Civil War General William T. Sherman — Celebrated in the North, Reviled in the South

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William Tecumseh Sherman was a prominent Union general during the American Civil War who is often celebrated in the North and reviled in the South, Sherman was an accomplished soldier and able leader and is best remembered for his "scorched earth" tactics during the Atlanta, Savannah, and Carolina campaigns, which left a swath of destruction across the South during the latter part of the war.
General William T. Sherman (USA)Photo byLibrary of Congress

A short biography of William T. Sherman

William T. Sherman was an officer in the United States Army, who rose from humble beginnings to prominence as a commanding officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, and close friends with Ulysses S. Grant.

Sherman led his forces on a march across the Southern states, destroying everything in his path. His brutal "March to the Sea" ended with the capture of Savannah in December 1864.

After Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, there was only one major Confederate Army left. It was under the command of Joseph E. Johnston. After Lee's surrender, Sherman pursued Johnston and forced him to surrender on April 18, 1865, at Bennett Place, North Carolina.

Sherman continued to serve in the army after the Civil War. In 1869, Sherman was promoted to Commanding General of the United States. In that role, he was responsible for dealing with Native American Indian Tribes on the Western frontier, and he resorted to the same harsh tactics he had used in the Civil War.

Sherman retired from the army in 1884 and lived in New York City. He died there on February 14, 1891. Sherman was buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, and one of his pallbearers was the man who surrendered to him at Bennett Place — Joseph E. Johnston.
General Joseph E. Johnston (CSA)Photo byWikimedia

Facts about his life and career

Birth and Early Life

  • Full Name: His full name was William Tecumseh Sherman.
  • Nickname(s): His nickname was "Cump."
  • Parents: His father was Judge Charles Robert Sherman. His mother was Mary Hoyt.
  • Date of Birth: He was born on February 8, 1820.
  • Birthplace: He was born in Lancaster, Ohio.

Family Tree

  • Siblings: Sherman was one of 11 children.
  • Spouse: His wife was Eleanor "Ellen" Boyle Ewing.


  • Death: Sherman died on February 14, 1891.
  • Place of Death: He died in New York City.
  • Burial: He is buried at Cavalry Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.


  • Sherman graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1840.

Professional Career

  • Sherman worked as a Bank executive, lawyer, university president, and military officer.

Military Career

  • US Volunteer Army Major General, United States Army Major General, Lieutenant General, General of the Army
Sherman at Atlanta in 1864.Photo byLibrary of Congress

Facts about his role in the Civil War

Civil War — 1861

At the onset of the war, Sherman volunteered for military service in the Union Army. He turned down an offer to serve in the War Department in 1861 and was commissioned as colonel of the 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment, effective May 14, 1861.

  • Sherman fought in the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861).
  • On July 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln rewarded him for his effort in the battle and promoted him to brigadier general of volunteers, effective May 17, 1861.
  • Sherman replaced General Robert Anderson as commander of the Department of the Cumberland on October 8, 1861.
  • On November 15, 1861, the Department of the Cumberland was reorganized as the Department of the Ohio, and General Don Carlos Buell replaced Sherman as department commander at Sherman's request.
  • In November 1861, Sherman was transferred to St. Louis and served under Major General Henry Halleck in the Department of the Missouri.
  • In December 1861, Halleck determined Sherman was unfit for duty, due to stress, and sent him home to Lancaster to recuperate.
  • Sherman returned to active duty in mid-December 1861. He served with the Department of the Missouri.
General Ulysses S. Grant (USA)Photo byWikipedia

Civil War — 1862

  • Sherman provided support for Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant's capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February 1862.
  • On March 1, 1862, Sherman was given command of the 5th Division of Grant's Army of West Tennessee.
  • Despite being surprised by the Confederate attack at the Battle of Shiloh on the morning of April 6, 1862, Sherman distinguished himself by preventing a Union rout and by helping Ulysses S. Grant plan and execute a successful counterattack on April 7.
  • After the Battle of Shiloh, Sherman was criticized for dismissing intelligence reports that Confederate forces were in the area of Pittsburg Landing prior to their surprise attack.
  • On May 1, 1862, he was promoted to major-general of volunteers.
  • On July 21, 1862. he was appointed to command the District of Memphis.
  • After his defeat at the Battle of Chickasaw Bluff (December 29, 1862), he was demoted to corps commander and served under Major General John A. McClernand.
The Battle of ShilohPhoto byLibrary of Congress

Civil War — 1863

  • Sherman played a minor role in the Union's capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
  • After the surrender of Vicksburg to the Union forces under General Grant on July 4, 1863, Sherman was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the regular army, in addition to his rank as a major general of volunteers.
  • On October 27, 1863, he was assigned to the command of the Department of the Tennessee.
  • His Army of the Tennessee played a major role in the Battle of Missionary Ridge and the Union breakout from Chattanooga on November 25, 1863.
  • In December 1863, the Army of the Tennessee, under his command, played a major role in lifting the Siege of Knoxville.

Civil War — 1864

  • Sherman succeeded Ulysses S. Grant as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which included all Union armies between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, on March 18, 1864.
  • Sherman launched his successful Atlanta Campaign on May 7, 1864.
  • On August 12, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of major general in the regular army.
  • On September 2, 1864, Sherman's forces captured Atlanta, Georgia, after Confederate General John B. Hood's Army of Tennessee evacuated the city.
  • Sherman ordered all civilians to evacuate Atlanta, Georgia on September 7, 1864.
  • In November 1864, Sherman ordered his army to burn all military and government buildings in Atlanta. The resulting fire also destroyed many private residences and shops in the city, which angered the South and created animosity toward him that still exists.
  • On November 15, 1864, started his Savannah Campaign, also known as his "March to the Sea."
  • He captured Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864. After he took control of the city, he telegraphed President Lincoln and said, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton."
President Abraham LincolnPhoto byWikipedia

Civil War — 1865

  • Sherman began his Carolina Campaign in late January 1865.
  • His forces captured Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina, on February 17, 1864, and fires that night destroyed most of the central city.
  • On April 18, 1865, Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered his army and all Confederate forces in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida to Sherman.
  • On April 26, Northern leaders forced Sherman to renegotiate Johnston's surrender, because Sherman was not authorized to arrange political terms.

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