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.
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…
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”…
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…”
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…
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:
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,