For those who don’t know, “Cump” is the nickname of General William Tecumseh Sherman. I make no secret of the fact, that next to Lincoln, I dearly love the man and find him an incredibly fascinating individual. He’s pretty damn handsome too. I mean, come on…
oh, hai, Cump…you handsome devil…
Okay, enough with the swooning and batting of eyelashes…
Awhile ago, I started reading Sherman’s Memoirs. Being as I have 5 books on the go AND I’m a slow reader, I’m not too far into it. Plus, the book is freaking gigantic. Cump had a lot to say and Robert L O’Connell is absolutely correct in his book”Fierce Patriot” (hands down, one of the best bios I’ve ever read) when he refers to Sherm as a chatterbox and states “if there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist…”. Slay that dragon, Cump…
oh, hey…look at that…two of my favourite men.
But the memoirs are full of good chatter. Yes, he has much to say but it’s interesting as hell. I’m enjoying it immensely. When I read it, I seem to get lost in a world where Cump is sitting with me, telling me the whole story. It’s fascinating to read. He also lets his sense of humour shine through and he’s got a certain way of saying things that I can see the meaning underneath the words. Let’s just say I’ve had a few laugh out loud moments and times where I’ve uttered “Oh, Cump…you’re cute”.There has also been many times I can picture him in a situation and imagine the mannerisms he must have employed, like eye rolling and uttering “Whatever the f$&/” under his breath when he was frustrated about something. Or maybe not under his breath. This is General Sherman after all…
Anyway, here’s some cool stuff I’ve found out so far…
He attended West Point and graduated in 1840 at the age of twenty. His best subjects were drawing, chemistry, mathematics and natural philosophy (science).He graduated sixth in a class of forty-three. His explanation as to why this happened is, to me, typical Sherman:
At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these…
I give you Exhibit A…messy haired Cump. Clearly not excelling in neatness yet still excelling in being handsome. Cump wins again!
He continues on about his demerit points.
My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which reduced my final class standing from number four to six.
All I thought was “Damn, Cump, you knew how to have fun & you made sure you did at West Point”. Uncle Billy, as his soldiers later called him, knew how to have a good time. I’m also surprised geography wasn’t mentioned as one of his best subjects because, damn, you can tell the man was quite the geographer. The level of detail he gives in describing places in his memoirs , such as the terrain, buildings, etc. is incredible.
In the summer of 1840, he was appointed and commissioned second-lieutenant, Third Artillery. He was in Company A. He reported to Governor’s Island, New York and after that, it was off to the sunny south! Florida, specifically.
The entire Third Artillery were stationed along the Atlantic coast of Florida from St. Augustine south to Key Biscayne. His Company was stationed at Fort Pierce, Indian River.
Not the best map but you get an idea of where Cump was stationed
The fort was abandoned in 1842 (not long after Cump left) and burned down the following year. It’s now the home of Old Fort Pierce Park. Cump describes his first encounter with the fort:
We walked up the steep sand-bluff on which the fort was situated and across the parade-grounds to the officers’ quarters. These were six or seven log-houses, thatched with palmetto-leaves, built on high posts, with a porch in front facing the water. The men’s quarters were also of logs forming the two sides of rectangle, open toward the water; the intervals and flanks were closed with log stockades.
It doesn’t sound like it was a bad place to be. Plus it’s Florida (granted, Florida pre-Disney so maybe not as fun…).
Sherman was stationed there during the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. He arrived just before active operations so there was time for leisure and there was a particularly colorful character called Captain Ashlock (Sherman describes him as a “character of some note”), with whom he and other officers spent a good deal of time with:
The season was hardly yet come for active operations against the Indians, so that the officers were naturally attracted to Ashlock, who was the best fisherman I ever saw. He soon initiated us into the mysteries of shark-spearing, trolling for red-fish and taking the sheep’s-head and mullet.
They also caught green turtles so the cooks had an ample supply. They often ate turtle instead of what he describes as “poor Florida beef or the usual barreled mess-pork” (ummm…yuck).
Captain Ashlock unfortunately ended up drowning after his boat capsized while he was bringing people to shore. Sherman remarked that “strange to say, he [Ashlock] could not swim, although he had been employed on the water all his life”. Ashlock had just been married too and had brought his wife back with him. Sherman did see to it that she and her sister were taken care of, giving them his own quarters to use. The two women were eventually sent back to St. Augustine, Florida.
Sherman did not see much action while in Florida. He did seem to enjoy his time there though, remarking that while on excursions there was:
…a peculiar charm, for the fragrance of the air, the abundance of game and fish, and just enough of adventure, gave to life a relish.
So, while he seemed to have enjoyed Florida, he felt it was of little value to it being a great state. If only he knew what the future held…
Florida became something, Cump! It’s the happiest freaking place on earth!
Let’s face it. Sherman would have enjoyed the fireworks. He probably would have also enjoyed the “Pirates Of The Caribbean”. As for “It’s A Small World”, however…
Cump not impressed after the kids make him binge ride “It’s A Small World”…
He’s internally burning “It’s A Small World”. Let’s face it…some of us secretly want that…
My question for y’all: have you read the memoirs of anyone from the Civil War? Do you have a favourite and why?
As always, thanks for reading!
Until next time,
“Memoirs”. General William Tecumseh Sherman
O’Connell, Robert L. “Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives Of William Tecumseh Sherman”. Random House: New York, 2014