Biographical Notes
William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman's ancestors were prominent in the revolution against Great Britain and played significant roles in the founding of the United States. His father, Charles R. Sherman, attended Dartmouth College and studied law in his father's law office. In 1813 President Madison appointed him as collector of internal revenue in the Third District of Ohio. He served in that position for four years and was well regarded as an honest man. In April 1816 the Treasury announced that, after February 1817, the only acceptable currency would be United States Bank Notes. Charles was caught with large amounts of worthless currency. He did not declare bankruptcy. Instead he assumed the large debt and set about to repay it by riding circuit as a lawyer. Over the years he and his wife, Mary Hoyt Sherman, raised a large family of eleven children. At his birth on February 8, 1820, they named their sixth child after a famous Shawneee Indian Chief, Tecumseh, leader of the Midwest Indian Confederation. When Charles was asked why he had named the child after an Indian, he responded that "Tecumseh was a great warrior."

In 1823 Charles was appointed a justice on Ohio's Supreme Court, but he continued to ride circuit and was away from home a great deal of time. As a young child Tecumseh, nicknamed "Cump," was raised by his mother and grandmother and attended the local school in Lancaster. In June 1829 Charles became ill and died leaving the family without the financial means to support themselves. The Sherman family was broken up and six year old Cump was adopted by their next door neighbor, Thomas Ewing. Ewing was the son of an impoverished revolutionary soldier. He had put himself through college at Ohio University by working in the Kanawha Salt Works. He received his degree in 1815 and studied law in the offices of Philemon Beecher, a militia general and prominent Ohio politician. Ewing was admitted to the bar in Ohio in 1816 and four years later married Beecher's foster daughter, Maria. The couple became close friends with Charles and Mary Sherman and their children played together constantly. Maria Ewing was a devout Catholic and insisted that Cump be baptized before being admitted into their family. Dominican Father Dominic Young insisted on a "proper Christian name" and baptized the youngster "William Tecumseh Sherman" on June 28 - Saint Williams Day.

In 1831 Ewing was elected to the United States Senate. Ewing's political philosophy was complicated. Although a northerner he supported slavery and opposed abolitionists. As a Whig he opposed Andrew Jackson's election but supported the president in the nullification crisis because of his reverence for the constitution. He was not active in religious affairs but permitted his wife to raise their family as Catholics. Cump and the other children attended school in Lancaster and received an excellent primary education. In 1835 and again in 1836 Ewing wrote to the Secretary of War, Lewis Cass, requesting an appointment to West Point for Cump, saying that it had been the desire of his father Charles Sherman that his son be trained for service in the military. He entered West Point in June 1836 and four years later, in June 1840, graduated sixth in his class. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Artillery Corps. His first assignment was to Fort Pierce, Florida, where he was peripherally involved in the Second Seminole War. He was promoted to first lieutenant in November 1841 and transferred to St. Augustine, Florida. With the end of the Second Seminole War in March 1842 he was transferred to Fort Morgan outside Mobile, Alabama. In June 1842 he was transferred to Fort Moultrie in Charlestown Harbor.

In May 1846 Sherman was reassigned to Fort Columbus in New York Harbor where he was assigned to assemble new recruits for transfer to the war which was then underway in Mexico. He tried to obtain a combat assignment in Mexico but was unsuccessful, but in June 1846 he was assigned to Company F which was being sent to California. The unit shipped out of New York aboard the Lexington, a converted sloop of war, in July 1846 and six months later arrived in Monterey Bay on January 26, 1847, in the middle of the bickering between naval and army leaders over control of events in California. Lieutenant Sherman was appointed as adjutant to Colonel Mason following General Stephen W. Keanry's departure from California and travelled widely throughout California during the period that Mason served as Military Governor of California. In July 1847 Sherman led a small squad of naval personnel in the arrest of Alcalde John H. Nash in Sonoma. (Nash had refused to accede to the military governor's order to give up his position, claiming that he had been legitimately elected during Fremont's tenure as Governor of California.)