Biographical Notes
William Tecumseh Sherman

On May 14, 1856, James Casey, editor of the Sunday Times, shot James King of William, editor of the Daily Evening Bulletin. Casey was angry at King's charge that he had once served time in New York's Sing Sing Prison. King had a large following within the city and a mob quickly formed demanding Casey's execution. Sherman was incapable of protecting Casey from the mob and he was hanged by the vigilantes. A week after the hanging, Governor J Neely Johnson conferred with General John E. Wool, Commander of US Army units in the area, David Farragut, Commander of US Naval units in the area, and Major General Sherman, Commander of the California Militia. It was agreed that Wool would provide arms to the state militia and Farragut would station a war ship in San Francisco Bay. The governor then declared a state of insurrection and called out the militia. General Wool then refused to provide weapons to the militia claiming that he had never agreed to do so. Sherman could do nothing and resigned his militia commission in disgust. The business climate in San Francisco was not favorable and, in May 1857, Lucas and Turner closed their San Francisco branch. They asked Sherman to open a new bank for them in New York.

Sherman opened the new Lucas and Turner branch on Wall Street in July 1857. The financial Panic of 1857 hit in August but Sherman again weathered the storm. In October, however, the home office of Lucas and Turner went under and dragged Sherman's New York branch down with it. Following the collapse of his bank, Sherman explored unsuccessfully the possibility of regaining his army commission and then agreed to return to San Francisco to handle the disposition of Lucas and Turner's California assets. In July 1858 he returned to Lancaster and briefly considered managing his foster father's Chauncey coal and salt holdings before agreeing to manage Ewing's large landholdings in and around Leavenworth, Kansas. Unhappy in Kansas, Sherman continued to contact his friends in the army seeking any army posting he could obtain. In August, 1859, with the assistance of Don Carlos Buell, he obtained the position of superintendent of the newly established Louisiana Military Seminary. Sherman opened the school on January 2, 1860, and quickly gained the respect of the Southern establishment.

Slavery was the issue of the day and Sherman was not opposed to it. He was, however, opposed to session because it would break up the Union. In November 1860 Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election and the following month South Carolina quit the Union. Late in January 1861 Louisiana seceded. Sherman left Louisiana on February 19, 1861, travelled to Washington where he met President Lincoln and briefed him on conditions in Louisiana. (He was not impressed with Lincoln at the time.) His old friend and business associate, Henry Turner, offered him the presidency of the Fifth Street Railroad in St. Louis. He accepted and took up residence in St. Louis on March 20, 1861. Although he was strongly opposed to the breakup of the Union he no longer was actively seeking a position in the army. He did not want to war against his many southern friends and felt that the economic future of his family required his first attention. He was offered the position of Chief Clerk of the War Department with the promise of an assistant secretaryship as soon as Congress reconvened. He refused the offer. (He also refused an appeal from Louisiana that he return to fight for the South.)

Suspicion began to arise that because of his many southern connections and friendships Sherman was a Confederate sympathizer. His own family pressured him to rejoin the army and lobbied for a suitable position. On April 14, 1861, South Carolina took Fort Sumter under attack. In June 1861 he was offered the rank of colonel in the newly formed Thirteenth Regular Army Regiment. He went to Washington and met with General Scott. Scott promised him a brigadier generalship, and asked him to inspect the defenses around Washington. On June 30 he was made commander of the Third Brigade of the First Division. On July 21 Sherman's unit was involved in the Battle of Bull Run and he distinguished himself in helping to stem the Federal retreat. Following the battle, Lincoln visited his unit and Sherman gained a new respect for the President. In August Sherman was promoted to brevet brigadier general and assigned to Kentucky. Sherman was not happy in Kentucky and his military decisions were severely criticized. General George B. McClellan, who had taken over command of the Army from General Scott, concluded that Sherman was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and transferred him to St. Louis. On December 11, 1861, the press headlined that he was insane.