In Search of Sherman

Sherman’s grave at Calvary Cemetery

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.

Interior of the Missouri Civil War Museum at Jefferson Barracks

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.

Display of a field tent used by Gen. Sherman

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.

Ewing Mansion

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.


19 Responses to In Search of Sherman

  1. Although the erysipelas disappeared on the thirteenth, asthma killed Sherman at ten minutes before two o’clock in the afternoon of February 14 [1891]. Although he had been able to talk on the thirteenth, it was unlikely that he knew that controversy was raging about him exactly as it had about Old Solitude at the latter’s death. He passed with contention clinging to him and with John defending him — his immemorial situation.
    For five days his body waited for Tom to arrive. On the eighteenth thousands viewed his remains, old soldiers weeping, mumbling things about Atlanta and Shiloh. He had asked that none but the family view his face when he was dead, but it was felt that so many veterans should not be denied. Undertakers dressed him in his general’s uniform with its yellow sash across his breast. Seven tapers in a brass candelabrum threw soft light on the nose that still curved like a cutlass. In the past decade his face had lost many of its seams. Except for the whitening of his beard, he looked almost younger than at forty. On the coffin lay his soldier’s cap and sword. A bunch of violets was beside them. While the public streamed past, a woman arranged flowers bearing names from all quarters of the North and West — some from Europe. She was the widow of Little Kil. Heavy booms jingled the saber on the casket lid. Workmen were exploding dynamite in a foundation near by.
    Father Tom arrived at 1:30 A.M. on the nineteenth and was taken by his sisters to the casket. “Move the lights closer, I can’t see the face,” he said. A soldier guard shifted his musket and held the candelabrum nearer. Tom sobbed, yet later in the day he read the funeral service with a clear voice. At the final service fifty choir boys sang “Pie Jesu.” Outside on the streets hawkers were shouting, “General Sherman’s photograph!” New York was in mourning, flags at half-mast on buildings [652]and ships. G.A.R. members, many of them Sherman’s veterans, in line, uniformed and armed. Behind them were National Guard, West Point’s cadet corps—30,000 in all.
    The hearse, an artillery caisson, stood at the door. Close to it was a horse bearing the general’s saddle, with his boots reversed in the stirrups. Behind waited blocks of carriages — carriages for President Harrison, ex-President Hayes, ex-President Cleveland, the Cabinet, Senators, Governors, mayors, friends. Crowds jammed the sidewalks along the route between the house and the ferry where the casket was to cross to the funeral train that would bear it directly to St. Louis. Sherman’s wishes against being exhibited in Washington or any other city were to be obeyed. All eyes were now on the crepe-draped door of Sherman’s home.
    At last one-armed Howard strode out and in a voice as clear as it had been in Carolina, shot an order to the soldiers. Their musket butts crashed on the pavement. Out came six sergeants with the coffin on their shoulders, their eyes on the steps down which they came gingerly. A flag covered the casket.
    The day was raw and cold. Bareheaded stood the pall bearers. One was seen by Thackera to bend toward the group, a man who had celebrated his eighty-second birthday twelve days earlier. He said:
    “General, please put on your hat; you might get sick.” Joe Johnston turned. “If I were in his place and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.” From this last meeting with Sherman, Johnston would not retreat. In his breast as he went home were the seeds of the pneumonia that killed him ten days later.
    The coffin was on the caisson. The drums rolled, the fifes began to whine the “Dead March,” the banners to wave. Many of these last were only tattered remnants close to the pole, nothing more — battle flags. One band played “Marching Through Georgia,” set cleverly to dirge tempo. Bells tolled all over the city; that of the Scottish Rite Cathedral had only rung once before for a non-Mason — Grant.
    The procession—a cavalcade whose trappings and colors exhausted the newspaper writers — wound through packed, hushed street. In the funeral car, swathed in crepe the general’s saddle, bridle, spurs were laid at the foot of the catafalque. His picture was the engine headlight, and below it, as the train pushed West, his saber swung in the wind.
    At crossroads along the route squads of veterans wearing slouch campaign hats held up their old flags as the locomotive came in view. They raised army muskets and volleyed over the passing cars — a blank salute into the sky. Then lowering their empty guns, they watched the train disappear. In towns children sang and waved little flags edged with black. In cities where the train halted, ex-soldiers passed through the car, looking at the coffin, which was not opened.
    Another vast processional in St. Louis. Father Tom read the service of the dead in a Catholic church where the high ceremonies of the faith were performed. “It’s a comfort to the children,” said John Sherman to General Howard when the latter asked him why the full rites were given a man who had never practiced the religion. David French Boyd wiped his eyes beside the bier, as he thought of seminary days. His hero was gone. Veterans fired three blasts of musket fire over the grave. A bugle blew “Taps.” The crowd went away. The general was alone by his Mississippi.
    In time stonemasons came and set up the monument Sherman had designed for himself — a simple shaft with draped stone banners on its face and, between them, the insignia he had drawn in 1868 to symbolize the unity of his armies — at the top the swift arrow, badge of Blair’s Seventeenth Corps; hanging from it the shield of Schofield’s Twenty-third; on the shield the star of Slocum’s Twentieth; dangling below, the acorn of David’s Fourteenth but standing out at the very heart of the design, the badge of the Fifteenth Corps — a cartridge-box bearing the words that a ragged private had hurled one cold marching day in Tennessee “Forty Rounds!”

    Lloyd Lewis, Sherman: Fighting Prophet, New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1932, pp. 651-53

  2. A proponent of total war , including against American citizens…..just another war criminal. The victors write history, so it is all good.

    1. An interesting opinion considering the detriment that the Lost Cause has presented to the study of the Civil War. Not sure how one could say the victors wore the history of the Civil War with groups like the UDC and SCV in the early 1900s that completely altered the focus of the history, supported by academics as part of the Dunning School. Historians today are still trying to right those wrongs.

    2. Robert:

      The only mistake Sherman made was that he didn’t burn enough in his marches through Georgia and the Carolinas. He left standing too many slave concentration camps (euphemistically known by Lost Causers as “plantations”).

      1. You obviously know little of our founding fathers, their writings, the constitution and the government they established. Slavery was a dying institution that would have ended without 800,000 Americans losing their lives. Slavery was one of many reasons for the war but culturally we already were 2 countrys.

      2. It was Lincoln who stated that he wasnt going to let a piece of paper, the Constitution, to keep him from holding the country together, thus changing the govern mentioned they gave us to one they feared, a strong central government that would abuse liberty and our rights.

  3. There is an awful lot of nonsense written about the causes of the Civil War. If we want to know the real cause, we have only to read the state ordinances of secession, the state declarations of their reasons for secession, statements made by Southern leaders and the Confederate Constitution. In the first three, nothing is said about economic issues–railroads, homesteading and tariffs. They speak of nothing but slavery and, more specifically, of the necessity of preserving it. In his famous “Cornerstone Speech”, delivered in Savannah on March 21, 1861 (i.e. after the election and inauguration of Lincoln, but before Ft. Sumter), Vice President Alexander Stevens spoke only of slavery as “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution”. In the Confederate Constitution, slavery is expressly preserved and protected in Article I, Sections 9(1), 9(2) and 9(4) and in Article IV, Sections 2(1) and 3(3). With such preservation and protection in the concrete of their Constitution, when and how was the “dying institution” going to end without the loss of 800,000 lives? It should be apparent that those who rationalize the causes of our national fratricide in terms of “state’s rights” and a strong central government depriving a free people of their liberty are not arguing historical fact, but are expressing a regional bias borne of a justifiable pride in their ancestors’ struggle against overwhelming odds and an identification with a culture that is different from that of the rest of the country in significant ways. “At the crossroads of every path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past.” (Maurice Maeterlinck) The Confederacy represented those 10,000 men. There were dreadful excesses on both sides (civil wars are always Black Flag affairs), but the right side won. The sooner our Southern brethren acknowledge that fact and resolve to move on, the better for everyone.

    1. I will continue to stand with the government our founding fathers gave us, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Slavery was and still is an evil that has existed throughout humanity. In the 1800s, slavery was on its way out in the civilized world and certainly would have died out in the south, just as it had in the northern states.
      My argument is that our founding fathers have, in their writings, laid out clearly that the power of the government lies within the people of each state. The people of the southern states democratically elected to leave the union and formed their own government. Does not our government support democratic independence movements around the globe that divide other countries? A good read, although dry, is a book titled, “The Constitutionality of Succession”, written by John Remington….if my memory is correct on the name. He is a Constitutional law professor with either Minnisota or Michigan University.

      1. Robert:
        You speak of the “government our Founding Fathers gave us” as if there were unanimity on the issue. The fact is that Washington favored a strong central government, and there are many sources attesting to the truth of that statement, though there were other luminary figures in our history who appeared to favor state sovereignty, e.g. Jefferson.

        The Constitution was not explicit on the issue of secession, and with good reason: the delegates to the convention of 1787, who hammered it out, having recently concluded a long and bloody war with Britain, had no taste for further conflict and therefore were most interested in ratification of the document they had labored to produce. They knew that if they had addressed the issue of secession in the Constitution, the organic law would not be ratified, so they kicked the can down the road and a later generation of Americans paid the price for it.

        You say that slavery was on its way out in 1860. True, the great powers of the day–Great Britain, France and Russia–had already abolished it, and most of the minor powers had also done so. But why should we suppose that Confederate leaders would have followed suit, when they went out of their way to preserve and protect the institution in THEIR organic law, as I have already shown. The fact is that Confederate leaders had no intention of abolishing slavery, for two reasons: it was the engine that drove the Southern economy, thereby enabling them to compete successfully with Northern manufacturers for the wealth of the nation; and it solved a massive social problem that they believed would consume them if they would have abolished the institution, i.e. what on earth were they going to do with almost 4 million suddenly free blacks?

        You ask if our government has supported democratic independence movements. The answer is: sometimes, and sometimes not. It depends entirely on where our interests lay. Many examples can be given for both cases. As for the legality of secession, I have a list of 15 arguments favoring it. But there is one overwhelming argument against it that dwarfs the 15, namely that allowing a state or group of states to secede would have resulted in the Balkanization of the country. It would only have been a matter of time before another state or group of states announced that they did not like what was going on in Washington and so they too were pulling out. In time, we would have a multitude of countries where we now have only one. Think of the history of the multitude of countries in Europe and especially of the Balkans, all of which have spent the greater part of the last 2,000 years killing each other. Is this what you would have liked for us?


  4. Thanks for stopping by, Derek! It was wonderful meeting you. You are always welcome back.

  5. John:

    You make many good points. Robert’s lame excuse for slavery is one of the main mantas of Lost Causers, i.e. slavery would have quickly died out of natural causes. Like so many other Lost Cause assertions, it is historically incorrect.

    The South’s cotton industry – fueled by 4 million slaves – was thriving at the start of the Civil War. There were more millionaires in the Southern states than anywhere else in the country. King Cotton was one of the main reasons the South was so confident it could successfully secede. Southern leaders believed European countries like England and France would quickly recognize the Confederacy because of both countries’ deep reliance on Southern cotton.

    And slavery was the main reason the South could produce cotton far more economically than anywhere else. Through various means of torture, concentration camp (plantation) overseers forced their slaves to produce high volumes of cotton very cheaply. Bottom Line: Slavery was extremely profitable.

    The post-CW Black Codes and 80 years of Jim Crow further prove the shallowness of Robert’s arguments. Until outlawed by the radical Republicans in Congress, post-CW Black Codes throughout the South reimposed de facto slavery. Reconstruction ended these abominations for about a decade.

    But another form of black economic abuse – Jim Crow – was enacted in the South after the collapse of Reconstruction. Of course, white supremacy was a major aim of Jim Crow. But another of its mainstays was to keep blacks as a permanent source of cheap labor. A side benefit for Southern business leaders: Keeping African-Americans’ wages low, artificially depressed poor whites’ wages, too. In other words, Jim Crow – like slavery – was economically profitable for white Southern leaders.

    1. Bob:

      Thanks for your comments. You have made some telling points. In connection with Southern millionaires, permit me to point out, as Seward did in 1858, that a class of 347,000 slave-holding whites, in a population of 5.5. million whites and 4 million blacks (i.e. 3.6% of the total population), elected 30 of 62 members of the Senate, 90 of 235 members of the House and 105 of 295 electors of the the president. It was this degree of Southern control of the Federal government that led directly to the war with Mexico, its instigators intending to acquire land from our Southern neighbor that would then be admitted to the Union as slave states, thereby improving the position of the slave-holding states relative to the growing power and influence of the free labor states. As Grant put it: “All our troubles (meaning the American Civil War) began with Mexico…Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions”.

      Southern leaders’ calculations relative to England and France might have proved accurate, but for the fact that poor grain harvests in Europe during this period made Northern wheat more valuable to Great Britain than Southern cotton, wheat which the North could and did ship to Britain (via San Francisco and around the Horn), thereby securing the loyalty of that country. She could make up for her shortfall of cotton by the importation of that commodity from Egypt, but she could not make up for the loss of Northern wheat. Napoleon III would not act alone. Russia was decidedly pro-Union.

      Jim Crow may fairly be said to have lasted more like 90 years than 80, i.e. from the end of Reconstruction in 1876 to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But your point about defacto slavery and the economic exploitation of blacks is well taken. Reconstruction, of course, was, for the most part, a travesty and a tragedy, with lawless whites seeking to neutralize the influence of blacks by the simple expedient of reducing their numbers and destroying their property. Thus it was that between 1865 and 1876, tens of thousands of them were wantonly murdered. Further, with the absence of meaningful law enforcement, it was open season on black women.

  6. John:

    The failure of Britain and France to recognize the Confederacy is a most interesting and multifaceted subject.

    You’re absolutely correct about the importance of Union wheat exports to England. But the South’s self-imposed boycott of cotton exports to England in 1861 caused havoc to Britain’s economy, at least in the short term.

    As I recall, it took many months for England to fully replace Southern cotton with imports from Egypt and India. And even then, Egyptian and Indian cotton was more expensive than pre-Civil War cotton from the South. Overseers in Egypt and India worked their employees hard, but the level of harshness was nothing compared to the slave-masters of the South who routinely used the worst forms of torture to encourage their work forces to produce high volumes of cotton. The book, The Half Has Never Been Told, includes excellent details on this subject.

    While economics has always been an extremely important component in any nation’s foreign policy, for England especially, there was a moral issue, too. More than any other country at the time, England was repulsed by slavery. The book Our Man in Charleston (I think that’s the book’s title) focuses on this aspect of Britain’s non-recognition. Britain’s revulsion of slavery was the main reason the Confederate Constitution outlawed the importation of slaves from other countries. The slave-importation ban, Southern leaders hoped, would help England to recognize the Confederacy.

    1. Bob:

      Thanks for fleshing out my knowledge of the subject of foreign intervention in our Civil War, which was, admittedly, sketchy. I believe that labor in England remained staunchly pro-Union, despite the self-imposed Southern boycott, probably because of their natural antipathy to aristocrats.

      Thank you, too, for the book references, neither of which I have read. Your point about the moral issue with Britain is well taken. Mansfield, Wilberforce, Clarkson and Sturge had done their work well.

  7. Bob, if you are going to quote me, at least try to get it right. I stated that it was a dying institution and would have died of natural causes. I also stand by my statement that Sherman, and many others, were war criminals as they fully advocated war on the civilian population of the southern states. Sadly, a practice they continued after the civil war against the plains indians, clearly, this country’s genocide.

    Imagine for a moment if you will, had Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe had any inkling that their beloved Virginia would be invaded by the northern states, her people killed, towns and cities destroyed and one third of her state taken away…how would they have reacted? Perhaps they would have reacted as their respective families had in defense of their state and country.

  8. Robert:

    I give up. You’ve won me over. Secession was a good thing. The concept of a United States of America is wrong-headed.

    The world today would be a better place, if the United States had been dismembered. Despite 90 years of Jim Crow, the South on its own initiative would have embraced civil rights for blacks. The Nazis and Japan still would have been defeated in WWII. The West still would have won the Cold War. The Soviet Union still would have collapsed. Communist China’s domination of Asia still would be contained, et. al.

      1. Bob and Robert:

        Bob, your point is made, even if in a round-about way.

        Robert, we agree, as I have already said, that slavery, as a world-wide phenomenon, was dying. But what you have thus far failed to grasp is that Southern leaders had no intention of following suit, which is why they chiseled its preservation and protection right into their constitution and which is also why they repeatedly emphasized the desirability, indeed the necessity, of its preservation and protection in their ordinances of secession and their statements of reasons for secession. They simply were not prepared to give it up without a fight, and they didn’t, because in their view, giving it up meant a loss of their independence, a loss of their political power, a loss of their wealth and property, a loss of their lifestyle and culture and the possible “mongrelization” of their race.

        As for what we did to the Indians, we agree totally, but we nearly annihilated these unfortunate people because we wanted their land and resources, which is not the same reason the North fought the South. The North had no interest in Southern land or resources; it had an interest only in, first, Union, and then Union and
        Emancipation. Once these were secured, the South retained its land and resources and neither was confiscated or exploited by the North. Indeed, the South today is stronger and richer than ever.

        As for what Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe would have thought of the war, I remind you that the South initiated hostilities at Ft. Sumter and also invaded the North twice, not including terror attacks in Maine, Vermont and New York City. There were (there always are) depredations and excesses on both sides (Atlanta, the March to the Sea, Columbia and the Shenandoah, yes, but also Chambersburg, Ft. Pillow, summary execution of black pow’s, a year of “dirty war” against the North (April, 1864, through April, 1865), and attempted decapitation of the Federal government by multiple assassinations on April 14, 1865). None of this alters the basic issues, which were Union and Emancipation. On these issues, one side was on the right side of history and the other wasn’t. The sooner we all recognize that fact and move on, the better off we will all be.

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