Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

By William T. Sherman




Nearly ten years have passed since the close of the civil war in
America, and yet no satisfactory history thereof is accessible to
the public; nor should any be attempted until the Government has
published, and placed within the reach of students, the abundant
materials that are buried in the War Department at Washington.
These are in process of compilation; but, at the rate of progress
for the past ten years, it is probable that a new century will come
before they are published and circulated, with full indexes to
enable the historian to make a judicious selection of materials.

What is now offered is not designed as a history of the war, or
even as a complete account of all the incidents in which the writer
bore a part, but merely his recollection of events, corrected by a
reference to his own memoranda, which may assist the future
historian when he comes to describe the whole, and account for the
motives and reasons which influenced some of the actors in the
grand drama of war.

I trust a perusal of these pages will prove interesting to the
survivors, who have manifested so often their intense love of the
"cause" which moved a nation to vindicate its own authority; and,
equally so, to the rising generation, who therefrom may learn that
a country and government such as ours are worth fighting for, and
dying for, if need be.

If successful in this, I shall feel amply repaid for departing from
the usage of military men, who seldom attempt to publish their own
deeds, but rest content with simply contributing by their acts to
the honor and glory of their country.


St. Louis, Missouri, January 21, 1875.


Another ten years have passed since I ventured to publish my
Memoirs, and, being once more at leisure, I have revised them in
the light of the many criticisms public and private.

My habit has been to note in pencil the suggestions of critics, and
to examine the substance of their differences; for critics must
differ from the author, to manifest their superiority.

Where I have found material error I have corrected; and I have
added two chapters, one at the beginning, another at the end, both
of the most general character, and an appendix.

I wish my friends and enemies to understand that I disclaim the
character of historian, but assume to be a witness on the stand
before the great tribunal of history, to assist some future Napier,
Alison, or Hume to comprehend the feelings and thoughts of the
actors in the grand conflicts of the recent past, and thereby to
lessen his labors in the compilation necessary for the future
benefit of mankind.

In this free country every man is at perfect liberty to publish his
own thoughts and impressions, and any witness who may differ from
me should publish his own version of facts in the truthful
narration of which he is interested. I am publishing my own
memoirs, not theirs, and we all know that no three honest witnesses
of a simple brawl can agree on all the details. How much more
likely will be the difference in a great battle covering a vast
space of broken ground, when each division, brigade, regiment, and
even company, naturally and honestly believes that it was the focus
of the whole affair! Each of them won the battle. None ever lost.
That was the fate of the old man who unhappily commanded.

In this edition I give the best maps which I believe have ever been
prepared, compiled by General O. M. Poe, from personal knowledge
and official surveys, and what I chiefly aim to establish is the
true cause of the results which are already known to the whole
world; and it may be a relief to many to know that I shall publish
no other, but, like the player at cards, will "stand;" not that I
have accomplished perfection, but because I can do no better with
the cards in hand. Of omissions there are plenty, but of wilful
perversion of facts, none.

In the preface to the first edition, in 1875, I used these words:
"Nearly ten years have passed since the close of the civil war in
America, and yet no satisfactory history thereof is accessible to
the public; nor should any be attempted until the Government has
published, and placed within the reach of students, the abundant
materials that are buried in the War Department at Washington.
These are in process of compilation; but, at the rate of progress
for the past ten years, it is probable that a new century will come
before they are published and circulated, with full indexes to
enable the historian to make a judicious selection of materials"

Another decade is past, and I am in possession of all these
publications, my last being Volume XI, Part 3, Series 1, the last
date in which is August 30, 1862. I am afraid that if I assume
again the character of prophet, I must extend the time deep into
the next century, and pray meanwhile that the official records of
the war, Union and Confederate, may approach completion before the
"next war," or rather that we, as a people, may be spared another
war until the last one is officially recorded. Meantime the rising
generation must be content with memoirs and histories compiled from
the best sources available.

In this sense I offer mine as to the events of which I was an
eye-witness and participant, or for which I was responsible.

General (retired).

St. Louis, Missouri, March 30, 1885.





According to Cothren, in his "History of Ancient Woodbury,
Connecticut," the Sherman family came from Dedham, Essex County,
England. The first recorded name is of Edmond Sherman, with his
three sons, Edmond, Samuel, and John, who were at Boston before
1636; and farther it is distinctly recorded that Hon. Samuel
Sherman, Rev. John, his brother, and Captain John, his first
cousin, arrived from Dedham, Essex County, England, in 1634.
Samuel afterward married Sarah Mitchell, who had come (in the same
ship) from England, and finally settled at Stratford, Connecticut.
The other two (Johns) located at Watertown, Massachusetts.

From Captain John Sherman are descended Roger Sherman, the signer
of the Declaration of Independence, Hon. William M. Evarts, the
Messrs. Hoar, of Massachusetts, and many others of national fame.
Our own family are descended from the Hon. Samuel Sherman and his
son; the Rev. John, who was born in 1650-'51; then another John,
born in 1687; then Judge Daniel, born in 1721; then Taylor Sherman,
our grandfather, who was born in 1758. Taylor Sherman was a lawyer
and judge in Norwalk, Connecticut, where he resided until his
death, May 4, 1815; leaving a widow, Betsey Stoddard Sherman, and
three children, Charles R. (our father), Daniel, and Betsey.

When the State of Connecticut, in 1786, ceded to the United States
her claim to the western part of her public domain, as defined by
her Royal Charter, she reserved a large district in what is now
northern Ohio, a portion of which (five hundred thousand acres)
composed the "Fire-Land District," which was set apart to indemnify
the parties who had lost property in Connecticut by the raids of
Generals Arnold, Tryon, and others during the latter part of the
Revolutionary War.

Our grandfather, Judge Taylor Sherman, was one of the commissioners
appointed by the State of Connecticut to quiet the Indian title,
and to survey and subdivide this Fire-Land District, which includes
the present counties of Huron and Erie. In his capacity as
commissioner he made several trips to Ohio in the early part of
this century, and it is supposed that he then contracted the
disease which proved fatal. For his labor and losses he received a
title to two sections of land, which fact was probably the prime
cause of the migration of our family to the West. My father
received a good education, and was admitted to the bar at Norwalk,
Connecticut, where, in 1810, he, at twenty years of age, married
Mary Hoyt, also of Norwalk, and at once migrated to Ohio, leaving
his wife (my mother) for a time. His first purpose was to settle
at Zanesville, Ohio, but he finally chose Lancaster, Fairfield
County, where he at once engaged in the, practice of his
profession. In 1811 he returned to Norwalk, where, meantime, was
born Charles Taylor Sherman, the eldest of the family, who with his
mother was carried to Ohio on horseback.

Judge Taylor Sherman's family remained in Norwalk till 1815, when
his death led to the emigration of the remainder of the family,
viz., of Uncle Daniel Sherman, who settled at Monroeville, Ohio, as
a farmer, where he lived and died quite recently, leaving children
and grandchildren; and an aunt, Betsey, who married Judge Parker,
of Mansfield, and died in 1851, leaving children and grandchildren;
also Grandmother Elizabeth Stoddard Sherman, who resided with her
daughter, Mrs: Betsey Parker, in Mansfield until her death, August

Thus my father, Charles R. Sherman, became finally established at
Lancaster, Ohio, as a lawyer, with his own family in the year 1811,
and continued there till the time of his death, in 1829. I have no
doubt that he was in the first instance attracted to Lancaster by
the natural beauty of its scenery, and the charms of its already
established society. He continued in the practice of his
profession, which in those days was no sinecure, for the ordinary
circuit was made on horseback, and embraced Marietta, Cincinnati,
and Detroit. Hardly was the family established there when the War
of 1812 caused great alarm and distress in all Ohio. The English
captured Detroit and the shores of Lake Erie down to the Maumee
River; while the Indians still occupied the greater part of the
State. Nearly every man had to be somewhat of a soldier, but I
think my father was only a commissary; still, he seems to have
caught a fancy for the great chief of the Shawnees, "Tecumseh."

Perry's victory on Lake Erie was the turning-point of the Western
campaign, and General Harrison's victory over the British and
Indians at the river Thames in Canada ended the war in the West,
and restored peace and tranquillity to the exposed settlers of
Ohio. My father at once resumed his practice at the bar, and was
soon recognized as an able and successful lawyer. When, in 1816,
my brother James was born, he insisted on engrafting the Indian
name "Tecumseh" on the usual family list. My mother had already
named her first son after her own brother Charles; and insisted on
the second son taking the name of her other brother James, and when
I came along, on the 8th of February, 1820, mother having no more
brothers, my father succeeded in his original purpose, and named me
William Tecumseh.

The family rapidly increased till it embraced six boys and five
girls, all of whom attained maturity and married; of these six are
still living.

In the year 1821 a vacancy occurred in the Supreme Court of Ohio,
and I find this petition:

Somerset, Ohio, July 6, 1821.

May it please your Excellency:

We ask leave to recommend to your Excellency's favorable notice
Charles R. Sherman, Esq., of Lancaster, as a man possessing in an
eminent degree those qualifications so much to be desired in a
Judge of the Supreme Court.

From a long acquaintance with Mr. Sherman, we are happy to be able
to state to your Excellency that our minds are led to the
conclusion that that gentleman possesses a disposition noble and
generous, a mind discriminating, comprehensive, and combining a
heart pure, benevolent and humane. Manners dignified, mild, and
complaisant, and a firmness not to be shaken and of unquestioned

But Mr. Sherman's character cannot be unknown to your Excellency,
and on that acquaintance without further comment we might safely
rest his pretensions.

We think we hazard little in assuring your Excellency that his
appointment would give almost universal satisfaction to the
citizens of Perry County.

With great consideration, we have the honor to be

Your Excellency's most obedient humble servants,

His Excellency ETHAN A. BROWN,
Governor of Ohio, Columbus.

He was soon after appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court, and
served in that capacity to the day of his death.

My memory extends back to about 1827, and I recall him, returning
home on horseback, when all the boys 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; but "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 in 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, in front of preacher
Wright's house, where I was picked up apparently a dead boy; but my
time was not yet, and I recovered, though the scars remain to this

The year 1829 was a sad one to our family. We were then ten
children, my eldest brother Charles absent at the State University,
Athens, Ohio; my next brother, James, in a store at Cincinnati; and
the rest were at home, at school. Father was away on the circuit.
One day Jane Sturgeon came to the school, called us out, and when
we reached home all was lamentation: news had come that father was
ill unto death, at Lebanon, a hundred miles away. Mother started
at once, by coach, but met the news of his death about Washington,
and returned home. He had ridden on horseback from Cincinnati to
Lebanon to hold court, during a hot day in June. On the next day
he took his seat on the bench, opened court in the forenoon, but in
the afternoon, after recess, was seized with a severe chill and had
to adjourn the court. The best medical aid was called in, and for
three days with apparent success, but the fever then assumed a more
dangerous type, and he gradually yielded to it, dying on the sixth
day, viz., June 24, 1829.

My brother James had been summoned from Cincinnati, and was present
at his bedside, as was also Henry Stoddard, Esq., of Dayton, Ohio,
our cousin. Mr. Stoddard once told me that the cause of my
father's death was cholera; but at that time, 1829, there was no
Asiatic cholera in the United States, and the family, attributed
his death to exposure to the hot sun of June, and a consequent
fever, "typhoid."

From the resolutions of the bench, bar, and public generally, now
in my possession, his death was universally deplored; more
especially by his neighbors in Lancaster, and by the Society of
Freemasons, of which he was the High-Priest of Arch Chapter No. 11.

His death left the family very poor, but friends rose up with
proffers of generous care and assistance; for all the neighbors
knew that mother could not maintain so large a family without help.
My eldest brother, Charles, had nearly completed his education at
the university at Athens, and concluded to go to his uncle, Judge
Parker, at Mansfield, Ohio, to study law. My, eldest sister,
Elizabeth, soon after married William J. Reese, Esq.; James was
already in a store at Cincinnati; 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.

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