William Tecumseh Sherman
27th Iowa Top Banner


William Tecumseh Sherman Sherman, William T., lieutenant-general, was born at Lancaster, Fairfield county, Ohio, Feb.8, 1820. Left an orphan at nine years of age, he was adopted by Thomas Ewing, later secretary of the interior, and attended school at Lancaster until 1836, when he was appointed a cadet at the West Point military academy. Graduating in 1840, sixth in a class of forty-two, he was made a second lieutenant and assigned to duty in Florida where he was engaged from time to time in incursions against the hostile Seminole Indians. On Nov. 30, 1841, he was promoted to first lieutenant, and until the outbreak of the Mexican war, was stationed at various posts in the South, including St. Augustine, and Forts Pierce, Morgan and Moultrie. At one time he undertook the study of law, with no thought of making it his profession, but to be prepared "for any situation that fortune or luck might offer." In 1846 he was stationed at Pittsburg, as recruiting officer, but shortly after, in consequence of repeated applications for active service, was sent to California, where, contrary to expectation, he was uneventfully engaged as acting assistant adjutant-general of the 1Oth military department under Gen. Stephen W. Kearny, and later under Col. R. B. Mason. In 1850 he returned to the Atlantic states as bearer of dispatches, and was stationed at St. Louis, Mo., as commissary of subsistence with the rank of captain. In March, 1851, he received the commission of captain by brevet, to date from May 30, 1848. On Sept. 6, 1853, he resigned from the army and became manager of the branch banking-house of Lucas, Turner & Co., at San Francisco, Cal. In 1857 he returned to New York and, his firm having suspended, opened a law office in Leavenworth, Kan., with Hugh and Thomas E. Ewing, Jr. In July, 1859, he was elected superintendent of the Louisiana military academy, with a salary of $5,000 per annum, the institution opening Jan. 1, 1860, but on the seizure of the arsenal at Baton Rouge in Jan., 1861, in anticipation of the secession of the state, he tendered his resignation. Going to Washington, he endeavored in vain to impress upon the administration the gravity of the situation which he characterized as "sleeping upon a volcano," and the president's call for volunteers for three months as "an attempt to put out the flames of a burning house with a squirtgun." For two months he was president of the 5th street railway of St. Louis, Mo., and on May 14, 1861, was made colonel of the 13th regiment of regular infantry, commanding a brigade in the division of Gen. Tyler in the battle of Bull Run, July 21. On Aug. 3 he was promoted to brigadier-general of volunteers, to date from May 17, and on Oct. 7 relieved Maj.-Gen. Anderson in command of the Department of Kentucky. On Nov. 12, however, he was in turn relieved by Gen. D. C. Buell, his estimate of the number of troops required in his department, "sixty thousand men to drive the enemy out of Kentucky and 200,000 to finish the war in this section," being considered so wildly extravagant as to give rise to doubts of his sanity. It was, however, justified by later events. During the remainder of the winter he was in command of the camp of instruction at Benton barracks, near St. Louis, and when Grant moved upon Donelson, was stationed at Paducah, where he rendered effective service in forwarding supplies and reinforcements. Here, also, he organized the 5th division of the Army of the Tennessee from raw troops who had never been under fire, and with these he held the key point of Pittsburg landing and "saved the fortunes of the day" on April 6, and contributed to the glorious victory of the 7th, although severely wounded in the hand on the first day. On the second, he had three horses shot under him, but mounting a fourth he remained on the field, and it was the testimony of Gen. Grant, in recommending his promotion, that "to his individual efforts I am indebted for the success of that battle." On May 1 he was commissioned major-general of volunteers and on July 1 was put in charge of the Department of Memphis, which he at once proceeded to organize, restoring the civil authorities, causing a revival of business, and sternly repressing guerrilla warfare. In October he concerted with Gen. Grant at Columbus, Ky., the details of the ensuing campaign, in which Pemberton's force, 40,000 strong was dislodged from the line of the Tallahatchie and driven behind the Yalabusha in consequence of a combined movement by both generals from Jackson and Memphis, while 5,000 cavalry under Washburne threatened his communications in the rear. Falling back to Milliken's bend, Sherman resigned his command to Gen. McClernand, but shortly afterward suggested and led the attack on Fort Hindman with its garrison of 5,000 men by which the control of Arkansas river was gained, the key to the military possession of the state, with the loss of but 134 killed and 898 wounded, while of the enemy, 150 were killed and 4,791 taken prisoners. In the campaign of 1863 Sherman was in command of the expedition up Steele's bayou, abandoned on account of insuperable difficulties, though he dispersed troops sent to oppose the movement; and the demonstration against Haynes' bluff was also committed to him, though with some hesitation, by Gen. Grant, lest his reputation should suffer from report of another repulse. In the Vicksburg campaign of 109 days Gen. Sherman entitled himself, in the words of Gen. Grant, "to more credit than usually falls to the lot of one man to earn." The drawn battle of Chickamauga and the critical condition of Rosecrans at Chattanooga called next loudly for the troops resting at Vicksburg, and on Sept. 22 Sherman received orders to forward his divisions, with the exception of one which remained to guard the line of the Big Black. Meanwhile Gen. Grant, having been placed in command of the Division of the Mississippi, assigned the Department of the Tennessee to Sherman, who, on the receipt of telegraphic summons to "drop all work", and hurry eastward, pushed forward in advance of his men and reached Chattanooga on Nov. 15. It was proposed that he initiate the offensive, which he proceeded to do upon the arrival of his troops, Nov. 23. He pitched his tents along Missionary ridge and his sentinels were clearly visible, not a thousand yards away. The battle of Missionary ridge being won, the relief of Burnside on the Hiawassee was next to be contemplated and with weary troops who two weeks before had left camp with but two days' provisions and "stripped for the fight," ill supplied now and amid the privations of winter, Sherman turned to raise the siege of Knoxville. On Jan. 24, 1864, he returned to Memphis, and in preparation for the next campaign decided upon the "Meridian Raid." To the expedition of Gen. Banks up the Red river he next contributed 10,000 men for thirty days, but the force did not return to Vicksburg until more than two months had elapsed, too late to take part in the Atlanta campaign. On March 14 Gen. Grant was appointed lieutenant-general to command all the armies of the United States in the field, and Sherman succeeded to the Division of the Mississippi. On May 6 the movement toward Atlanta was started with the capture of the city as the desideratum, and such progress was made that on Aug. 12 the rank of major-general, U. S. A., was bestowed upon Gen. Sherman by the president, in anticipation of his success. After indefinite skirmishing for a month, following the fall of Atlanta, and during which the gallant defense of Allatoona pass was made by Gen. Corse with 1,944 men against a whole division of the enemy, the famous "march to the sea" was resolved upon, not alone as a means of supporting the troops, but, in Sherman's own words, "as a direct attack upon the rebel army at the rebel capital at Richmond, though a full thousand miles of hostile country intervened," and from Nov. 14 until Dec. 1O he was accordingly buried in the enemy's country, severed from all communication in the rear, and crossed the three rivers of Georgia, passing through her capital in his triumphal progress of 300 miles, during which his loss was but 567 men. On Dec. 25 he telegraphed to President Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton," in reply to which he received the assurance that to him alone the honor of his undertaking was due, as acquiescence only had been accorded him, and anxiety, if not fear, had been felt for his success. The surrender of Johnston was made at Durham station, N. C., on April 26, 1865, after a triumphal march of Sherman's army through the Carolinas, and on May 24, a year after it had started on its journey of 2,600 miles, the conquering host was reviewed at Washington, D. C. On June 27 Gen. Sherman was placed in command of the military division of the Mississippi which included the departments of Ohio, Missouri and Arkansas, and on July 25, 1866, he succeeded Gen. Grant as lieutenant-general of the army. On March 4, 1869, when Grant was inaugurated as president, Sherman became general of the army, and in 1871-72, on leave of absence, made a tour of Europe and the East. On Feb. 8, 1884 he was retired from active service, and on Feb. 14, 1891, expired at New York, the day following the demise of his friend and comrade in arms, Adm. David D. Porter.