from May
30, 1848. On Sept. 6, 1853, he resigned from the army and
became manager of the branch banking-house of Lucas, Turner &
Co., at San Francisco, Cal. In 1857, he returned to New York
and, his firm having suspended, opened a law office in
Leavenworth, Kan., with Hugh and Thomas E. Ewing, Jr. In
July, 1859, he was elected superintendent of the Louisiana
military academy, with a salary of $5,000 per annum, the
institution opening Jan. 1, 1860, but on the seizure of the
arsenal at Baton Rouge in Jan. 1861, in anticipation of the
secession of the state, he tendered his resignation. Going to
Washington, he endeavored in vain to impress upon the
administration the gravity of the situation which he
characterized as "sleeping upon a volcano," and the
president's call for volunteers for three months as "an
attempt to put out the flames of a burning house with a
squirtgun." For two months he was president of the
railway of St. Louis, Mo., and on May 14, 1861, was
made colonel of the 13th regiment of regular infantry,
commanding a brigade in the division of Gen. Tyler in the
battle of Bull Run, July 21. On Aug. 3, he was promoted to
brigadier-general of volunteers, to date from May 17, and on
Oct. 7 relieved Maj.-Gen. Anderson in command of the
Department of Kentucky. On Nov. 12, however, he was in turn
relieved by Gen. D. C. Buell, his estimate of the number of
troops required in his department, "sixty thousand men to
drive the enemy out of Kentucky and 200,000 to finish the war
in this section," being considered so wildly extravagant as to
give rise to doubts of his sanity. It was, however, justified
by later events. During the remainder of the winter, he was in
command of the camp of instruction at Benton barracks, near
St. Louis, and when Grant moved upon Donelson, was stationed
at Paducah, where he rendered effective service in forwarding
supplies and reinforcements. Here, also, he organized the 5th
division of the Army of the Tennessee from raw troops who had
never been under fire, and with these he held the key point of
Pittsburg landing and "saved the fortunes of the day" on April
6, and contributed to the glorious victory of the 7th,
although severely wounded in the hand on the first day. On
the second, he had three horses shot under him, but mounting a
fourth he remained on the field, and it was the testimony of
Gen. Grant, in recommending his promotion, that "to his
individual efforts I am indebted for the success of that
battle." On May 1, he was commissioned major-general of
volunteers and on July 1 was put in charge of the Department
of Memphis, which he at once proceeded to organize, restoring
the civil authorities, causing a revival of business, and
sternly repressing guerrilla warfare. In October, he concerted
with Gen. Grant at Columbus, Ky., the details of the ensuing
campaign, in which Pemberton's force, 40,000 strong was
dislodged from the line of the Tallahatchie and driven behind
the Yalabusha in consequence of a combined movement by both
generals from Jackson and Memphis, while 5,000 cavalry under
Washburne threatened his communications in the rear. Falling
back to Milliken's bend, Sherman resigned his command to Gen.
McClernand, but shortly afterward suggested and led the attack
on Fort Hindman with its garrison of 5,000 men by which the
control of Arkansas river was gained, the key to the military
possession of the state, with the loss of but 134 killed and
898 wounded, while of the enemy, 150 were killed and 4,791
taken prisoners. In the campaign of 1863, Sherman was in
command of the expedition up Steele's bayou, abandoned on
account of insuperable difficulties, though he dispersed
troops sent to oppose the movement; and the demonstration
against Haynes' bluff was also committed to him, though with
some hesitation, by Gen. Grant, lest his reputation should
suffer from report of another repulse. In the Vicksburg
campaign of 109 days, Gen. Sherman entitled himself, in the
words of Gen. Grant, "to more credit than usually falls to the
lot of one man to earn." The drawn battle of Chickamauga and
the critical condition of Rosecrans at Chattanooga called next
loudly for the troops resting at Vicksburg, and on Sept. 22,
Sherman received orders to forward his divisions, with the
exception of one which remained to guard the line of the Big
Black. Meanwhile Gen. Grant, having been placed in command of
the Division of the Mississippi, assigned the Department of
the Tennessee to Sherman, who, on the receipt of telegraphic
summons to "drop all work", and hurry eastward, pushed forward
in advance of his men and reached Chattanooga on Nov. 15. It
was proposed that he initiate the offensive, which he
proceeded to do upon the arrival of his troops, Nov. 23. He
pitched his tents along Missionary ridge and his sentinels
were clearly visible, not a thousand yards away. The battle
of Missionary ridge being won, the relief of Burnside on the
Hiawassee was next to be contemplated and with weary troops
who two weeks before had left camp with but two days'
provisions and "stripped for the fight," ill supplied now and
amid the privations of winter, Sherman turned to raise the
siege of Knoxville. On Jan. 24, 1864, he returned to Memphis,
and in preparation for the next campaign decided upon the
"Meridian Raid." To the expedition of Gen. Banks up the Red
river he next contributed 10,000 men for thirty days, but the
force did not return to Vicksburg until more than two months
had elapsed, too late to take part in the Atlanta campaign.
On March 14, Gen. Grant was appointed lieutenant-general to
command all the armies of the United States in the field, and
Sherman succeeded to the Division of the Mississippi. On May
6 the movement toward Atlanta was started with the capture of
the city as the desideratum, and such progress was made that
on Aug. 12 the rank of major-general, U.S.A., was bestowed
upon Gen. Sherman by the president, in anticipation of his
success. After indefinite skirmishing for a month, following
the fall of Atlanta, and during which the gallant defense of
Allatoona pass was made by Gen. Corse with 1,944 men against a
whole division of the enemy, the famous "march to the sea" was
resolved upon, not alone as a means of supporting the troops,
but, in Sherman's own words, "as a direct attack upon the
rebel army at the rebel capital at Richmond, though a full
thousand miles of hostile country intervened," and from Nov.
14 until Dec. 10, he was accordingly buried in the enemy's
country, severed from all communication in the rear, and
crossed the three rivers of Georgia, passing through her
capital in his triumphal progress of 300 miles, during which
his loss was but 567 men. On Dec. 25, he telegraphed to
President Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift,
the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of
ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton," in reply
to which he received the assurance that to him alone the honor
of his undertaking was due, as acquiescence only had been
accorded him, and anxiety, if not fear, had been felt for his
success. The surrender of Johnston was made at Durham
station, N.C., on April 26, 1865, after a triumphal march of
Sherman's army through the Carolinas, and on May 24, a year
after it had started on its journey of 2,600 miles, the
conquering host was reviewed at Washington, D. C. On June 27,
Gen. Sherman was placed in command of the military division of
the Mississippi which included the departments of Ohio,
Missouri and Arkansas, and on July 25, 1866, he succeeded Gen.
Grant as lieutenant-general of the army. On March 4, 1869,
when Grant was inaugurated as president, Sherman became
general of the army, and in 1871-72, on leave of absence, made
a tour of Europe and the East. On Feb. 8, 1884, he was retired
from active service, and on Feb. 14, 1891, expired at New
York, the day following the demise of his friend and comrade
in arms, Adm. David D. Porter.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 8

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