William Tecumseh Sherman


Who: William Tecumseh Sherman

What: Union general in the Civil War

Where: Born Lancaster, Ohio; died New York City, NY.

Why: Union commander in the western theater after Grant’s accession to Commanding General of the United States Army.

When: February 8, 1820 – February 14, 1891.

“War is Hell” – William T Sherman

Sherman is a divisive figure. Most famous for his ‘March to the Sea’, he had graduated West Point in 1840, serving in the Mexican War before resigning in 1853 to become a partner in a bank, and superintendent of what would become Louisiana State University. After fighting at First Manassas, he ended up in depression and suffered a nervous breakdown before recovering in time for the Battle of Shiloh, and served with Grant at the pivotal Siege of Vicksburg. Made Supreme Commander of the Armies in the West in 1864, he was instructed by Grant to ‘create havoc and destruction of all resources that would be beneficial to the enemy’, he marched on Atlanta, while his adversary Joseph E. Johnston was replaced by John Bell Hood, who proved even more unsuccessful against Sherman’s relentless advance. After his capture of Atlanta, with the intention of making ‘Georgia howl’, he carved a cruel path to Savannah, living off the land and scorching the earth behind him, before swinging north to wreak havoc in the Carolinas. Sherman was appointed Commanding General of the United States Army after Grant’s election to President in 1869, and continued the Indian Wars in the West. He was proposed as Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1884, but declined, saying ‘I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.’ He died on February 14 1881. At his funeral, Joseph E. Johnston, his old Confederate adversary, served as a pallbearer. Owing to the cold, a friend asked Johnston to put on a hat, who replied ‘If I were in [Sherman’s] place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat.’ Johnston died one month later of pneumonia.

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