Sherman, William Tecumseh

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Sherman, William Tecumseh,

1820–91, Union general in the American Civil War, b. Lancaster, Ohio. Sherman is said by many to be the greatest of the Civil War generals.

Early Career

After the death of his father (1829) Sherman lived as a member of the family of Thomas EwingEwing, Thomas,
1789–1871, American statesman, b. Ohio co., Va. (now W.Va.). He represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate (1831–37) and supported Henry Clay in the Whig fight against the Jackson administration.
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. In 1850 he married Ewing's daughter Eleanor Boyle Ewing, well known for her many philanthropic activities. After graduating (1840) from West Point, he spent several years at various Southern garrisons, served in the Mexican War, and was later stationed at St. Louis and at New Orleans. Resigning from the army in 1853, he was a banker in San Francisco and New York (1853–57) and a lawyer in Leavenworth, Kans. (1858–59), before he became superintendent of the state military academy at Alexandria, La. (now Louisiana State Univ. at Baton Rouge).

Civil War Career

When Louisiana seceded Sherman resigned from the military academy (Jan., 1861), and in May he rejoined the U.S. army as a colonel. Sherman commanded a brigade in the first battle of Bull Run (July) and in August was made a brigadier general of volunteers and sent to Kentucky. There he succeeded Robert Anderson in command of the Dept. of the Cumberland (Oct.), but in November he was transferred to the Dept. of the Missouri.

Sherman distinguished himself as a division commander at Shiloh (Apr., 1862) and was promoted to major general in May. He took part in the operations about Corinth, occupied Memphis (July), and commanded the Dist. of Memphis (Oct.–Dec., 1862). After his defeat at Chickasaw Bluffs in the first advance of the Vicksburg campaignVicksburg campaign,
in the American Civil War, the fighting (Nov., 1862–July, 1863) for control of the Mississippi River. The Union wanted such control in order to split the Confederacy and to restore free commerce to the politically important Northwest.
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, he served under John A. McClernandMcClernand, John Alexander,
1812–1900, Union general in the American Civil War, b. Breckinridge co., Ky. He was admitted (1832) to the Illinois bar and sat as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives (1843–51, 1859–61).
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 in the capture of Arkansas Post (Jan., 1863). In the successful move on Vicksburg, Sherman ably led the 15th Corps. In July he was made a brigadier general in the regular army.

When Ulysses S. Grant assumed supreme command in the West, Sherman became commander of the Army of the Tennessee (Oct., 1863). He commanded the Union left at Missionary Ridge in the Chattanooga campaignChattanooga campaign,
Aug.-Nov., 1863, military encounter in the American Civil War. Chattanooga, Tenn., which commanded Confederate communications between the East and the Mississippi River and was also the key to loyal E Tennessee, had been an important Union objective as
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 (Nov.), went to the relief of Ambrose E. Burnside at Knoxville (Dec.), and destroyed Confederate communications and supplies at Meridian, Miss., in Feb., 1864.

When Grant became commander in chief, Sherman succeeded him as supreme commander in the West (March). His Atlanta campaignAtlanta campaign,
May–Sept., 1864, of the U.S. Civil War. In the spring of 1864, Gen. W. T. Sherman concentrated the Union armies of G. H. Thomas, J. B. McPherson, and J. M. Schofield around Chattanooga.
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 (May–Sept., 1864) resulted in the fall of that city on Sept. 2. The Confederate attempt to draw him back failed, and Sherman burned (Nov. 15) most of Atlanta and the next day, with 60,000 men, began his famous march to the sea. With virtually no enemy to bar his way, he was before Savannah in 24 days, leaving behind him a ruined and devastated land. Savannah fell on Dec. 21.

In Feb., 1865, Sherman started northward to close in on Robert E. Lee from the rear. Every step now reduced the area upon which the Confederates in Virginia could depend for aid. His advance through South Carolina (the state that in the eyes of Sherman's men had provoked the war) was slower but even more destructive than the march through Georgia.

In North Carolina, Joseph E. JohnstonJohnston, Joseph Eggleston,
1807–91, Confederate general, b. Prince Edward co., Va., grad. West Point, 1829. He served against the Seminole in Florida and with distinction under Winfield Scott in the Mexican War.
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 opposed Sherman in engagements at Averasboro and Bentonville, but after hearing of Lee's surrender, he asked for terms. Sherman, understanding the South and the devastation it had suffered better than any other Union general, offered him generous terms, but Secretary of War Stanton repudiated them. Johnston then surrendered (Apr. 26, 1865) the last major Confederate army on the same terms as Lee.

Sherman saw more clearly than any other Civil War general that modern warfare was completely unlike its 18th-century counterpart. In fact, he is sometimes credited with reinventing war, stressing the destruction of the infrastructure necessary to support an enemy army more than the killing of its soldiers, and establishing rules of conflict that are still in effect today. Since the Civil War was a war between free peoples, Sherman maintained that only by breaking the war spirit of the enemy, noncombatant as well as combatant, could victory be won—hence the march through Georgia and South Carolina. His famous statement that "war … is all hell" epitomizes his sentiments.

Later Career

Sherman was promoted to lieutenant general in 1866 and to general in 1869, when he succeeded Grant as commander of the U.S. army. He retired in 1884. He resisted all efforts to draw him into politics, vetoing Republican attempts to make him a presidential candidate in 1884 with the words: "If nominated I will not accept; if elected I will not serve."


See The Sherman Letters (correspondence with his brother John Sherman, ed. by R. S. Thorndike, 1894), and Home Letters of General Sherman (ed. by M. A. DeWolfe Howe, 1909); his memoirs (1875; ed. with foreword by B. H. Liddell Hart, 1957); biographies by B. H. Liddell Hart (1929, repr. 1960), L. Lewis (1932; with appraisal by B. Catton, 1958), R. G. Athearn (1956), J. M. Merrill (1971), J. Marszalek (1993), M. Fellman (1995), S. P. Hirshson (1997), L. Kennett (2001), and J. L. McDonough (2016); A. McAllister, Ellen Ewing, Wife of General Sherman (1936); T. H. Williams, McClellan, Sherman, and Grant (1962); J. B. Walters, Merchant of Terror (1973); J. F. Marszalek, Sherman's Other Wars: The General and the Civil War Press (1981); M. B. Lucas, Sherman and the Burning of Columbia (1988, repr. 2000); L. Kennett, Marching through Georgia (1995); C. B. Flood, Grant and Sherman (2006); N. A. Trudeau, Southern Storm (2008); J. D. Dickey, Rising in Flames (2018).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sherman, William Tecumseh


Born Feb. 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio; died Feb. 14, 1891, in New York City. US military leader, general of the army (1869).

Sherman graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1840 and was commissioned in the artillery. He served in the US war against Mexico of 1846–48. Sherman retired from the army from 1853 to 1859 and worked as a bank manager and lawyer. In 1859 he was appointed superintendent of a military academy. During the US Civil War (1861–65), Sherman commanded a regiment, a brigade, and a division in the Northern army, achieving the rank of brigadier general in 1861. He took part in the battles of First Bull Run, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga, among others. In March 1864, Sherman was given command of the army that made the successful “march to the sea”: starting from Chattanooga, Tenn., the army moved through the state of Georgia, taking Atlanta in September, to the Atlantic coast, taking Savannah in December and defeating the Southern army commanded by General J. E. Johnston. In early 1865, Sherman’s army turned north and advanced in the rear of the enemy to join up with the army of General U. S. Grant. After covering more than 1,300 km in a year, Sherman’s army joined up with Grant’s near Richmond, which led to encirclement of the main Southern forces commanded by General R. Lee and to their surrender in April 1865.

From 1869 to 1883, Sherman was commanding general of the US Army. Sherman’s memoirs were published in 1875 and 1972.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sherman, William Tecumseh

(1820–91) soldier; born in Lancaster, Ohio. Orphaned at age nine and raised by a prominent Ohio politician, he graduated from West Point in 1840, saw service in Florida, and, during the Mexican War, in California; he stayed there and in 1853 resigned from the army to become a banker. When the bank failed in 1857, he became superintendent of the Louisiana Military Academy; he resigned when Louisiana seceded early in 1861. Reentering the army, he led a brigade at First Bull Run (July 1861), then was given command of the Union forces assigned to hold Kentucky in the Union; there (late 1861), under pressure from Washington and the press, he had a mild nervous breakdown. Recovered, he was assigned to Ulysses Grant's command and came into his own leading large units at Shiloh (1862), Vicksburg (1863), and Chattanooga (1863). When Grant left to take command of the Federal forces, Sherman assumed command of operations in the west and by September 1864 had captured Atlanta in one of the Civil War's most decisive campaigns. The advocate of a hard, unrelenting war on all fronts—"War is cruelty and you cannot refine it," he said, thus solidifying his reputation as the first modern general—he then set off on his famous March to the Sea. Cutting a wide swath of destruction through Georgia, and, in early 1865, through the Carolinas, by April 1865 he had forced the surrender of the last major Confederate forces. After directing the fight against the Indians as the transcontinental railroad was being built, he succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the army (1869–83). His excellent Memoirs were published in 1875. Asked to run for president in 1884, he sent his oft-quoted refusal: "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected."
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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