Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

Archive for the category “Secession”

Sherman: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly; a prologue.

Hey all!

First of all…HAPPY BIRTHDAY, UNCLE BILLY!!

Our favourite General 🙂

Guess what? I’ve teamed up with my good friend, the awesome, talented artist & fellow Sherman lover Jennifer Roling (please follow along on Twitter @JenRolingArt) to co-author some posts about General Sherman (and some may be illustrated with Jen’s amazing artwork!)! If you’d like to learn more about Jen, please read this post here. Thanks to her for taking the time to answer the questions!

And now, let’s get to our first article that we’ve written about Sherman & we thought it best to kick off our collaborative efforts on Cump’s birthday. This will hopefully be the first of many we’ll co-author together.

As you know, I live, eat and breathe all things Lincoln, Sherman & the Civil War. I have for, going on, 30 years now.

Jen is much like me. We are history hobbyists, enthusiasts, or  history nerds. You’ll also see us refer to ourselves as “Sherman’s Flames” on Twitter. These articles are written as part of our passion for General Sherman, whom is our favourite of all the Union Generals. It is our hope that they will encourage further learning of our favorite general, William Tecumseh Sherman.  In honor of his birthday on February 8th, we wanted to write a post about the general that most folks don’t know too much about or were too put off by his myth to inquire further. He is a very misunderstood gentleman, and, in our opinion, just doesn’t get the love or respect he deserves at times.

We would like to make a few remarks on the comments and criticisms that could befall us as we release this series of articles. 

To begin, we’re not going to delve into the causes of the Civil War, at least not in this article. If you want to learn more about it though, please read the Articles of Secession and the Cornerstone Speech.  For more information you can also head on over to the American Battlefield Trust’s website here: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/reasons-secession

Secondly – Sherman as a person. We know William Tecumseh Sherman was not a perfect man.  We don’t even consider Abraham Lincoln to be perfect.  No, in fact they were both products of their time and by our standards today, they had flaws and there is absolutely no disputing that.

Art © Jennifer Roling 2019

We acknowledge that Sherman’s treatment of the indigenous peoples of North America was appalling and downright cruel.  That said, the mindset of 19th century United States is that of a very xenophobic and white-centric people.  This article is not celebrating Sherman’s awful acts as General of the army after the civil war.  We don’t condone his behavior as a xenophobic and racist (by our standards today) 19th century white male.  We do, however, understand that he is a product of his time and that he acted in accordance with society’s standards at that time.  The reason we still love and respect Sherman is because, we feel that if he were approached with today’s logic, he would easily be convinced that killing off a native people and discriminating a human based on its skin color would be ultimately wrong.  We have come to this opinion through reading his memoirs, biographies, and personal letters.  We have also read primary sources from witnesses of General Sherman’s behavior in public as well private life.

Thirdly – the myths of Sherman. Sherman was no monster despite the South tarnishing his reputation.  He never ordered his soldiers to kill or rape.  While we don’t doubt that that may have happened, it was not Sherman’s intention nor desire to kill and rape the civilians of Georgia.  His sole purpose was to destroy the war making industry of the South. Sherman loved the Union, believed in it and wanted to see the entire United States back together.  In fact, he issued evacuation orders to the mayor of Atlanta.  Those that stayed put themselves and their families at risk when they had every chance to leave. Sherman was, as Robert O’Connell so aptly had it as the title of his biography of Sherman, a “Fierce Patriot”. He abhorred secession and was just as for keeping the Union together as what Abraham Lincoln was. If you’d like to know more about Sherman’s thoughts of secession, I wrote a 3-part series about Sherman’s time in Louisiana, which includes his reaction to secession. Start off with Part 1 right here.

The purpose of this series of blog posts is to hopefully encourage you to pick up his memoirs or a biography and read a little more about the South’s “devil” rather than to buy into the myth. He’s an interesting fellow and when you get to know him, he’s great company.

Oh, and he’s handsome too…

Cump

So, over the next little while, I hope you’ll follow along as Jen and I write about our favourite Sherman books, what songs he may have had on his playlists, and interesting facts about him. We encourage you to comment and ask us questions specifically related to general Sherman and his involvement in the civil war.

For now, that ends our introductory post in this series. We will be back soon with another post. For today, we are going to go raise a glass to Uncle Billy. Until next time, take care!

~ Mary & Jen

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“War is a terrible thing!”: Cump in Louisiana, Part 3

We last left Cump in Louisiana with South Carolina having seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Admitting to keeping “aloof of politics”, Sherman was trying to weather through the brewing “political storm” and he was hoping peace would fall upon the country again.

Basically, this was Sherman pre-December 20, 1860…

After that time is a completely different story with Cump. The man who had chosen to lay low, not vote in the 1860 election and hope things would just pass by, let’s the (to use the title of my favorite Sherman bio) “fierce” patriot roar forth….

At least to his friend David French Boyd, a colleague of Sherman’s at the Military Academy in Louisiana.

david_french_boyd

David French Boyd. Friend & colleague of Cump while he was in Louisiana. Also a strong secessionist.

It was Boyd who was with Sherman when they both learned that South Carolina had seceded. Boyd recounted Sherman’s reaction, stating that Sherman “burst out crying like a child, and pacing his room in that nervous way of his…”.

Next, Sherman launched forth into what Robert L. O’Connell refers to in “Fierce Patriot” as being “clairvoyant words”…

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! .You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

It is eerie how accurate Sherman was in this passionate speech to his friend.  A friend who happened to be a secessionist. With statements like “the country will be drenched in blood” and “…at first you will make headway”, his words are eerily prophetic. And Sherman will be one of the men, four years later, that sees that the South’s “limited resources” not just begin to fail them, but that they do ultimately fail them.

Despite trying to keep his head down, do his job and hope the political “storm” would pass, it is clear in the back of his mind that Cump knew what would happen. The letters I mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of Sherman’s time in Louisiana show that he knows where things are most likely headed…

To war.

He said as much to Ellen on November 10, 1860…

“Secession must result in Civil War, anarchy and ruin to our present form of Government”.

What Cump had dreaded had come true and I think there was definitely a part of him that wished it truly would just pass. I mean, who wouldn’t? O’Connell states that “Sherman’s agony was real. Secession cut him to the depths of his nationalistic soul”.

And what cut him even more? Louisiana Governor Moore seizing all the forts in Louisiana. Sherman tells his brother John in a letter dated January 18, 1861 that “I regarded the seizure by Govr. Moore of the U.S. arsenal as the worst act yet committed in the present Revolution”. Robert L. O’Connell in “Fierce Patriot” tells us that Cump was also “particularly galled” when some muskets showed up at the military academy to be stored and that the “U.S.” that had been printed on their packing crates had been scratched off. Not cool…

Cump was worried before December 20 but now? He is a northerner in the south. He holds a prominent position at a military academy. He’s also deeply loyal to the Union. In his heart, he knows he cannot stay in Louisiana, even though they have not seceded by this point but he feels that it will happen eventually. He tells Ellen as such on December 23, 1860:

“I take it for granted that South Carolina has seceded and that other Southern States will follow and that Louisiana will be precipitated along…”

He goes on to say that if Louisiana should secede, and “assumes a hostile attitude towards the other states, I will resign here…”.

He writes as such to Governor Moore on January 18, 1861:

“Recent events foreshadow a great change and it becomes all men to choose. If Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the Old Constitution as long as a fragment of it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word”.

In other words, Cump knew he needed to GTFO out of Louisiana IF they seceded. Also, was anyone else somewhat cheering for Sherman with what he wrote?

Back to it…

On January 26th, 1861 that “if” about Louisiana seceding , turned into a “when”…

louisiana_secession

This meant Cump would now be resigned as Superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy. He had written Governor Moore and told him this would be the case on January 18, 1861:

“…I beg you to take immediate steps to relieve me as superintendent, the moment the state determines to secede, for on no earthly account will I do any act or any thought hostile to or in defiance of the old government of the United States”.

Governor Moore responded on January 23, three days before Louisiana would officially secede and it is evident he deeply regrets losing Sherman…

“You cannot regret more than I do the necessity which deprives us of your services, and you will bear with you the respect, confidence and admiration, of all who have been associated with you”.

And with that, Cump was no longer Superintendent of the military academy. It was on February 25th, 1861, just one day shy of a month when the secession of Louisiana happened, that he began making his way back to Lancaster, Ohio. I can only imagine how heartbroken he must have been. After finally landing a steady source of income with something he was happy about, he is again having to “make a new start in life, but it does seem to be my luck”. He wrote this to Ellen on January 27, 1861. In this same letter he also writes….

“I feel no temptation to take part in a civil war…”

Wow.

Clearly he put that crazy thought out of his mind at some point because we all know Sherman will go on to become one badass Union rock star general. And yes, my favorite…

img_2298

And what of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy? They’re still around today, except now known as Louisiana State University. And following the Civil War? Sherman donated two cannons, which are said to be from Fort Sumter, which still stand there today:

cannons

Thank you for following along on this journey of Cump in Louisiana. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed researching and writing it.

Until next time,

Mary

“No matter which way we turn there arises difficulties which seem insurmountable.”: Sherman in Louisiana, Part 2

“No matter which way we turn there arises difficulties which seem insurmountable – In case Lincoln is elected, they say S. Carolina will secede and that the Southern States will not see her forced back – Secession must result in Civil War, anarchy and ruin to our present form of Government – but if it is attempted it would be unwise for us to be here. But I still hope for quiet”

This is Sherman, writing to his wife Ellen, in a letter dated November 10, 1860. While his fears from his letter to her dated November 3, 1860 are still evident (which I mentioned in Part 1 of Sherman in Louisiana), he still is hoping things will pass.

I think in Cump’s heart though he knew they wouldn’t. He states in his memoirs that there was “a storm that was lowering heavy on the political horizon”. He knew by this point he could not have his family in Louisiana because…

“Political excitement was at its very height, and it was constantly asserted that Mr. Lincoln’s election would imperil the Union. “

Despite the turmoil, Sherman admits to basically ignoring it though

“I purposely kept aloof from politics, would take no part”.

This is classic Sherman, especially since we know that years later he a) never endorsed his friend General Ulysses S. Grant for President and b) made it abundantly clear when people wanted him to run for President, that he most definitely would NOT being doing such a thing.

“IF NOMINATED I WILL NOT RUN. IF ELECTED I WILL NOT SERVE”

And he said this while (most likely) giving what I love to call the “Sherman stare”…

sherman_1

I beg to present you the famous “Sherman stare”…

To further add to the fact Cump was clearly just keeping to himself, and wanted nothing to do with politics, he did NOT vote in the 1860 election. At all.  In the same letter to Ellen, he writes:

“I received a note from a friend advising me to vote – Technically I was entitled to vote, as I entered Louisiana just a year ago, but I thought I ought not to vote in this election, and did not…”

WAIT?! WHA..???

He goes onto state he would have preferred Bell but he knew Bell didn’t have a chance.

bell

John Bell. Sherman’s preferred candidate had he voted in the 1860 election. Bell was leader of Constitutional Union party. His running mate was Edward Everett (yes, the dude that gave the long speech that no one remembers at Gettysburg right before Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address).

That’s right. Cump did not want to vote for this dude:

abraham_lincoln_november_1863

Hey, girl…

He was worried, however, about not voting and how it would be seen by those close to him in Louisiana:

“If I am to hold my place by a political Tenure I prefer to again to turn vagabond – I would not be surprised to learn that my not voting was construed into a friendly regard for Lincoln, and that might result in my being declared a Public Enemy”

Sherman simply hoped that since the election was over, “all this hard feeling will subside and peace once more settle on the country”.

When Sherman wrote this letter to Ellen on November 10, the election was over but he had not yet had word of the results. When he found out a few days later, he stated “the election of Mr. Lincoln fell upon us all like a clap of thunder”. Despite his inner fears, Sherman still describes himself as “keeping aloof from all cliques and parties” and hoping “that the threatened storm would blow over”.

We know it didn’t.

secession

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.

And Cump was not happy.  The man who had chosen to remain aloof, keep his head down and do his job, was about to let the fierce patriot shine through.

BUT…

That is for another post.

I honestly don’t know if those stuff is suspenseful for you but hey…I’m trying!

Until next time…

Mary 🙂

 

“I say but little, try & mind my own business, and await the issue of events”: Cump in Louisiana, Part 1

Today’s post begins in 1859 where we find my favourite red-headed, bad ass, rock star general living in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas helping his foster brothers Hugh & Tom Ewing with their law practice.  Yup, Sherman was in the Prairies “managing property” (whatever that means) for them. His other option  had been staying in Ohio and managing a salt mine for his foster father, Tom Ewing. Since Sherman, at times, seems to equate Ohio as being the equilvalent of the seventh level of Hell (particularly Lancaster), he decided to GTFO and go to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas…because somehow that is better. (Sidenote: I don’t get his issue with Ohio. The coolest people, including one of my BFF’s, are from Ohio. Besides Cump, it also where Grant and Sheridan hail from *fans self*. Cedar Point is there too. So are the Cleveland Indians #GOTRIBE and the Buckeyes. Like come on…coolest place ever! ). Honestly though, I wouldn’t want to manage a salt mine either.

However, when I think of the Prairies, I think of Oregon trail…

oregon_trail

F%$&. No thanks.

And I wouldn’t have wanted to go there either. Cump, however, needed money for his ever growing family (Yes, Ellen was pregnant again when he left for Kansas).

Anywho…

Whilst in the middle of nowhere, Cump got bored. Quickly. He wanted back in the Army because he was always “perfectly at home with sound of bugle and drum”. He craved the order of military life. He craved the commradary that came with it. Having not been in the Army for a few years at this point, Cump was given a taste of what he loved so much when he visited his friend from his West Point days, Stewart Van Vliet. Van Vliet was stationed at Fort Riley. The visit certainly paid off, since Sherman was granted a contract to oversee the maintenance of the road back to Leavenworth. As O’Connell states:

It was exactly what Sherman needed. It brought some money into Hugh and Tom’s firm, but mostly it was a tonic for his [Sherman’s] spirits.

A tonic he perhaps didn’t realize he needed. One night, he met up with a column of cavalry who were returning from scouting. He ended up trading stories with them. Between this and being at Fort Riley  (and probably just being f%^*ing bored), O’Connell argues that it made Sherman realize how much he missed the army. Sherman stated “it makes me regret my being out of service thus to meet my old comrades, in the open field, just where I most like to be”.

Al Pacino GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

He wanted back in. On June 11, 1859, Sherman wrote to Major D.C. Buell, who was assistant adjutant-general in the War Department in Washington, D.C. He was looking for a vacancy in said department. The reply was such that there was no openings in D.C. but…GUESS WHAT? There’s this military academy that’s being established in Louisiana AND they need a Superintendent. YOU SHOULD APPLY TO THIS NEW MILITARY SCHOOL IN THE SOUTH (sidenote: anyone else raising their eyebrows? Military Academy. South. There is talk of secession. There is political turmoil between north and south. Hmmmm…why are they building a military academy down there? Sherman does not really seem to question this either.).

And so he applied. Sherman wrote a few letters and in July of 1859, he received a reply from Governor Wickliffe in Louisiana that they would, indeed, like to have Cump as the Superintendent. I’ve found in a few sources that General Bragg and General Beauregard (yes, very soon to be Generals in the Confederate Army) had a hand in him getting this position. For example, O’Connell states that Sherman used Bragg as a reference. As a history enthusiast, conflicting info is both the bane of my existence as well as something that can be highly entertaining.

Sherman states in his memoirs that neither of these men had a hand in getting him the position:

During the Civil War, it was reported and charged that I owed my position to the personal friendship of General Braggs and Beauregard, and that, in taking up arms against the South, I had been guilty of a breach of hospitality and friendship. I was not indebted to General Bragg, because he himself told me that he was not even aware that I was an applicant, and had favored the selection of Major Jenkins, another West Point graduate. General Beauregard had nothing whatever to do with the matter.

He could also be throwing a bit of shade their way too for the their parts in the Civil War but hey, they threw shade at him. Especially Beauregard. At Shiloh. It involved Cump’s tent and a certain southern General using it. Cump was, literally, not a happy camper after Day 1 of Shiloh. You can read about it here.

On a side note (would anything less be expected from me) Sherman has snubbed more than a few people in his time- a notable one being Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton after the Civil War by NOT shaking his hand during the Grand Review held in Washington in May 1865. I believe “no-handshake-gate” is blog post worthy too. Whatever the case and whoever the hell his references were and what strings were pulled or not pulled, Sherman got the job. It paid $3,500.00 a year, a considerable sum in those days.

He found himself in Louisiana in Autumn of 1859, overseeing the building of this soon-to-be military academy near Alexandria, Louisiana. The Academy was to open in January of 1860. Sherman describes it is in his memoirs:

It was located on an old country place of 400 acres of pineland, with numerous springs, and the building was very large, and handsome.

la_state_seminary

Louisiana State Seminary & Military Academy as it would have looked when Sherman was Superintendent.

It was a nice place visually to be and from what I garnered in Sherman’s memoir’s, he genuinely enjoyed it there.

Sherman had to work quickly when he got there, since the Academy was slated to open on January 1, 1860. We all know when it comes to being quick, Cump is the master (especially at marching to places like the sea through states called Georgia). He immediately found carpenters that could finish the inside of the school (mess-tables, benches, blackboards, etc) while he worked on corresponding with the professors of the Academy and the Board of Directors. There was also other administrative things Cump had to take care with his fellow professors and the Board of Directors – bylaws, making the opening date official, how much tuition would be, what the exact name of the school would be, etc.

The Seminary opened, as planned, on January 1, 1860. Tuition was $60.00 for the year. There were 60 Cadets that first day, with 16 of them having their tuition covered by the State of Louisiana. By mid-winter, that number had went to 73. Sherman describes the school as  being very much like West Point or the Virginia Military Institute “but without uniforms or muskets”. There were, however, roll-calls, sections and recitations. It wasn’t exactly like completely being back in the Army, but Cump, nonetheless, seems to have been back in his element and, dare I say, happy. Sherman states in his memoirs that he was always treated with “the greatest courtesy and kindness”.

Flash foward to November of 1860 now. The election for the President of the United States is looming.

Cump writes a letter to wife Ellen on November 3, 1860. He talks of life at the Academy, and his horse Clay whom he feeds “oats at about a dollar a bushel & hay $60 a ton but he don’t appear to appreciate”. He also mentions the turmoil that is slowly bubbling towards the surface. Turmoil that he hopes will pass:

“People here not as though Disunion was a fixed thing – men of property say that as this constant feeling of danger of abolitionism exists they would rather try a Southern Confederacy – Louisiana would not secede but should South Carolina secede, I fear other Southern states will follow and soon General Anarchy will prevail – I say but little, try & mind my own business, and await the issue of Events”

He carries on in his letter, speaking of the beautiful weather, that when Ellen moves down there (yes, his plan was to move his family to Louisiana to be with him), and she “may count on as much Euchre as you please” in the evenings, especially as he has a friend, Dr. Clark, that enjoys playing Euchre. He says the house for them will be ready by Christmas but he says he wants to wait until after November to start the process of moving. One can surmise he is doing this because he is waiting to see how things go with the election.

And that is where we will leave Cump. Things are unstable politically, and it clear he knows this. As was always his way with politics, Sherman is steering clear, minding his own business as he himself stated in his letter to Ellen. And I’m sure, hoping, that he fears he relayed to Ellen would not be realized.

Thank you, as always, reading.

Until next time (just a few days away),

Mary

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