Uncle Billy - Little Known Facts

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frontrank2

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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.”

general-sherman-at-kenesaw-mountain-during-the-battle-of-allatoona-pass.jpg


Sherman at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
 
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huskerblitz

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Not sure how well known this is, but he court martialed a civilian, Thomas Knox of the New York Herald. Only one of three charges stuck and that sentence was overturned by Lincoln. This highlights his issues with the press, though I think largely his concern was more personal more than anything.
 
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Dave Wilma

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Not sure how well known this is, but he court martialed a civilian, Thomas Knox of the New York Herald. Only one of three charges stuck and that sentence was overturned by Lincoln. This highlights his issues with the press, though I think largely his concern was more personal more than anything.
I think Sherman's issues with the press were not unjustified. Reporters filed stories with sensitive information and misrepresented Sherman and the army in others, but this was the norm then. Editors were in the entertainment business more than the information business so correspondents just did what the customer wanted. The greatest outcry against any of Sherman's actions came from the only voices that reached the public, the newspapers.
 

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I think Sherman's issues with the press were not unjustified. Reporters filed stories with sensitive information and misrepresented Sherman and the army in others, but this was the norm then. Editors were in the entertainment business more than the information business so correspondents just did what the customer wanted. The greatest outcry against any of Sherman's actions came from the only voices that reached the public, the newspapers.
We'll disagree, but Sherman went beyond overboard with his fear of the press. Sherman cared more for his reputation than the reports filed. He didn't like being taken to task for poor decisions he made and didn't like being accountable to the American public. His actions is exactly why the 1st Amendment is so important and vital in America.
 
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Not sure how well known this is, but he court martialed a civilian, Thomas Knox of the New York Herald. Only one of three charges stuck and that sentence was overturned by Lincoln. This highlights his issues with the press, though I think largely his concern was more personal more than anything.
My understanding from what I recall is that sentence was not overturned. I'm trying to find my source for this but what I remember is that Lincoln told Knox that he would overturn the sentence only if Grant agreed to it. Knox wrote a letter of appeal to Grant and Grant responded by letter turning down his appeal explaining that he respected Sherman too much and that he felt the newspaperman had wronged him.
 

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My understanding from what I recall is that sentence was not overturned. I'm trying to find my source for this but what I remember is that Lincoln told Knox that he would overturn the sentence only if Grant agreed to it. Knox wrote a letter of appeal to Grant and Grant responded by letter turning down his appeal explaining that he respected Sherman too much and that he felt the newspaperman had wronged him.
Knox was guilty of one charge of disobeying orders for traveling with the Army and found not guilty on two other accounts, including that of spying. Lincoln overturned the sentence but said Knox could return if Grant gave the okay. Grant said it was okay if it was okay by Sherman. Sherman said sure, if Knox came as soldier but NO if he came as a reporter.

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Knox was guilty of one charge of disobeying orders for traveling with the Army and found not guilty on two other accounts, including that of spying. Lincoln overturned the sentence but said Knox could return if Grant gave the okay. Grant said it was okay if it was okay by Sherman. Sherman said sure, if Knox came as soldier but NO if he came as a reporter.

View attachment 119411
Well, maybe that's it...probably that's it and I just don't remember it correctly. I still can't find my source and I know I read this version or my foggy version in one of the books in my library.
 

huskerblitz

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Well, maybe that's it...probably that's it and I just don't remember it correctly. I still can't find my source and I know I read this version or my foggy version in one of the books in my library.
It's in a number of editions of Sherman bios. There's no question he had a hate relationship with the press, and he had some valid complaints, but he goes too far, IMO.
 
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It's in a number of editions of Sherman bios. There's no question he had a hate relationship with the press, and he had some valid complaints, but he goes too far, IMO.
Using your Lincoln letter in post #13, I was able to come up with Grant's and Sherman's responses to Knox.
From the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln:

General Grant replied to Knox on April 6, as follows:

``The letter of the President . . . authorizing you to return to these headquarters, and to remain with my consent, or leave if such consent is withheld, has been shown me.

``You came here first in positive violation of an order from General Sherman. Because you were not pleased with his treatment of army followers, who had violated his order, you attempted to break down his influence with his command, and to blast his reputation with the public. You made insinuations against his sanity, and said many things which were untrue, and, so far as your letter had influence, calculated to affect the public service unfavorably.

``General Sherman is one of the ablest soldiers and purest men in the country. You have attacked him and been sentenced to expulsion from this department for the offense. Whilst I would conform to the slightest wish of the President, where it is formed upon a fair representation of both sides of any question, my respect for General Sherman is such that in this case I must decline, unless General Sherman first gives his consent to your remaining.'' (Ibid., p. 894).

General Sherman replied to Knox on April 7:

``Yours of April 6, inclosing a copy of President Lincoln's informal decision in your case, is received.

``I certainly do regret that Generals McClernand and Thayer regard the disobedience of orders emanating from the highest military source and the publication of willful and malicious slanders against their brother officers as mere technical offenses, and notwithstanding the President's indorsement of that conclusion, I cannot so regard it. After having enunciated to me the face that newspaper correspondents were a fraternity bound together by a common interest that must write down all who stood in their way, and that you had to supply the public demand for news, true if possible, but false if your interest demanded it, I cannot be privy to a tacit acknowledgment of the principle.

``Come with a sword or musket in your hand, prepared to share with us our fate in sunshine and storm . . . and I will welcome you . . . but come as you now do, expecting me to ally the reputation and honor of my country and my fellow-soldiers with you, as the representative of the press, which you yourself say makes so slight a difference between truth and falsehood, and my answer is, Never.'' (Ibid., pp. 894-95).

This is what I was looking for and confirms what you stated in your post #13 and refutes my foggy recollection that the dismissal of the conviction was the subject of the letters.
 
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Eric Calistri

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I found this a good read:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0873386191/?tag=civilwartalkc-20


Many references in other books touch on Sherman's adversarial relationship with the press. His personal letters are loaded with venomous statements towards reporters. This book details specific incidents and players. Sherman’s animosity pre-dates the war. Sherman blamed the newspapers for fanning the flames of the 1857 panic which ruined his
bank, for the vigilantes acting in San Francisco, and for causing the civil war.

Sherman felt “Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, precious relics of former history, must not be
construed too largely.” To which reporter TW Knox replied “..you are regarded as the enemy of our set, and
we must in self-defense write you down.”

This book follows Marszalek's thesis (A Soldiers Passion for Order) that Sherman desired order above all, and the newspapers were a source of disorder, and thus his enemy.

Sherman’s lack of political ambition gave him no reason to court a press friendly to himself, and he reveled
in the presses inability to pinpoint his army’s position or objectives during the Meridian and Savannah
campaigns.
 
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I found this a good read:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0873386191/?tag=civilwartalkc-20


Many references in other books touch on Sherman's adversarial relationship with the press. His personal letters are loaded with venomous statements towards reporters. This book details specific incidents and players. Sherman’s animosity pre-dates the war. Sherman blamed the newspapers for fanning the flames of the 1857 panic which ruined his
bank, for the vigilantes acting in San Francisco, and for causing the civil war.

Sherman felt “Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, precious relics of former history, must not be
construed too largely.” To which reporter TW Knox replied “..you are regarded as the enemy of our set, and
we must in self-defense write you down.”

This book follows Marszalek's thesis (A Soldiers Passion for Order) that Sherman desired order above all, and the newspapers were a source of disorder, and thus his enemy.

Sherman’s lack of political ambition gave him no reason to court a press friendly to himself, and he reveled
in the presses inability to pinpoint his army’s position or objectives during the Meridian and Savannah
campaigns.
Sherman's opinion of newspaper correspondents from Volume II, pg. 408 of his Memoirs:
"Newspaper correspondents with an army, as a rule, are mischievous. They are the world's gossips, pick up and retail the camp scandal, and gradually drift to the headquarters of some general, who finds it easier to make reputation at home than with his own corps or division. They are also tempted to prophesy events and state facts which, to an enemy, reveal a purpose in time to guard against it. Moreover, they are always bound to see facts colored by the partisan or political character of their own patrons, and thus bring army officers into the political controversies of the day, which are always mischievous and wrong. Yet, so greedy are the people at large for war news, that it is doubtful whether any army commander can exclude all reporters, without bringing down on himself a clamor that may imperil his own safety. Time and moderation must bring a just solution to this modern difficulty."
 
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