Thursday, May 4, 2023

General William Tecumseh Sherman


Like Ulysses S. Grant, General William T. Sherman’s career fluttered up and down before the civil war. After leaving the military, he became a banker in San Francisco. When his bank failed, he moved to Kansas City and practiced law; then, he became headmaster of a military school in Louisiana.

Sherman reentered the service at the start of the civil war. After Bull Run, Lincoln promoted him to brigadier general of volunteers. His next position with the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee was the low point of Sherman’s military career. He grew paranoid about how small and unprepared his army was and called for 200,000 troops to support him.

Soon, the newspapers were having a field day labeling Sherman as crazy or insane.

For a while, it looked like his career was over. The New York Herald reported Sherman wasn’t insane, but “he certainly acted strangely when he was in Kentucky… he has been known for many years as extremely eccentric man and liable to all sorts of freaks of judgment.” The Herald felt safe in saying Sherman would “never have an important command again.”

Two months later, Sherman was back in the field serving with Grant at Fort Donelson and then at Shiloh. While Sherman proved his bravery at Shiloh, his troops were among the first to turn and run.

He defended them as best he could. “My division was made up of regiments perfectly new,” explained Sherman, “nearly all having received their muskets for the first time at Paducah. None of them had ever been under fire or beheld heavy columns of an enemy bearing down on themTo expect of them the coolness and steadiness of older troops would be wrong.”

When he recollected Pittsburg Landing in his memoirs, Sherman defended Grant for not building intrenchments. “The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing,” said Sherman, “was one of the most fiercely contested of the war.” The reason they hadn’t dug in was simple. They never figured Beauregard would leave his fortifications at Corinth. General Grant planned to force the rebels out once Buell’s army arrived.

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