William T. Sherman

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William Tecumseh Sherman was a prominent nineteenth century military leader from Ohio.

William T. Sherman was born on February 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio. His younger brother was John Sherman who later became a United States Senator. He was named after Tecumseh, the famous Shawnee leader. Sherman's father died in 1829. Sherman's mother could not take care of all of her children and had several of them adopted into other families. Thomas Ewing, a neighbor and close family friend, raised William Sherman as a foster son.

Sherman attended common schools and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1836. He graduated in 1840, ranking sixth in a class of forty-two students. He was commissioned a second lieutenant of artillery. He participated in the Seminole War from 1840 to 1842. During the late 1840s, he was stationed in California and helped Californians secure their independence from Mexico in the Mexican-American War. By 1850, he was in St. Louis, Missouri, and then New Orleans, Louisiana, on commissary duty. In 1850, he married Eleanor Boyle "Ellen" Ewing, the daughter of Thomas Ewing of Lancaster. The couple had eight children and a thirty-eight year marriage. Sherman resigned his commission with the rank of captain in 1853.

After leaving the military, Sherman moved to San Francisco, California and became the manager of a banking firm. The company made some unsound investments and lost most of their investors' money. Sherman refunded all of the money that his investors lost from his own savings. In 1857, he joined a bank in St. Louis, Missouri. It failed as well, and Sherman began to practice law in Leavenworth, Kansas.

In 1859, Sherman became the superintendent of the Louisiana Military Academy. He also served as a professor of engineering, architecture, and drawing. At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 Louisiana's seceded from the Union. Sherman resigned his position and returned to the North. In May 1861, he joined the Union army and was immediately commissioned a brigadier-general of volunteers. He commanded the Third Brigade, First Division, of the Army of Northeastern Virginia at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. His men suffered numerous casualties in the battle. He was transferred to the Department of the Cumberland in August 1861, and Sherman assumed command of that department in October of that year. In this position, Sherman played a vital role in securing Kentucky for the Union.

In the first year of the war, Sherman was highly critical of the Union war effort. He believed that an army of volunteers could not successfully prosecute the war. He argued that a massive army of seasoned veterans was necessary for the Union to triumph. Sherman was outspoken in his opinions and was reassigned to inspection duty at St. Louis, Missouri, in December 1861. In February and March 1862, he was responsible for shipping supplies to General Ulysses S. Grant's army. Grant was working to secure western Tennessee for the Union. Sherman developed a close friendship with Grant. Grant selected Sherman to organize the Fifth Division of the Army of the Tennessee. This division fought hard at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, and Sherman received two minor wounds. Grant gave Sherman credit for the Union victory at this battle and Sherman was promoted to the rank of major general of volunteers in May 1862.

During the remainder of 1862 and the first seven months of 1863, Sherman participated in the campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi. He performed well and was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general in the regular army in July 1863. In the fall of 1863, Sherman assumed command of the Army of the Tennessee and helped win the Union a victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. He pursued a Confederate force into East Tennessee after Chattanooga, and he succeeded in driving the Confederates from the region. During the first few months of 1864, Sherman was stationed at Vicksburg and led raids into Mississippi. He attempted to cut railroad lines, but he met with limited success.

In March 1864, Sherman assumed command of the Military Division of the Mississippi. His command included all of the soldiers operating west of the Allegheny Mountains and east of the Mississippi River. He amassed 100,000 men at Nashville. His intention was to defeat General Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army. After battles at Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, and a number of other places along the way, Sherman's force entered Atlanta, Georgia in early September 1864. Sherman had used a variety of tactics to avoid direct military confrontations with the Confederates during this campaign. He repeatedly used flanking maneuvers to prevent his army from having to attack well-fortified Confederate positions.

Following the fall of Atlanta, Sherman set out on a "March to the Sea." He determined to break the will of the Confederate population between Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia. Sherman left his wagon train behind and ordered his men to feed themselves with what they could find along the way. The Union army even requisitioned food from the slave population. Sherman realized that the civilian population was supplying the Confederate military with food and other supplies. He decided that one way to win the war was to break the will of the civilian population and to end its ability and desire to equip an army. He left Atlanta on November 15, 1864, and traveled the more than two hundred miles to Savannah by December 21. He faced little resistance from the Confederate military. In 1865, Sherman led his army into the Carolinas, using the same tactics that he had used on the "March to the Sea." General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered at Durham Station, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865 and the Civil War soon came to an end.

Sherman remained in the military following the Civil War, serving first as the commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi and then commander of the Military Division of the Missouri. When Ulysses S. Grant became President of the United States in 1869, Sherman replaced him as General of the United States Army. He retired on November 1, 1883, and was succeeded by General Philip Sheridan. Sherman moved to New York City in 1886. He died on February 14, 1891, and was buried in St. Louis, Missouri.

See Also


  1. Athearn, Robert G. William Tecumseh Sherman and the Settlement of the West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956.  
  2. Bailey, Anne J. The Chessboard of War: Sherman and Hood in the Autumn Campaigns of 1864. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.  
  3. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  4. Fellman, Michael. Citizen Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman. New York, NY: Random House, 1995.  
  5. Glatthaar, Joseph T. The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns. New York, NY: New York University Press, 1985.  
  6. Jordan, Philip D. Ohio Comes of Age: 1874-1899. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1943.  
  7. Marszalek, John F. Sherman's March to the Sea. Abilene, TX: McWhiney Foundation Press, 2005.  
  8. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of Rebellion, 1861-1866. Akron, OH: The Werner Company, 1893.  
  9. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  10. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  11. Sherman, William T. Memoirs of Gen. W.T. Sherman, Written by Himself, with an Appendix, Bringing His Life Down to Its Closing Scenes, also a Personal Tribute and Critique of the Memoirs, by Hon. James G. Blaine. New York, NY: C. L. Webster & Co., 1891.