Cover image for Citizen Sherman : a life of William Tecumseh Sherman
Title:
Citizen Sherman : a life of William Tecumseh Sherman
Author:
Fellman, Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, 1997.

©1995
Physical Description:
xiv, 486 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Reprint. Originally published: New York : Random House, 1995.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780700608409
Format :
Book

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E467.1.S55 F45 1995C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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E467.1.S55 F45 1995C Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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Summary

Summary

Some men panic in the face of war, others embrace its horrific challenges. But none embraced war as ferociously or with as much cold calculation as William Tecumseh Sherman. It was Sherman who both articulated and practiced the relentless scorched-earth policy that broke the heart of the Confederacy. Sherman succeeded in large measure because, better than any other Union general, he fully grasped the essence of psychological warfare and could enact his own deep-rooted rage with ruthless clarity.

This biography is much broader than an analysis of Sherman's wartime genius, however. Michael Fellman seeks to illuminate the emotional as well as the intellectual, ideological, and occupational lives of this extraordinary, but at the same time representative, Victorian American.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 Rosebud: A Truncated Patrimony   Normally the most garrulous and self-revelatory of men, William Tecumseh Sherman had curiously little to say about his boyhood. Indeed, in his Memoirs, published in 1875, the fifty-five-year-old autobiographer opens his story in 1846, when he was already well launched in his career as a first lieutenant of Company G, Third Artillery, United States Army, stationed at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, from where he soon was to be reassigned to California.   Looking back at his younger self from the perspective of 1875, when he was still commanding general of the army and a man of immense military fame, it was as if it had been the ambitious young officer who had given birth to the triumphant general. In his private correspondence too, Sherman, who reviewed the smallest as well as the largest events of his life over and over, almost never alluded to his boyhood, and when he did so, his habit was simply to insist that he had been a normal, fun-loving, mildly roughhousing sort of boy living comfortably among his mates. Evidence from others suggests that this affirmative boy had existed, but that this was a far-from-complete picture.   In 1887, by then retired from the army, Sherman entered a more reflective and reconciliatory phase of his life. It was at this point that he first commented in print on his childhood, in a chapter added to the second edition of his Memoirs. The two interconnected stories he finally told about his past in Lancaster, Ohio, were an intensely condensed public testimony to the severe pain he had experienced as a child. Both stories recalled his early feelings for his father, Charles, who had been a circuit-riding Ohio State Supreme Court justice.   "My memory extends back to about 1827," the aging Sherman told his readers, "and I recall him, returning home on horseback, when [my brothers and I] used to run and contend for the privilege of riding his horse from the front door back to the stable. On one occasion, I was the first, and being mounted rode to the stable." To this point, this is the story of the seven-year-old Tecumseh triumphantly wresting his father's horse, perhaps for the first time, from the grasp of his two big brothers, twelve and sixteen years old, and then riding high and proud on his father's mount. However, Sherman continued, " 'Old Dick' was impatient because the stable-door was not opened promptly, so he started for the barn of our neighbor Mr. King; there, also, no one was waiting to open the gate, and, after a reasonable time, 'Dick' started back for home somewhat in a hurry, and threw me among a pile of stones ... where I was picked up apparently a dead boy; but my time was not yet, and I recovered, though the scars remain to this day."   "The year 1829 was a sad one to our family," Sherman went on, skipping silently over the two intervening years of his life and launching immediately into his second childhood story. By then, Sherman's two older brothers had left home, Charles for university in Athens, Ohio, and James for a clerking job in a store in Cincinnati. Little Tecumseh, at nine years old the eldest of eight children remaining at home, was therefore the "man of the house" when his father was off riding the judicial circuit, as he was frequently. In these circumstances, the sad news came. Jane Sturgeon, a neighbor girl, came to school one day, "called us [Sherman children] out, and when we reached home all was lamentation," for father was "ill unto death" at Lebanon, a town one hundred miles distant from Lancaster. Sherman's mother raced off by carriage, but soon turned back, after she learned en route of her husband's death, on the sixth day of his illness. Later in life Sherman had established, he wrote in a detached and scientific manner, that in 1829, as there had been no Asiatic cholera epidemic, typhoid had been the probable cause of his father's death.   The death of Charles Sherman left the widow and her eleven children "very poor," Sherman wrote in his second Memoirs, and "with the exception of the three youngest children, the rest of us were scattered. I fell to the charge of the Hon. Thomas Ewing, who took me to his family, and ever after treated me as his own son."   Sherman condensed his life from age nine to sixteen even more briefly, and presented it in a flat narrative. He had had excellent teachers at school, and "we made good progress.... Time passed with us as with boys generally." In 1834, young Sherman got his first job, as a part-time surveyor for the Ohio Canal. In 1836, at sixteen, he went off to West Point. End of childhood and of youthful recollections.   Losing the continuity of parents and home, the traumatized boy had in no way chosen his subsequent fate. As he recounted to his readers in passive voice, he "fell to the charge" of Thomas Ewing; he was called out of school, told of his father's death, and thrust from home and mother into a neighboring family. His statement that Thomas Ewing took him in and treated him as his own son was, as we shall see, a formulaic insistence of Sherman the adult who thus covered over disturbing memories.   Fear of betrayal and abandonment, bouts of depression, and diffuse and frequently explosive rage characterized the adult Sherman. But when one searches for direct evidence of the wounding caused by his early childhood losses, these two brief, grief-laden stories are all Sherman would ever admit in print. One should not draw automatic conclusions about the effects of even the most frightening of childhood experiences. In this case, given many of the same childhood events, Sherman's younger brother, John, the future senator, turned out to be a deeply reserved, carefully controlled, cold, and conventional adult. But Tecumseh would act with fury, fear, hurt, and longing, which must have been connected to his experience of truncated patrimony.   Thomas Ewing, a huge, somber, and imposing man, was a wealthy and influential lawyer who, in 1831, went to the United States Senate as a conservative Whig. His family lived two houses up Main Street in Lancaster from their close friends, the Shermans. When Charles Sherman died in 1829, leaving his family impoverished, Ewing selected Tecumseh (nicknamed "Cump") to take into his home as his ward, while others of the Sherman children went to various other friends and relatives. Ewing never legally adopted Tecumseh, evidently out of consideration for Sherman's mother, Elizabeth.   In 1865, when General Sherman had attained his enormous fame, Ewing recounted in a letter to his daughter, Ellen, the story, by now a kind of family legend, of the manner in which he had selected little Tecumseh from the Sherman litter. "I want one of them," he wrote Ellen that he had said to Elizabeth in 1829. "You must give me the brightest of the lot, and I will make a man of him." "Take Cump, the red-haired one," Elizabeth supposedly replied, bypassing Charles and James, her older boys, "he's the smartest."   Soon after the Ewings took in Tecumseh, they baptized him in the Roman Catholic Church, adding what they considered to be a proper Christian first name. (Charles Sherman had named his third son in honor of Tecumseh, a powerful Indian chieftain who had been killed in the war of 1812, and who was remembered with admiration as well as with fear by the white settlers of the Great Lakes region.) In the Ewing family legend, one day in 1827 or 1828, Maria Ewing, Thomas's wife, had had Tecumseh baptized as William Tecumseh, at the insistence of the itinerant priest doing the baptism, who thought it unacceptable for a white boy to be named after a pagan Indian savage. As it was St. William's day, June 25, the priest picked that name.4 Nevertheless, the boyhood nickname of "Cump" stuck to the lad, who had never chosen William. Nor, despite the baptism, had he ever chosen to be a Roman Catholic; indeed he resisted such a conversion to the religion of his quasi-adoptive home in a most strenuous manner, one that would have lifelong consequences.   Although Thomas Ewing and William Tecumseh Sherman both insisted, after Sherman had become famous in the Civil War, that the little boy had instantly become integrated into the Ewing household as a son among sons and daughters, letters written by both of them when Cump had been growing up indicate that this had not been the case. In 1831, shortly after he went off to Washington to enter the Senate, Thomas Ewing wrote a paternalistic letter of instruction on child rearing to his wife. Following some general advice concerning development of the reading skills of all the children, Ewing added, "And there is Cumpy too--he is disposed to be bashful, not quite at home. Endeavor to inspire him with confidence and make him feel one of the family."5 Two and a half years after the lad had entered the Ewing household, his stepfather sensed he was still not quite at home with the Ewings. In his bashfulness and lack of self-confidence, the little boy appeared to remain at the edge of the family, somewhat silent, lonely, and withdrawn.   Excerpted from Citizen Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman by Michael Fellman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.