Feb. 8, 1820 - W.T. Sherman is born

frontrank2

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On February 8, 1820, 201 years ago today, William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio. Sherman was one of several Ohioans who would become well-known and high-ranking officers to serve the Union during the Civil War.
Uncle Billy, as he was often referred, was the subject of a Civil War seminar that I attended in 2019 at the Ale House in Lancaster, Ohio. Afterwards, I took a tour of the Sherman House, shown below—the house in which Sherman was born on this day in 1820.
Although Sherman is often derided by many people in the South today as a monster, among other things, for his employment of total war, Sherman felt a strong attachment to the South, its people, and way of life. In fact, Sherman accepted the position of superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy in 1859—today known as the Louisiana State University (LSU)—and remained as such until the outbreak of war in 1861.
David F. Boyd, a native Virginian, was a professor whom Sherman befriended during his time in Louisiana. According to Boyd, Sherman, upon hearing the news that South Carolina’s vote of secession passed (December 17, 1860), “burst out crying, and began, in his nervous way, pacing the floor and deprecating the step which he feared might bring destruction on the whole country.”
Just days later, on December 24, Sherman, speaking to Boyd, prophesied both the beginning of the end as well as the ultimate outcome:
“You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it... Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

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Luke Freet

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Quite possibly the most fascinating man of the whole war. A boatload of failures he had to learn from, an extreme conviction to reunite the country, and in the end leads the most consequential operation of the war (The Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea).
There's many things to love and hate about this man.
I still remember (and shall for the rest of my life will remember) my 5th grade Georgia history class putting him on trial for the destruction he caused to Georgia (he was acquitted). Also remember 10 year old me seeing a picture of him for the first time and thinking he looked like a monkey.
 

Polloco

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I don't know why that bit of trivia about him him preferring shoes to boots sticks in my mind.Oh and him not liking his red hair, so he dyed it and it turned green. As a southerner I'm supposed to despise him, but I find him to be a somewhat likeable and fascinating individual.By no means a hero of mine, but still interesting.
 
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RochesterBill

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I'm in the middle of reading his memoirs now. He's not the writer Grant was by a long stretch, and some people find the book a tough slog but I'm really enjoying it. He's very concise, he expects the reader to keep up and doesn't ever regress or repeat himself. I imagine it's a lot like dealing with him in person; if you can't stay with him, he doesn't much care.

And it helps to have a decent background in CW history as well; the people and places tumble out - Granger, Logan, Oosterhaus, Ezra Church, Peachtree Creek, Dalton, one after another. It's rapid fire stuff and he doesn't spend a lot of time explaining. If it was all new to you I can see getting frustrated, but if you know who or what he's talking about, it's pure joy to reflect on his thinking and his insights.

As for Sherman's reputation as a vicious thug, I can see why the south felt that way but Sherman doesn't much care. Firstly, he'd like you to recall who started it. Second, it's ridiculous to expect him to sit there while these same farmers send food to Lee's soldiers in Virginia in order for them to keep killing Union soldiers. Third, he understands, as not nearly enough people do, that it was the planter class who created the war and was costing thousands of lives and he was going to make them pay. Fourth, Southern propaganda aside, there was virtually no rape and/or murder along the march. It was in truth astonishingly civil. Lastly, it was the South that refused to meet him in battle. Hood ran off to Tennessee rather than fight him, and there were fairly large bodies of troops and militia around that could have been assembled to try and stop him but they never tried.

And actually, simply slowing him down could have caused him enormous problems. His 65,000 men ate a whole bunch and had to keep moving. Stalling them here and there, a few pitched battles, some actual fighting might have made a huge difference but the south was, frankly, too frightened of him.

Sherman might be the greatest general in US history. Well, aside from Patton.
 

frontrank2

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I mentioned this once before in another thread, my gr - gr grandfather, Major John McCrea, was an officer on Sherman's staff. When Lincoln was assassinated, he was Sherman's representative at the Presidential Funeral.
 

James N.

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I'm in the middle of reading his memoirs now. He's not the writer Grant was by a long stretch, and some people find the book a tough slog but I'm really enjoying it. He's very concise, he expects the reader to keep up and doesn't ever regress or repeat himself. I imagine it's a lot like dealing with him in person; if you can't stay with him, he doesn't much care.

And it helps to have a decent background in CW history as well; the people and places tumble out - Granger, Logan, Oosterhaus, Ezra Church, Peachtree Creek, Dalton, one after another. It's rapid fire stuff and he doesn't spend a lot of time explaining. If it was all new to you I can see getting frustrated, but if you know who or what he's talking about, it's pure joy to reflect on his thinking and his insights...
I'm currently similarly enjoying reading Lost Victories, the postwar memoirs of German Generalfeldmarshall Eric von Manstein, who also wrote in a tumult of names, places, and facts; fortunately, I still remember my basic WWII history read over now many decades. Manstein was writing in the 1950's after his release from prison for alleged war crimes and approaches the subject of his service from a purely military standpoint - like Sherman, he probably didn't worry overmuch about civilian "collateral damage" while commanding in Russia!
 
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