General William Tecumseh Sherman biography


After the close of the war and the great review in Washington, Sherman was placed at the head of the Military Division of the Mississippi, later called the Military Division of the Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis. He had charge of projecting the construction of the Pacific Railroad, then being constructed west from the Missouri. When Grant became President, Sherman rose to the full rank of General of all the armies, and he fulfilled the duties of that high position in fact as well as in name. He visited every military post in the country with two exceptions, and by telegraph directed from his headquarters at Washington the movement of troops in the far West. It was affirmed that no living man was so conversant with the topography, geography and resources of every section of the United States as General Sherman. He was a great traveler, and spent his vacations on horse-back among the mountains and deserts of the West in preference to watering-places or the society of city life. In 1871 and 1872 he spent a year in foreign lands. In 1877 Sherman spent 115 days visiting the Indian country and the Northwest. During this time he traveled nearly 10,000 miles. His description of this trip shows him to be a forceful and graphic writer, even more than his descriptions of battle-fields. Sherman's home was blessed with eight children, and the first great misfortune in his domestic life was the death of his son, Willie, who died of typhoid fever at Memphis, October 3, 1863. He was with his father in the campaign of the Mississippi, and was a favorite with the troops, who made him an honorary sergeant of the Thirteenth. Mrs. Sherman died in New York, November 28, 1888, after a long illness. February 14, 1891, the famous warrior passed away. He had taken a cold some days previously, which fastened itself upon his lungs, and caused his rapid decline. Only a gentle sigh escaped the veteran's lips as his spirit took flight. An imposing military funeral was held in New York, and the remains were carried by special train, accompanied by a guard of honor, to St. Louis, which for many years had been the home of the General. At every station along the long journey bands of music played solemn dirges and crowds gathered to show their respect for the departed hero. Arrived at St. Louis, a funeral procession was formed, composed of the regular troops, State and municipal officers, and great numbers of friends of the deceased. He was buried beside the graves of his wife and two of his children. His son, Rev. Thomas E. Sherman, performed the last religious services over the flag-covered casket. A company of troops fired a farewell salute of three volleys, followed by an answering roar from the artillery. Then a solitary bugler stepped forward and sounded taps over the grave of the distinguished soldier, and the solemn and impressive ceremonies came to an end. According to his own wish, the monument over his grave contains no inscription except his name, the dates of his birth and death, and the simple epitaph "True and Honest."

No better brief summary, perhaps, of the character and true greatness of General Sherman can be found than the message of President Harrison to Congress on the event of the venerable warrior's death. Harrison had served as an officer in Sherman's army in Georgia, and cherished the love and respect for Sherman that was shared by every loyal soldier who ever served under him. The message in part said: "The death of William Tecumseh Sherman is an event that will bring sorrow to the heart of every patriotic citizen. No living American was so loved and venerated as he was. To look upon his face, to hear his name, was to have one's love of country intensified. He served his country not for fame, not out of a sense of professional duty, but for the love of the flag and of the beneficent civil institutions of which it was the emblem. He was an ideal soldier, and shared to the fullest the esprit de corps of the army; but he cherished the civil institutions organized under the Constitution, and was a soldier only that these might be perpetuated in undiminished usefulness and honor. He was in nothing an imitator. A profound student of military science and precedent, he drew from them principles and suggestions, and so adapted them to novel conditions that his campaigns will continue to be the profitable study of the military profession throughout the world. His genial nature made him comrade to every soldier of the great Union army. His career was complete; his honors were full. He had received from the Government the highest rank known to our military establishment, and from the people unstinted gratitude and love." Sherman was the soul of simplicity, and his candor was renowned. He asserted of himself that he had no natural military genius, but other geniuses, military and otherwise, have viewed his career with a coldly critical gaze, and have differed from his modest estimate. Not only did he possess to the very highest degree the true military genius, but also those other qualifications which go to make up the perfect soldier as a leader of soldiers: courage, determination, coolness, sound judgment, and, above all, that attribute which inspired to a marvelous degree the confidence and enthusiasm of men and officers alike.

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