Biographical Notes
William Tecumseh Sherman

In February, 1862, in part because of political pressure from his foster father, Sherman was reassigned to the Department of West Tennessee, under newly appointed General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant and Sherman got along well and worked together harmoniously. Sherman distinguished himself in combat and shared in Grant's victory at Shiloh in April 1862. He was promoted to brevet major general following the battle. On June 6, 1862, following the capture of Memphis, Sherman was named Military Governor. On July 17, 1862 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Sherman openly opposed it, but enforced it because it was law. As military governor he fought against Confederate guerrilla forces by punishing Confederate civilians and was roundly criticized for it in the press. He developed a strong dislike for reporters and their newspapers. All during the first half of 1863 Sherman participated in the Vicksburg campaign as one of Grant's primary commanders. Following the fall of Vicksburg, he was promoted to the permanent rank of brigadier general. In March 1864 Grant was named general in chief of the entire Union war effort. Sherman was named Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi. In September 1864, his troops captured Atlanta and he forced all civilians not in support of Union forces to leave the city. On August 12 he was promoted to the rank of permanent major general.

In November 1864, Sherman cut all his ties with his support base and led 62,000 Union soldiers out of Atlanta in his famous March to the Sea. The force lived off of the land and destroyed a wide swath of Confederate property along the route of march. On December 21, 1864 they occupied Savannah, Georgia, and reestablished their supply lines by sea. Following Savannah, Grant ordered Sherman to begin moving north. On February 18, 1865, his forces entered Charlestown, South Carolina. On March 11, 1865, they captured Fayetteville, North Carolina. On April 9, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. On April 14, 1865, Confederate Commander General Andrew Johnston initiated surrender negotiations with Sherman. On April 15, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated. Sherman first met with Johnston on April 17 and subsequently agreed to terms that surrendered all Confederate forces. Washington rejected these terms labeling them too generous to the defeated Southerners. Sherman believed in a hard war but a soft peace. Lincoln did too, but with his death, Washington insisted on more rigorous terms. Once again Sherman was publicly criticized as being soft on his Southern friends.

With the end of the Civil War, Congress reduced the size of the army from 1,000,000 men to 54,000 men and required that force to man 255 military posts scattered throughout the nation. In July 1865, Sherman was assigned to command the Military Division of the Mississippi, an area encompassing everything from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. One of the principal challenges facing his command was the keeping of the peace in what was known as "Indian country." The 270,000 Indians living in his area of responsibility were divided into over a hundred different tribes, many of whom warred with each other as well as with the white settlers. Sherman believed that Native Americans must accommodate themselves to the Anglo-European way of life. He was prepared to use the army to force compliance or eliminate all resistance. He was firmly identified with the phrase "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." (Sherman argued that the saying originated in Colonial Days and that Miles Standish was the first to use it.) In the mid 1860s the most combative Indians numbered about 100,000 men, women and children. Members of the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Commanche, Nez Pierce, Ute, Bannock, Paiute, Modoc, and Apache tribes faced about twenty thousand troopers under Sherman's command. The resultant conflict consisted of about a thousand sharp, small scale battles that gradually wore down the ability of the Native Americans to resist. About one thousand troopers and three to six thousand Indians were killed in the process. The Eastern press was appalled at the harshness of the army's policies but Western settlers applauded it.

Grant became president and Sherman succeeded him as Commanding General of the Army in March 1869. (Up to that point they had been fast friends but their personal and professional relationship quickly deteriorated as President Grant insisted on civilian control of the military.) As Commanding General Sherman inevitably became involved in the issue of Reconstruction. Throughout his life he remained convinced that blacks were not the equal of whites and that Northern politicians had not dealt fairly or intelligently with the South. During his tenure as head of the army political pressure to downsize the force continued until it was reduced to 25,000 men. Sherman resigned as Commander-in-Chief on November 1, 1883, and was replaced by Philip Sheridan. He died on February 14, 1891.