- Sherman, William Tecumseh
- (1820–1891)A prominent Union military leader during the American Civil War, William T. Sherman was the son of an Ohio judge. At 16, Sherman obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy and graduated seventh in his class in 1849. He served in the second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War and was promoted to captain. In 1853, he resigned his commission and held a number of positions in San Francisco, New Orleans, and St. Louis.With the outbreak of the Civil War, Sherman enlisted as a colonel in the regular army. He rapidly moved up the ranks and, by the spring of 1863, was a major general and an Army Corps commander under his friend, Ulysses Grant. When, in 1864, Grant went east to take command of the Union war effort, Sherman was placed in command of the Army of Tennessee. By the fall of 1864, Sherman was convinced that the only way to end the war was to crush the South’s economic ability to wage war. After the capture of Atlanta in the fall of 1864, he led his army on the famous “March to the Sea,” during which the army pillaged its way from Atlanta to Savannah. In the spring of 1865, he used the same tactics in South Carolina, marching through Columbia and into North Carolina. There he accepted the surrender of the last remaining Confederate army east of the Mississippi, effectively ending resistance.When Grant was elected president in 1868, he appointed Sherman commanderin-chief of the army. In that position, he used the same scorched earth tactics against Indian tribes who resisted being moved onto reservations. He implemented a policy of slaughtering the buffalo on the Great Plains, understanding that this would force the Indians to either stay on the reservations or starve. Once the Indians were on the reservations, he worked to make sure they were fed and spoke out forcefully, although not particularly effectively, against the civilian government mistreatment of them. Sherman’s policy against the Confederacy and the Plains Indians was controversial then and now. His campaigns presaged the “total war” of the twentieth century; for better or worse, he has been called “the first modern general.”See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Athearn, Robert G. William Tecumseh Sherman and the Settlement of the West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956;Hirshson, Stanley P. The White Tecumseh: A Biography of General William T. Sherman. New York: J. Wiley, 1997;Sherman, William T. Personal Memoirs of Gen. W. T. Sherman. 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton, 1875.JOSEPH ADAMCZYK
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.