Juicy Gossip! William Tecumseh Sherman's "Mulatto Wife"

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
12,381
Location
East Texas
How common what was? The affairs?
In a recent biography Sherman has also been linked postwar to a noted - if not particularly good - lady sculptress named Lavinia Ellen 'Vinnie" Ream, with whom he supposedly had an affair while she was working on commissions in Washington.

BeFunky-Collage-1.jpg
 

connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
Messages
1,053
I think we should consider who wrote this absolutely downright vapid piece of journal entry.

Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, the daughter and wife of Augusta planters, is best known for the extensive journal she kept of her life before, during, and after the Civil War (1861-65). The jounal records "her transitions from pampered southern belle to ardent southern nationalist to disheartened Confederate supporter to poverty-stricken wife and mother."

Known as Gertrude, she was a slave mistress in Georgia before and during the Civil War. Thanks to her father’s tremendous wealth (his estate was valued in 1864 at 2.5 million Confederate dollars), Thomas’s early life was characterized by extreme luxury and access to educational opportunities experienced by few women of her day. She performed little physical labor as the mistress of a large plantation supported by numerous slaves. She had ten children, only seven of whom survived past age five; her last child was born in 1875, when she was forty-one years old.

Thomas was still a young woman in 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War, which permanently erased privilege and comfort from her life. Although she was a passionate Confederate nationalist at the onset of the war, she soon concluded that the South did not have a viable chance of victory.
As the war progressed, Thomas’s diaries began to reflect her understanding that Confederate defeat would mean the end of her family’s way of life. By the war's end, Thomas had adopted a defeatist attitude...

From her journal:

June 12, 1865
I must confess to you my journal that I do most heartily despise Yankees, Negroes and everything connected with them. The theme has been sung in my hearing until it is a perfect abomination—I positively instinctively shut my ears when I hear the hated subject mentioned and right gladly would I be willing never to place my eyes upon another as long as I live. Everything is entirely reversed. I feel no interest in them whatever and hope I never will—


 
Last edited:

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
I think we should consider who wrote this absolutely downright vapid piece of journal entry.

Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, the daughter and wife of Augusta planters, is best known for the extensive journal she kept of her life before, during, and after the Civil War (1861-65). The jounal records "her transitions from pampered southern belle to ardent southern nationalist to disheartened Confederate supporter to poverty-stricken wife and mother."

Known as Gertrude, she was a slave mistress in Georgia before and during the Civil War. Thanks to her father’s tremendous wealth (his estate was valued in 1864 at 2.5 million Confederate dollars), Thomas’s early life was characterized by extreme luxury and access to educational opportunities experienced by few women of her day. She performed little physical labor as the mistress of a large plantation supported by numerous slaves. She had ten children, only seven of whom survived past age five; her last child was born in 1875, when she was forty-one years old.

Thomas was still a young woman in 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War, which permanently erased privilege and comfort from her life. Although she was a passionate Confederate nationalist at the onset of the war, she soon concluded that the South did not have a viable chance of victory.
As the war progressed, Thomas’s diaries began to reflect her understanding that Confederate defeat would mean the end of her family’s way of life. By the war's end, Thomas had adopted a defeatist attitude...

From her journal:

June 12, 1865
I must confess to you my journal that I do most heartily despise Yankees, Negroes and everything connected with them. The theme has been sung in my hearing until it is a perfect abomination—I positively instinctively shut my ears when I hear the hated subject mentioned and right gladly would I be willing never to place my eyes upon another as long as I live. Everything is entirely reversed. I feel no interest in them whatever and hope I never will—


I read her entire journal and near the end she rather sympathized with slaves however this is what she felt at the time. Accusing this as "vapid" proves a closed mind considering the entirety of her life and her putting her true feeling on paper. We should cherish that regardless even if it considered "offensive" in 2019. Someone's "private" journal is like talking to their psychiatrist and "lying" about facts is useless.
Are you insinuating because she didn't like blacks Sherman was innocent of infidelity? Does that excuse him? Really? Do you believe Sherman himself was NOT using the poor Mulatto young lady as sort of a sex slave himself? The point being Sherman is hypocritical at best considering women/slave's roles back then. You were either a "good girl" and married being a supposed virgin OR a lady of "loose morals" if you had sex before/without marriage. Perhaps Sherman thought because she was "only" mulatto she wasn't even considered a woman of stature to even considerer it infidelity?
… let alone on a regular basis with a married man. It was very cut and dry back then. Ever hear the term "living in sin?" which was still popular in the 1970's? I'd love to know your opinion @JPK Huson 1863
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
Messages
1,053
I read her entire journal and near the end she rather sympathized with slaves however this is what she felt at the time. Accusing this as "vapid" proves a closed mind considering the entirety of her life and her putting her true feeling on paper. We should cherish that regardless even if it considered "offensive" in 2019. Someone's "private" journal is like talking to their psychiatrist and "lying" about facts is useless.
Are you insinuating because she didn't like blacks Sherman was innocent of infidelity? Does that excuse him? Really? Do you believe Sherman himself was NOT using the poor Mulatto young lady as sort of a sex slave himself? The point being Sherman is hypocritical at best considering women/slave's roles back then. You were either a "good girl" and married being a supposed virgin OR a lady of "loose morals" if you had sex before/without marriage. Perhaps Sherman thought because she was "only" mulatto she wasn't even considered a woman of stature to even considerer it infidelity?
… let alone on a regular basis with a married man. It was very cut and dry back then. Ever hear the term "living in sin?" which was still popular in the 1970's? I'd love to know your opinion @JPK Huson 1863

You might want to read "General Sherman and the Georgia Belles: Tales from Women Left Behind" by Cathy J. Kaemmerlen
The author concludes this 'mulatto girl' story was based on "unsubstantiated rumor".
She also writes: "...Although the Shermans had a long and troubled marriage there is no evidence of any serious dalliances....They never divorced. Sherman remained devoted to her until her death and was unquestionably devoted to his children."
 
Last edited:

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
You might want to read "General Sherman and the Georgia Belles: Tales from Women Left Behind" by Cathy J. Kaemmerlen
The author concludes this 'mulatto girl' story was based on "unsubstantiated rumor".
She also writes: "...Although the Shermans had a long and troubled marriage there is no evidence of any serious dalliances....They never divorced. Sherman remained devoted to her until her death and was unquestionably devoted to his children."
I understand, but as a woman I an very aware of many "powerful" men and their "secret" affairs while in public remaining loyal to their wives and bank accounts I might add. Divorce would ruin them. That's where the saying "boys will be boys" comes in. Although I must confess in today's "me too" movement has lost popularity.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
I understand, but as a woman I an very aware of many "powerful" men and their "secret" (IE: Epstein) affairs while in public remaining loyal to their wives and bank accounts I might add. Divorce would ruin them. That's where the saying "boys will be boys" comes in. Although I must confess in today's "me too" movement has lost popularity.
 

TnFed

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 18, 2018
Messages
1,155
You might want to read "General Sherman and the Georgia Belles: Tales from Women Left Behind" by Cathy J. Kaemmerlen
The author concludes this 'mulatto girl' story was based on "unsubstantiated rumor".
She also writes: "...Although the Shermans had a long and troubled marriage there is no evidence of any serious dalliances....They never divorced. Sherman remained devoted to her until her death and was unquestionably devoted to his children."
I agree, I don't give much credence to the story, though Sherman had a roving eye. His relations with his wife was strained for some time. Her religiosity just did not set well with him. Nor his son becoming a priest. I don't think Grant was particularly religious either. His wife was and I believe he went along to get along. Sherman was not of that mind.
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 23, 2018
Messages
2,998
I understand, but as a woman I an very aware of many "powerful" men and their "secret" affairs while in public remaining loyal to their wives and bank accounts I might add. Divorce would ruin them. That's where the saying "boys will be boys" comes in. Although I must confess in today's "me too" movement has lost popularity.
That still doesn't address whether there is confirmation or outside substantiation for the claims made in letter you posted. If Sherman had an affair with this woman, so be it, but as is, it reads like a poison pen letter. That's why I was asking if there is any further substantiation. I find it problematic from a historical standpoint to seize on one letter without clear confirmation and act like it proves something. I would say that regarding any Civil War figure.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
Is the story of this affair confirmed anywhere else? As is, it reads like a poison pen letter without substantiation.
This excerpt other than Kilpatrick were the ONLY reference to infidelity regarding any Yankee officers in her entire journal. It is not a letter but a personal journal. That is why I titled it "gossip" however after reading countless diaries/journals of many Southern women, rich or poor, it is hard to believe any occupying power prior to today's women's lib act as "saints" to the powerless women under their new control. Not unlike poor slave women, don't you agree?
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 23, 2018
Messages
2,998
This excerpt other than Kilpatrick were the ONLY reference to infidelity regarding any Yankee officers in her entire journal. It is not a letter but a personal journal. That is why I titled it "gossip" however after reading countless diaries/journals of many Southern women, rich or poor, it is hard to believe any occupying power prior to today's women's lib act as "saints" to the powerless women under their new control. Not unlike poor slave women, don't you agree?
So, she's writing a letter to Sherman's wife in her journal? Okay then.

It still doesn't confirm the story. Anecdotal stories about other people isn't substantiation.
 

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
That still doesn't address whether there is confirmation or outside substantiation for the claims made in letter you posted. If Sherman had an affair with this woman, so be it, but as is, it reads like a poison pen letter. That's why I was asking if there is any further substantiation. I find it problematic from a historical standpoint to seize on one letter without clear confirmation and act like it proves something. I would say that regarding any Civil War figure.
It is NOT a letter!
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
So, she's writing a letter to Sherman's wife in her journal? Okay then.

It still doesn't confirm the story. Anecdotal stories about other people isn't substantiation.
She was happily married and even delving into an extramarital relationship of Sherman OR Kilpatrick was so FAR from the entirety of her very long journal the "motive to slur these men is unsubstantiated as well.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Belle Montgomery

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,612
Location
44022
I realize that now, but it doesn't change the fact it is unsubstantiated rumor.
So I guess anything from that era not substantiated by women is questionable despite their pouring their hearts out on paper? Tell that to Epstein's victims.
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 23, 2018
Messages
2,998
She was happily married and even delving into an extramarital relationship of Sherman OR Kilpatrick was so FAR from the entirety of her very long journal the "motive to slur these men is unsubstantiated as well.
I think you are misunderstanding me. I really don't care about anyone's reputation in this. I am merely pointing out it is unsubstantiated gossip. She very well may have believed it. It may be true. Doesn't mean it is not unsubstantiated gossip. Is there confirmation of this outside her journal?
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top