Born in Ohio in 1820 and orphaned when he was nine, William Tecumseh Sherman would attend West Point, where he was considered “one of the brightest and most popular fellows,” yet much like his friend, Ulysses S. Grant, success would allude him…until Civil War descended on the United States.
Adopted by his father’s friend and neighbor, Thomas Ewing, Sr., the former senator helped obtained an appointment for young Sherman to attend West Point Military Academy. Graduating sixth out forty-two, in 1840, Sherman had set himself on a course of destiny. Nevertheless, the next 21 years would be a strewn with abundant hardships.
When the Civil War erupted, Sherman was immediately assigned to important military assignments. Sherman’s career picked up when he began supporting Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant: first with assistance during battles at Forts Henry and Donelson; then as a division commander at the desperate battle at Shiloh.
Sherman played a major role in the campaign to capture Vicksburg, “the Gibraltar of the Confederacy.” His brash assaults at Chickasaw Bayou in December 1862 failed, Sherman redeemed himself participating in capture of Arkansas Post in January. Sherman’s commendable effort to distract the Confederates north of Vicksburg allowed for Grant’s successful crossing of the Mississippi River below the city. Sherman then crossed the river and participated in one of the most remarkable military campaigns ever attempted, culminating in the surrendered of Vicksburg, and unfettered Union control of the Mississippi River. For his participation, Sherman solidified his friendship with Grant forever.
William Tecumseh Sherman would rise to command the Army of the Tennessee, and then Military Division of Mississippi, which placed all western Union armies under his command. These armies under his command would push south capturing Atlanta, Savannah, and the Carolinas. His “total war” policies are considered controversial, yet historians contend that they brought a much swifter end to the war.
After the war, Sherman was promoted to Lieutenant General, and, when Ulysses S. Grant was elected the 18th President of the United States, Sherman was elevated to General of the Army. He spent the remainder of his career in the US Army, retiring to New York City, where he died in 1891 of pneumonia.
There is no tablet, monument, marker, or equestrian statue of William Tecumseh Sherman at Vicksburg National Military Park. Considered by veterans, park staff, and visitors as a major oversight in the memorialization and monumentation of the park. Perhaps in future years, the wirery red-headed Ohioan will receive his due simulacrum.