William T Sherman's use of " Hard War " made him a hero in the North, and a scoundrel in the South. But his life and career are more complicated than that. The following are some somewhat surprising facts about the man who made Georgia Howl.
1 - He was given his middle name Tecumseh after the Shawnee chief who was an inspirational leader that formed an Indian alliance and fought the British during the War of 1812. As he got older, Sherman was called " Cump" by his friends.
2 - After becoming an orphan at age 9, he was sent to live with Thomas Ewing, a family friend who eventually became a Senator and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Sherman became close with Ewing's eldest daughter, Ellen. The two corresponded often while he was at West Point and early in his military career. After a long engagement, he then married Ellen ( his foster sister - BTW ) in a ceremony in Washington DC attended by President Zachary Taylor, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. The couple later had eight children, two of whom died from sickness while Sherman was serving in the Civil War.
3 - While stationed in San Francisco in 1848, Sherman helped convince military governor Richard Mason to investigate one of the first reported gold discoveries in California. He was on the scene during a mission that confirmed the existence of rich gold deposits along the Sacramento River, and later wrote a letter Mason sent to Washington relaying their findings. Coupled with other early discoveries, Sherman and Mason’s fact-finding mission inadvertently set off a wave of gold fever in the United States.
4 - He left the military in 1853 to pursue a career in banking. But when the Gold Bubble burst, his bank collapsed which tarnished his reputation because George Thomas, Braxton Bragg and other military friends invested money with him. To cover their losses, Sherman liquidated some $20,000 worth of his own assets then left the banking world for good in 1858. He later signed on as the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy—the school that would become Louisiana State University.
5 - He possibly suffered a nervous breakdown. After a good performance at the Battle of First Manassas, he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of Federal troops in Kentucky and Tennessee. Sherman hadn’t wanted the position, and the responsibility soon wore down his mental health. He overestimated Confederate troops strength in the area, vigorously complained to Washington in his dispatches, and generally appeared agitated. His bizarre behavior was written about in the newspapers, some of which labeled him insane. Sherman requested to be relieved from his position in early November 1861, and remained sidelined until that December, when he was reassigned to the Western Theater. He was later placed under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, and following a crucial victory at April 1862’s Battle of Shiloh, the pair forged a winning partnership that lasted for the remainder of the war.
6 - The March to the Sea has perhaps given Sherman his most notoriety. Few people outside of Georgia knew anything about it while it was underway. Before leaving Atlanta, Sherman intentionally severed all telegraph links to the North to help shroud his moves in secrecy. The plan meant the Confederates could only speculate about where Sherman and his 60,000-strong rampaging army were headed, but it also left the Union high command in the dark about the mission’s progress. When asked about Sherman’s whereabouts, a worried President Lincoln is said to have responded, “We know what hole he went in, but we don’t know what hole he will come out of.” Sherman would finally reappear on December 22, having slashed and burned his way through the heart of Georgia. Upon reaching the sea, he sent a famous message to Lincoln that read: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah.”
7 - When he accepted Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender in Durham, North Carolina, in April 1865, Sherman offered very forgiving terms that granted general amnesty to the rebels and even allowed for the Southern states to immediately re-enter the Union upon swearing an oath of allegiance. The sweeping agreement enraged U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who rejected it out of hand and criticized Sherman for giving up “all the advantages we had gained from the war.” Joseph Johnston was forced to surrender under more conventional terms, but he went on to become a good friend to Sherman, and even served as a pallbearer at his old adversary’s funeral in 1891.
8 - Sherman abhorred politics. He once stated he would rather spend four years in jail than in the White House. However, political leaders tried to convince him to make a run at the presidency. Sherman tried to stamp out the speculation once and for all in 1884, when he turned down an invitation to become the Republican candidate by saying, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”
Sherman at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
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