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The Life and Career of William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman is considered one of the greatest Civil War generals. He fought for the Union and led many battles. Sherman’s father passed away in 1829. At that time, Sherman lived with Thomas Ewing and became a member of his family. He graduated from West Point in 1840 and spent several years in a variety of southern garrisons, and he also served in the Mexican War. He married Ewing’s daughter Eleanor in 1850. She was well known for her philanthropy. Sherman was later stationed in St. Louis and New Orleans. He resigned from the army in 1853 and became a banker in San Francisco and then New York. He was a lawyer in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1858 before becoming the superintendent of the state military academy in Alexandria, Louisiana.

When Louisiana seceded and Sherman quit the military academy in 1861, he waited a few months and then joined the army as a colonel. He commanded a brigade during the first battle of Bull Run and was then sent to Kentucky as a brigadier general of volunteers. He followed Robert Anderson to command the Department of Cumberland and was transferred a month later to the Department of Missouri. He stood out when he became a division commander at Shiloh in 1862 and took on the title of major general the following May. He commanded the district of Memphis and was defeated at Chickasaw Bluffs in the first advance on the Vicksburg campaign. He was serving under John A. McClernand when the Arkansas Post was captured, but he led the 15th Corps in the successful move on Vicksburg. He then became brigadier-general in the army forces.

In 1863, Ulysses S. Grant took supreme command in the west and Sherman became the commander of the Army of Tennessee. He went to relieve Ambrose E. Burnside at Knoxville and took out the Confederate supplies and communications in Meridian, Mississippi. When Grant became the commander in chief, Sherman took over as Supreme Commander of the West. He ran an Atlanta campaign that led to the fall of the city. The Confederates attempted to force him to draw back but failed. Sherman burned most of Atlanta, and 60,000 men began their famous march to the sea. With no enemy in the way, he took on Savannah in 24 days and left behind a devastated city.

In 1865, those under Sherman’s command started to move north to close the distance between themselves and Robert E. Lee. Every advance they made closed the amount of space the Confederates could use for aid. When he advanced through South Carolina, the progress slowed, but it was even more destructive as they went on. South Carolina was the state Sherman and his men believed provoked the war in the first place. When the troops reached North Carolina, Joseph E. Johnston took Sherman on in Averasboro and Bentonville. He asked for terms from Sherman after Lee surrendered.

Sherman understood that the South was devastated and offered generous terms, but the Secretary of War turned them down. Johnston later surrendered the last major Confederate Army and took the same terms Lee had grabbed earlier. Sherman is known as a Civil War general who saw modern warfare as something completely different from the 18th-century battles. The Civil War was between free people, and there were both combatants and noncombatants involved. Victory was achieved by the marches through Georgia and South Carolina. His famous statement was “war is all hell,” which illustrates his sentiments toward the battles.

In 1866, Sherman became lieutenant general, and then moved up to become a general three years later. He succeeded Grant as the commander of the US Army in 1869. He later retired in 1884 and resisted all efforts to be drawn into politics. In fact, he vetoed Republicans who attempted to make him a candidate for the Presidency in 1884. Sherman said, “I will not accept. If elected, I will not serve.” Despite his words about the Presidential office, he served the US in a number of ways through his commanding offices in the Army. His overall effect on the outcome of the Civil War was large and looming.