During the past week I have been on a campaign of my own seeking out historic sites associated with the famed Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. I began my quest in St. Louis, a city much loved by the general. The best place to start would have been the Sherman home at 912 N. Garrison Avenue, but sadly it was demolished a century ago. Instead, I made my way to his grave.
Fans of the general are often surprised that his bones rest in St. Louis instead of Lancaster, Ohio – the site of his family home and that of the Ewing clan. Another surprise for those that know Sherman is that he is buried in a Catholic cemetery – Calvary. Surely, Sherman would have opposed this as he had all efforts to convert him during his lifetime. But, of course, when the time came the decision was not his; so he rests here.
My next stop was Jefferson Barracks. The oldest military post west of the Mississippi River was founded in 1826. Many of the general officers from the Civil War were assigned at Jefferson Barracks at one time or another, including Sherman, Grant, Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet. Few of the buildings from the mid 19th century still survive. Today a museum sets on the old barracks grounds – the Missouri Civil War Museum.
The museum opened it’s doors in 2002 in the historic 1905 Jefferson Barracks Post Exchange Building after a zealous group of amateur historians saved it from demolition. The group more recently has acquired the 1918 Jefferson Barracks Post Exchange Building next door and hopes to turn it into a library and research facility.
Curated by ECW’s own Kristen Trout, the museum is well organized and has a fantastic collection of artifacts from all eras but with strength in the Civil War in particular. Many of the artifacts come naturally from famous Missourians, including Pvt. Charles Bieger from the 4th Missouri Cavalry – recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Confederate General John Marmaduke, and Union General James McCormick.
Heading back east, my expedition led me to Lancaster, Ohio, where the old Sherman homestead was located. Now a museum under the care of the Fairfield Heritage Association, the Sherman House was the home of Judge Charles and Mary Hoyt Sherman and their eleven children – including Cump, the name used by family and friends of the famous red head.
Sherman House Museum
Arranged on rather short notice, I am grateful to the tour guide and director of the museum, Andrea Brookover, who led me on a private tour. The museum will open to the public on April 4th.
Built in 1811, the Sherman house has been expanded several times over it’s history. Now, the association has done it’s best to restore the house to the appearance it would have taken when the family occupied it.
Needlework by Mary Hoyt Sherman
Among the many original artifacts contained in the home are parlor furniture from the Sherman’s New York home, a parlor set once owned by President Grant and family, a number of needlework pieces done by Mary Sherman, memorabilia from the career of Gen. Sherman’s brother Sen. John Sherman, and artifacts from Cump’s military career. Sadly, a burglary in the 1980’s has meant that about a quarter of the original collection has been lost.
One of the most striking displays is a recreated Civil War field tent on the second floor, depicting how Sherman would have lived while on campaign. Here visitors will see the general’s foot locker and writing desk was well as other reproductions that make the display seem quite accurate.
When Cump Sherman was just nine years old his father Judge Charles Sherman died, leaving his mother destitute with eleven mouths to feed. Judge Sherman’s best friend, Thomas Ewing, a prominent attorney that would someday become a U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Treasury, adopted young Sherman, who then moved up the hill to the Ewing mansion. There the thin red head met Ellen Ewing, about his own age, who he would marry someday. The Ewing mansion still stands as it did then. Passers-by would never know the historic significance of the home, however, since it stands unmarked by any historic marker and is in private hands.
Gen. Sherman is certainly one of the most fascinating figures of the Civil War. Following his life site to site is a great adventure. Next up: California.