Walter L. Fleming, Ph.D. Professor of History, Louisiana State University
A leader who fought, but who won more by marches than others won by fighting|
The armies of the United States
were led in 1864-65 by two generals, to whom, more than to any other military leaders, was due the final victory of the Northern
were Western men; both were somewhat unsuccessful in the early years of the war and attained success rather late; to both of them the great opportunity finally came, in 1863, in the successful movement which opened the Mississippi
, and their rewards were the two highest commands in the Federal
army and the personal direction of the two great masses of men which were to crush the life out of the weakening Confederacy.
was the chief and Sherman
his lieutenant, but some military critics hold that the latter did more than his chief to bring the war to an end. They were friends and were closely associated in military matters after 1862; in temperament and in military methods each supplemented the other, and each enabled the other to push his plans to success.
William Tecumseh Sherman
was born in Lancaster, Ohio
, February 8, 1820.
The family was of New England
origin, and had come to America
in the seventeenth century.
About two hundred years later, Sherman
's father and mother migrated to what was then the unsettled West
and made their home in Ohio
His father, a lawyer and in his later years a justice of the Ohio
Supreme Court, died in 1829, leaving a large family of children without adequate support.
The subject of this sketch was adopted into the family of Thomas Ewing
, who was later United States
senator, and Secretary of the Interior
in the cabinets of Harrison
Before the March to the sea
These two photographs of General Sherman were taken in 1864—the year that made him an international figure, before his march to the sea which electrified the civilized world, and exposed once for all the crippled condition of the Confederacy.
After that autumn expedition, the problem of the Union generals was merely to contend with detached armies, no longer with the combined States of the Confederacy.
The latter had no means of extending further support to the dwindling troops in the field.
Sherman was the chief Union exponent of the tactical gift that makes marches count as much as fighting.
In the early part of 1864 he made his famous raid across Mississippi from Jackson to Meridian and back again, destroying the railroads, Confederate stores, and other property, and desolating the country along the line of march.
In May he set out from Chattanooga for the invasion of Georgia.
For his success in this campaign he was appointed, on August 12th, a major-general in the regular army.
On November 12th, he started with the pick of his men on his march to the sea. After the capture of Savannah, December 21st, Sherman's fame was secure; yet he was one of the most heartily execrated leaders of the war. There is a hint of a smile in the right-hand picture.
The left-hand portrait reveals all the sternness and determination of a leader surrounded by dangers, about to penetrate an enemy's country against the advice of accepted military authorities.|
grew up with the Western
country in which he lived, among energetic, brainy farmers, lawyers, and politicians, the state-makers of the West
When sixteen years of age, Sherman
secured an appointment to West Point
, where he tells us ‘I was not considered a good soldier.’
But he was at least a good student, for he graduated as number six in a class of forty-two, the survivors of one hundred and forty-one who had entered four years before.
After graduation, in 1840, he was assigned to the Third Artillery, with which he served for six years in the Southern States
, mainly in Florida
and South Carolina
In South Carolina
, he made the acquaintance of the political and social leaders of the South
At this time, in fact up to the Civil War
was probably better acquainted with Southern life and Southern conditions than with Northern.
He spent some of his leisure time in the study of his profession and finally attacked the study of law.
Most of the next ten years was spent in California
, where he was sent, in 1846, at the outbreak of the Mexican War
. As aide to Generals S. W. Kearny
, and Smith
, in turn, Sherman
was busy for four years in assisting to untangle the problems of the American
In 1850, he returned to Ohio
and was married to Senator Ewing
's daughter, Ellen Boyle Ewing
, a woman of strong character and fine intellect, who for thirty-six years was to him a genuine helpmeet.
About the same time, he was made captain in the Commissary Department and served for a short time in St. Louis
and New Orleans, resigning early in 1853 that he might return to California
to take charge of a banking establishment, a branch house of Lucas
and Company, of St. Louis
During this second period of life in California
, we see Sherman
as a business man—a banker.
He was cautious and
Sherman in 1865
If Sherman was deemed merciless in war, he was superbly generous when the fighting was over.
To Joseph E. Johnston he offered most liberal terms of surrender for the Southern armies.
Their acceptance would have gone far to prevent the worst of the reconstruction enormities.
Unfortunately his first convention with Johnston was disapproved.
The death of Lincoln had removed the guiding hand that would have meant so much to the nation.
To those who have read his published correspondence and his memoirs Sherman appears in a very human light.
He was fluent and frequently reckless in speech and writing, but his kindly humanity is seen in both.|
successful, and soon his bank was considered one of the best on the Pacific coast
This was due mainly to the prudent management by which the institution was enabled to weather the storm that destroyed nearly all the Californian banks in 1856-57.
had always reported to his headquarters in St. Louis
that the bank could not make profits under the existing conditions, and in 1857 his advice was accepted and the business closed.
From 1853 to 1857, Sherman
appears in but one conspicuous instance in another role than that of banker.
In 1856, he accepted the appointment of general of militia in order to put down the Vigilantes, an organization formed in San Francisco
to crush the lawlessness which had come as a natural result of the weakness and corruption of the local government.
He sympathized with the members of the organization in their desire to put down disorder, but maintained that the proper authorities should be forced to remedy matters, and that illegal methods of repressing crime should not be tolerated.
For a time it seemed that he would succeed, but the local authorities were much disliked and distrusted by the people, and the promised support was not given him by the United States
military authorities, with the result that his plans failed.
During the next two years, Sherman
decided that as a business man he was a failure.
In his letters, he vigorously asserts it as a fact; and in truth his business career must have been extremely unsatisfactory to him. In spite of good management, the San Francisco
venture had failed.
For a few months afterward he was in charge of another branch of the same business in New York, and, during the great panic of 1857, this also was discontinued on account of the failure of the main house in St. Louis
Then he went to Kansas
, decided to practise law and was admitted to the bar, ‘on general intelligence,’ he said, and with his brother-in-law formed the law firm of Ewing
Sherman in 1876 a soldier to the end|
The tall figure of ‘Old Tecumseh’ in 1876, though crowned with gray, still stood erect and commanding.
Upon the appointment of Grant
as full general, in July, 1866, Sherman
had been promoted to the lieutenant-generalship.
of the United States
, March 4, 1869, Sherman
succeeded him as general.
An attempt was made to run him against Grant
in 1872, but he emphatically refused to allow his name to be used.
He retired from the army on full pay in February, 1884.
Although he was practically assured of the Republican
nomination for President
that year, he telegraphed that he would not accept the nomination if given, and would not serve if elected.
He spent his later years among his old army associates, attending reunions, making speeches at soldiers' celebrations, and putting his papers in order for future historians.
He resolutely refused all inducements to enter the political arena, and to the end he remained a soldier.
's law career, as he described it, was rather humorous.
He lost his only case, a dispute over the possession of a shanty, but joined with his client to defeat the judgment by removing the house at night.
Afterward, he undertook army contracts for constructing military roads and opened a large tract of Kansas
wild land for Senator Ewing
Disgusted with business life, Sherman
decided to reenter the army, and applied for a paymastership.
But his friends of the War Department recommended him instead for the superintendency of the Louisiana State Seminary
(now the Louisiana State University), then being organized.
He was elected to that position in August, 1859, and for a third time he made his home in the South
He was an efficient college executive; the seminary was soon organized and running like clockwork, students and instructors all under the careful direction of the superintendent, who very soon became a general favorite, not only with ‘his boys’ but with the faculty of young Virginian professors.
He had no regular classes, but gave episodical instruction in American history and geography, and on Fridays conducted the ‘speaking.’
He was a good story-teller, and frequently his room would be crowded with students and young professors, listening to his descriptions of army life and of the great West
He was a firm believer in expansion and ‘our manifest destiny,’ and frequently lectured to students and visitors on those events in American history which resulted in the rounding–out of the national domain.
It was due, perhaps, to his long residence in the far West
that he regarded slavery as in no sense the cause of the sectional troubles of 1860-61.
It was all the result, he maintained, of the machinations of unscrupulous politicians scheming for power, working upon a restless people who were suffering from an overdose of Democracy.
It is clear that Sherman
, while appreciating both the Northern
and the Southern
points of view, did not fully comprehend the forces which for years had been driving the sections apart.
announced publicly what was already generally known—that he would not remain at the seminary; that he would take no part against the United States
It is said that he wept bitterly when he heard of the withdrawal of South Carolina
. One of the strongest arguments against secession was, in his opinion, the geographic one.
Familiar with all the Southern
country, especially the Mississippi valley
, he insisted that Nature itself had already decided the question against secession and that the South
ought to struggle within the Union
for redress of grievances.
He believed that the South
, though itself at fault, was aggrieved.
He could not be prevailed upon to remain, and in February, 1861, he left the seminary and the State
Sherman at once went to Washington
where he found the politicians busy, and as they and Lincoln
were ‘too radical’ to suit him, he left, profanely declaring that ‘the politicians have got the country into this trouble; now let them get it out.’
For two months he was president of a street-railway company in St. Louis
, and while here he was a witness of the division of Missouri
into hostile camps.
He watched the North
while it gradually made up its mind to fight, and then he offered his services to the War Department, and was appointed colonel of the Thirteenth United States Infantry.
's military career falls into four rather distinct parts: The Manassas
, or Bull Run
, campaign, and Kentucky
, in 1861; the Shiloh-Corinth
campaign, in 1862; the opening of the Mississippi
, in 1863; the campaigns in Georgia
and the Carolinas, in 1864-65.
During the first two years, he was making mistakes, getting experience, and learning his profession.
In the third campaign, his military reputation was made secure, and in the last one he crushed half the Confederacy
mainly by his destructive marches.
At Bull Run
, or Manassas
, he commanded a brigade with
credit, and though it was routed he quickly restored its organization and morale
, and for this he was made a brigadiergeneral of volunteers.
Transferred to Kentucky
to assist General Robert Anderson
, his former commander, in organizing the Federals
, he came near ruining his career by the frankness of his speech to the Secretary of War
and to the newspaper men. The administration evidently desired to minimize the gravity of the situation in the West
, but Sherman
insisted that to hold Kentucky
sixty thousand men were necessary, and to open the valley to the Gulf
two hundred thousand would be needed.
He was better acquainted with the Southern
temper than were the Northern
politicians and the newspapers, some of which now declared him insane for making such a statement.
He was hounded by them for several months and was almost driven from the service.
The course of the war showed that he was correct.
During the next year was begun the movement to open the Mississippi valley
From the beginning of the war this had been one of Sherman
's favorite projects.
It was a Western feeling that the river must be opened, that the valley must belong to one people.
saw service in responsible commands in the Shiloh-Corinth
, he, like the other Federal and Confederate commanders, was hardly at his best; all of them still had much to learn.
But in the rather uneventful Corinth
military promenade, Sherman
began to show his wonderful capacity for making marches count as much as fighting.
He was now regarded as one of the best minor leaders, was no longer considered insane, and was made a major-general of volunteers as a reward for his services in the campaign.
In the Vicksburg
campaign of 1863, which completed the opening of the Mississippi
and cut in two the Confederacy
bore a conspicuous part, first under McClernand
later under Grant
It was the successful termination of the Vicksburg
campaign which made secure the military reputations of both Grant
Their good fame was enhanced by the subsidiary campaigns into the interior of Mississippi
, and by the battle on Missionary Ridge, in Tennessee
Henceforth, ‘political’ generals were less in evidence and the professional soldiers came to the front.
was called to exercise the chief command over all the armies of the Union
, who was now made a brigadier-general of regulars, was given the supervision of the entire Southwest
, embracing practically all of the military frontier not under Grant
's immediate control.
He was to direct the chief army which was to strike at the vitals of the lower South
, and to exercise general supervision over the military operations in Tennessee
, and Arkansas
, which were designed to make secure the hold of the Federals
upon the lower Mississippi
The river was held, and the army of one hundred thousand men, under the immediate command of Sherman
, carried to suchcess conclusion, in 1864-65, three campaigns—that against Atlanta
, the ‘store-house of the Confederacy
,’ for which he was made major-general in the regular army, the march through Georgia
to the sea, cutting the Confederacy
in two a second time, and the campaign through the Carolinas, which was designed to crush the two principal armies of the South
's and Grant
For three months of the Atlanta
campaign—May, June, and July—Sherman was pitted against Joseph I. Johnston
, one of the Confederacy
's greatest generals, the one best qualified to check Sherman
, with his smaller force, fell back slowly from one strong position to another, holding each until flanked by Sherman
, who could make progress in no other way. When Atlanta
was reached, Johnston
was superseded by John B. Hood
, who at once initiated an
offensive policy but was severely defeated in several battles during the latter days of July and in August.
For his success in this campaign, Sherman
was made a major-general in the regular army.
, started on the fatal Tennessee
campaign, and left the Federal
commander free to move on through the almost undefended country to the Atlantic
had provided for the defense of Tennessee
and had garrisoned the important exposed posts which he considered it necessary to retain.
On November 12, 1864, communications with the North
He started with sixty-two thousand men on the ‘promenade’ through Georgia
, and for a month was not heard from except through Confederate sources.
In December, Savannah
was captured and was made a Federal base of supplies.
Then began the march to the North
through the Carolinas, which was much more difficult than the march to the sea, and Sherman
was again confronted with his old antagonist, Joseph I. Johnston
, who had been placed in command of the remnants of the Confederate forces.
But the contest was more unequal than it had been in 1864, and when Lee
surrendered in Virginia
in North Carolina
gave up the struggle, and the war was practically at an end.
Here it is proper to add an estimate of the military qualties of the great Federal commander.
Like the other successful commanders, he attained the fullness of his powers slowly.
Not all military experts agree that he was a great commander on the battlefield, and in his successful campaigns he was generally pitted against weaker Confederate forces, acting (Hood
excepted) uniformly on the defensive.
's armies had no such experiences as did those which opposed Robert I. Lee
He was aided by such blunders of his opponents as were never made by Lee
. But all agree that under the military and
economic conditions existing in the Southwest
was preeminently fitted to undertake the task of breaking to pieces the weakening South
He was a great strategist if not so successful as a tactician; he won more by marches than others by fighting; he had a genius for large conceptions, and with his clear comprehension of Southern conditions he was able to strike with irresistible force at the weak points in the defense.
Thus it was, according to Robert E. Lee
, that he was enabled to give the Confederacy
a mortal wound before any of its armies surrendered.
One feature of Sherman
's campaigns, after leaving Atlanta
, has been severely criticised.
Much of the destruction of private property in Georgia
and South Carolina
, it is held, was not only unnecessary but amounted to cruelty in depriving the population of the necessities of life.
says of the work of the armies under Sherman
's command: ‘They had devoted themselves to destruction and the stripping of the land they crossed with a thoroughness and a care for details hardly to be matched in the annals of modern warfare— each soldier played the marauder very heartily.’
himself intimated that the march would ‘make Georgia
howl,’ and would ‘make its inhabitants feel that war and ruin are synonymous terms.’
The most intense feeling on the subject still exists in the communities over which Sherman
marched in 1864-65, a feeling which does not exist against any other commander on either side, nor against Sherman
himself in the regions over which he fought before 1864.
himself did not intend to go beyond the limits of legitimate warfare is clear, and the unfortunate excesses were due mainly to the somewhat demoralized discipline of the troops, to the fact that they were in the midst of a hostile country, to the increasing bitterness that had developed as the war progressed, to the natural development of the permitted ‘foraging’ into reckless plundering, and in part to certain characteristics of Sherman
himself, which probably affected the
Army and corps leaders who ended the war in the northwest and southwest|
As Sherman cut the southeastern Confederacy in two by his march to the sea, so Sheridan
(center of group above) and Canby
(shown below) wiped off the map the theaters of war in the northwest and southwest respectively.
, and the dashing Custer
swept the Shenandoah Valley.
, as commander of the military division of West Mississippi, directed the Mobile
campaign of March-April, 1865, which resulted in the occupation by the Federals
A raid by James H. Wilson
(second from right) had prepared the way for this result.
In May, 1865, Canby
received the surrender of the Confederate forces under Generals R. Taylor
and E. Kirby Smith
, the largest Confederate forces which surrendered at the end of the war. The cavalry leaders in the upper picture are, from left to right: Generals Wesley Merritt
, David McM. Gregg
, Philip Henry Sheridan
, Henry E. Davies
, James Harrison Wilson
, and Alfred T. A. Torbert
was given the cavalry corps of the military district of the Mississippi in 1865, and Torbert
commanded the cavalry corps of the Army of the Shenandoah under Sheridan
These six great leaders are among the men who handled the Federal
cavalry in its last days, welding it into the splendid, efficient, aggressive, fighting force that finally overwhelmed the depleted ranks of their Confederate opponents, Forrest
in the West
, the two Lees
in the East
policy of his corps commanders, who were more directly charged with the conduct of the troops.
But if Sherman
was merciless in war, he was superbly generous when the fighting was over.
was made President
succeeded him as general of the army, and knowing Grant
's views to coincide with his own, he hoped so to reorganize the army that the commanding general
, not the Secretary of War
, would be the real head of the army.
's assistance the reforms were undertaken, but they lasted less than a month, the political pressure upon the President
in favor of the old system being too strong for him to bear.
then drifted apart; the former could do little toward carrying out his plans for the betterment of the army, and finally, to escape unpleasant treatment, he removed his headquarters to St. Louis
where he remained until President Hayes
invited him to return to Washington
and inaugurate his cherished plans of army administration.
This pleasing professional situation continued until Sherman
's retirement, in 1884.
During his later years, he spent most of his time in New York among old army associates, attending reunions, making speeches at soldier's celebrations, and putting his papers in order for the use of future historians.
He died in New York on February 14, 1891, aged seventy-one years. He was buried, as he wished, in St. Louis
, by the side of his wife and his little son, who had died nearly thirty years before.
Inconspicuous among the many generals who went to New York to do honor to the dead leader was a quiet old gentleman in civilian dress— Sherman
's ablest antagonist in war, Joseph E. Johnston
, and by the side of the grave at St. Louis
was one of his old Louisiana
colleagues, proud of his unique experience, ‘a professor under Sherman
and a soldier under “Stonewall