General William Tecumseh Sherman is one of the best known Union generals of the Civil War. His famous “March to the Sea” was the death knell for the Confederate States. His services prior to the war were as the superintendent of the Alexandria Military Academy in Louisiana. With the pending secession of Louisiana, Sherman submitted his request to be relieved of command of the academy on the grounds that if “Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union, I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the Constitution as long as a fragment of it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word.”

He then moved his family to Lancaster Ohio and had an occasion to the meet President Abraham Lincoln with his politician brother John Sherman. He came away adamant on staying out of the hostilities that were coming, instead preferring to dedicate himself strictly to his family. He relates in his memoirs that,

I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, damning the politicians generally, saying, “You have got things in a hell of a fig, and you may get them out as you best can,” adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it. John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went.

Sherman resided in St. Louis on Locust Street between Tenth and Eleventh streets at the time South Carolina seceded in 1861 and was employed by the St Louis Railroad Company. After the bombardment of Ft Sumter, he was offered the position of chief clerkship of the War Department, which he declined, stating that,

Hon. M. Blair, Washington, D. C. I received, about nine o’clock Saturday night, your telegraph dispatch, which I have this moment answered, “I cannot accept.”

I have quite a large family, and when I resigned my place in Louisiana, on account of secession, I had no time to lose; and, therefore, after my hasty visit to Washington, where I saw no chance of employment, I came to St. Louis, have accepted a place in this company, have rented a house, and incurred other obligations, so that I am not at liberty to change.

I thank you for the compliment contained in your offer, and assure you that I wish the Administration all success in its almost impossible task of governing this distracted and anarchical people.

Yours truly, W.T. SHERMAN

The letter, Sherman tells, was told that it gave offense and that the President’s cabinet felt Sherman would “prove false to the country.” Even his friends were a bit skeptical of Sherman’s political position, so Sherman addressed a letter to the War Department, showing his allegiance to the Union, but only to a certain extent:

Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company, May 8,1861.

Hon. S. Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir: I hold myself now, as always, prepared to serve my country in the capacity for which I was trained. I did not and will not volunteer for three months, because I cannot throw my family on the cold charity of the world. But for the three-years call, made by the President, an officer can prepare his command and do good service.

I will not volunteer as a soldier, because rightfully or wrongfully I feel unwilling to take a mere private’s place, and, having for many years lived in California and Louisiana, the men are not well enough acquainted with me to elect me to my appropriate place.

Should my services be needed, the records of the War Department will enable you to designate the station in which I can render most service.

Yours truly, W. T. SHERMAN.

However, he was present and witnessed the events at Camp Jackson and the discontent the people held for the Union, hurrahing Jeff Davis, and eventually shots being fired. He realized that he could no longer hold back his desire to avoid getting involved. He received a dispatch from Washington telling him he had been appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry. He had originally believed he would come back to St. Louis to raise his own regiment at Jefferson Barracks, however, he notes in his memoirs that “the Government was trying to rise to a level with the occasion. Mr. Lincoln had, without the sanction of law, authorized the raising of ten new regiments of regulars, each infantry regiment to be composed of three battalions of eight companies each; and had called for seventy-five thousand State volunteers.”

His stay in St. Louis of two months ended. He stated that

…satisfied that I would not be permitted to return to St. Louis, I instructed Mrs. Sherman to pack up, return to Lancaster, and trust to the fate of war. I also resigned my place as president of the Fifth Street Railroad, to take effect at the end of May, so that in fact I received pay from that road for only two months’ service, and then began my new army career.

When the war ended Sherman remained in the military, rising to General in Chief of the Army from 1869 to 1883. During that time, he moved his headquarters back to St. Louis. When he retired from the Army he moved to New York City and died on February 14, 1891 at the age of 71. At his request, Sherman was transported back to St Louis and buried in Calvary Cemetery.

Sunshine pierced low, billowing clouds as people jammed the rain-washed 12th Street Bridge and Union Depot platforms. A special train eased onto Track 1 at 8:48 a.m. with an officer’s sabre slung from the locomotive headlamp.

A volley by the St. Louis Light Artillery shattered the respectful silence.

Thus began the funeral procession of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Civil War hero and occasional St. Louisan. For four hours on Feb. 21, 1891, a procession of 12,000 soldiers, veterans and notables marched past mourners on a winding, seven-mile path from downtown to Calvary Cemetery.

Young Capt. Sherman and his bride, Ellen, first moved here in 1850, living near Chouteau Avenue and 12th Street (now Tucker Boulevard). They returned briefly in 1861 when he took a job with a streetcar company. Two weeks later, Fort Sumter was bombarded.

Back in blue Union uniform, he soon became Gen. U.S. Grant’s most trusted fellow warrior. Sherman’s capture of Atlanta in 1864 was tonic to the weary North and helped save Abraham Lincoln’s re-election. His march through Georgia proved there was no safe place in Dixie.

William and Ellen Sherman returned to St. Louis at war’s end. Grateful businessmen raised $30,000 to buy and furnish a spacious two-story home for them at 912 North Garrison Avenue, west of downtown. They lived there on and off for 11 of their remaining years.

From the Garrison address flowed a famous telegram. In 1884, Republicans pressed the former general to be their presidential nominee. He wired back: “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

The Sherman’s later moved to New York but kept their home on Garrison. Ellen Sherman, a devout Catholic, died in 1888 and was returned for burial in Calvary Cemetery.

He died three years later at 71 in New York on Feb. 14, 1891. The Pennsylvania Railroad provided its executive train to return the general to his wife’s side.

At Union Depot, just east of today’s Amtrak station, the casket was placed on an artillery caisson pulled by four black horses. Cavalry escorted it north on 12th, followed by once-wiry veterans of Sherman’s own Army of the Tennessee. Other units, including Confederate veterans, joined the solemn clattering over cobblestones.

At Calvary, one of the his children, the Jesuit Rev. Thomas Sherman, recited graveside prayers in Latin and English. An honor guard fired three crisp volleys, followed by a last rumble of artillery from a distant hill.

The Rev. Sherman died in 1933. The Sherman family home eventually became an apartment building and was demolished with barely a whimper of protest in 1974. The Sherman graves are a short drive from the front gate at Calvary.

President Jefferson Davis proclaimed his strategy to be one of “offensive-defensive.” The strategy in fact was one of defending all resources, stockpiling supplies and taking the offensive when the supply situation warranted or the opportunity was provided by the enemy. With the exception of a few notable offensive forays his strategy would evolve into one of passive defense. Whether intentional or not President Davis, with his statement on strategy, acknowledged two of the eminent military theorists of the nineteenth century. There can be no doubt that Prussian General Carl Von  or French General Antoine Jomini would not have endorsed the evolved defensive strategy of the Confederacy. They agreed that a passive defense was doomed to defeat.

Graduates of West Point and V.M.I. in the early and mid-nineteenth century would not have been familiar with Clausewitz’s great work “On War” as it was not translated into English until after the Civil War. Jomini’s works were translated prior to the war and some if not all of the graduates should have been familiar with his theories. Many of the theories of Clausewitz and Jomini originate from the Napoleonic Wars and we know for a fact the graduates were familiar with Napoleon. Jomini is considered the offensive minded of the two theorists though it is definite that he concurs with Clausewitz that offense must emanate from solid defense.

Clausewitz emphasized that military success would be measured by, “the political object of the war.” The South’s political objective was independence. Militarily this goal did not require the total defeat of Union forces or the occupation of large areas of Northern territory. The North’s political goal was the preservation of the Union. This goal did require the total defeat of Confederate forces and the occupation of large areas of the South. At the onset of hostilities Confederate Secretary of War, George Wythe Randolph, wrote, “There is no instance in history of a people as numerous as we inhabiting a country as extensive as ours being subjected if true to themselves.” The North’s ambitious political goal and the vast land area of the South, suggest a defensive strategy of Jomini’s, which has been labeled the space and time defense.

In the space and time strategy the defending forces will execute a retrograde movement drawing the attacking forces with them. The mission of this movement is to continually lengthen the attacking forces lines of communications. In the military sense time means the simultaneous movement or attack of two or more forces in two or more separate locations. The defender will employ simultaneous raids or attacks against the attacker’s line of communications. The initial mission of these raids and attacks would be to disrupt these lines but not to cut them. The goal of the defender is to force the attacker to guard as much of his lines of communications as possible, thereby reducing the man power of the main attacking force. This strategy does not call for large armies such as the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of Tennessee. If the defending commander had 40,000 troops, his dispositions could be 25,000 in the main defensive force, with the remainder being allotted to three or even four raiding units.

In order to employ the time and space strategy effectively are there requirements that must be met. The area of operations must be large. With the exception of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the South was the largest field of continuous operations to date. The ground within the area of operations must be defensible. The South’s topography, with its mountain ranges, rivers, wide streams, heavily wooded areas, swamps and marshes, was conducive to defense. The commanders of the raiding units must be intrepid and innovative. The commander of the main defensive force must be well versed in maneuver and defensive tactics. The Confederacy had officers that would have excelled in this strategy. Perhaps the most important and most necessary factor to this strategy lies with the civilian population. The strategy does not call for the active participation of the civilians in the military aspect. Loss of home territory, whether by force or by the strategy employed, can adversely influence the morale on the home front. Resistance to the loss of morale and passive resistance to the attacker are crucial to the success of the space and time strategy. The spirit and determination of the Confederacy’s civilians made up for many military deficiencies that the South suffered. This spirit and determination would have been fully sufficient for the employment of the space and time strategy.

Effective space and time defensive

An example of how effective the space and time defensive strategy could have been during the Civil War is William T. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Sherman’s forces were totally dependent on the Western and Atlantic railroad. As General Joseph E. Johnston’s forces retreated towards Atlanta they took or used all the forage and supplies along their line of march, forcing Sherman to be even more dependent on his one railroad. No one was more aware of his precarious lines of communication than General Sherman. At the start of his campaign he had assigned no less than 20,000 troops to defend this single railroad line. On May 5, as the Army of the Tennessee prepared to move through Snake Creek Gap, Sherman stressed to McPherson, “Strike hard as it may save us what we have most reason to apprehend, a slow pursuit, in which he gains strength as we lose it.” Sherman may have been referring to the possible reinforcement of Johnston and the prepared defensive fortifications ahead of which the Confederates would surely make use. The weakening of his own forces could only have come from attrition, as reinforcements were readily available. In any movement that a force undertakes attrition is a natural occurrence. The remedy for this natural attrition is found in the availability of supplies. As he moved toward Atlanta, Sherman knew his line of supply was being stretched, resulting in difficulty supplying his troops at the front.

As General Johnston retreated he was executing part of the equation of the space and time strategy, albeit unknowingly. The strategy does not dictate if the retrograde movement is forced or planned. It does stress that the defender does not allow the attacker to draw them into a major engagement. General Johnston was successful in this. In his memoirs he wrote that, on June 13, he requested President Jefferson Davis to have all available cavalry not assigned to his army, placed under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest’s mission would be to fall on Sherman’s one line of communication disrupting and if possible destroying it. Johnston maintained that he wrote six letters to Davis on the subject. Two letters were sent directly and four routed through General Braxton Bragg. Richmond turned a deaf ear to Johnston even though his plan was endorsed by Polk and Hardee, Johnston’s corps commanders. At a later date General Robert E. Lee urged the implementation of the plan but Richmond still did not act. Did Richmond’s indifference to this plan cost the Confederacy Atlanta and subsequently the war?

Had Forrest been ordered to execute Johnston’s plan, the second part of the space and time defense equation would have been met. To finish the equation, Forrest would have to attack the railroad at more than one location simultaneously. Forrest had made use of this tactic in previous raids. Sherman’s greatest apprehension for the success of his campaign was Forrest receiving the very orders that Johnston’s request had asked to be issued. General Forrest’s record shows that he was successful in these types of operations and there is no reason to believe he could not carry this mission to success. If Sherman’s lines of communication, his one railroad, had been consistently disrupted or even destroyed what options could Sherman entertain?

Jomini’s theory of the space and time strategy allows for three possible courses of action open to the attacker in response to his threatened lines of communication. General Jomini believed that these three courses were inclusive of all variations. The first, likely the least viable for Sherman, is the drawing of reinforcements from areas outside the immediate theater of operations. This response requires time to concentrate and organize a new force to defend or open the lines. Sherman had over 100,000 men and 35,000 animals in his force. He wrote home in June, “I wish we could make an accumulation of stores somewhere near, but the railroad is taxed to its utmost to supply our daily wants.” The disruption of Sherman’s railroad would not have to have been of long duration for his forces to be in jeopardy. There would not have been time enough for the first response to be employed. The second option allows for the attacker to draw troops from his main attacking force in an attempt to defend or reopen his lines. This course weakens the main attacking force and subjects the second force to consistent attacks by the defender. The third course of action, the most desirable for the defender, is the retreat of the attacking force along its lines of communication. This virtually guarantees the reopening of the attackers lines but at the least delays his attainment of his primary goal. It is quite possible, through the defender going on the offensive, that the attacker’s campaign could be altered or even negated. The offensive tactics available to the defender, when the attacker opts for the second or third response, are material for another article.

Had the Confederacy employed the space and time defense against General Sherman’s invasion, it is quite probable that the fall of Atlanta would have at the very least been delayed. It is even possible that Atlanta’s capture could have been prevented. Many credit the fall of Atlanta for the re-election of President Lincoln in 1864. How many “what ifs” exist if McClellan had won the election?

The Confederacy had no coordinated defensive strategy. Given the tremendous handicap in manpower and resources that faced the South, I believe this lack of any such strategy was a fatal flaw. The “offensive-defensive” strategy of Davis was in fact one of dispersed defense. By attempting to defend widely dispersed areas, Davis weakened the overall defensive ability of the Confederacy. General Jomini’s space and time defensive strategy was seemingly tailored for the Confederacy. The strategy does not require large armies, a benefit to the manpower-short South. The defensive typically does not require the resources of the offensive, an aid to the South’s supply situation. The ground of the South, being extremely advantageous to the defense, would have been utilized fully for that purpose. With their lack of a coordinated defensive strategy, any such strategy would have been an advantage to the Confederacy. Though there may be other defensive strategies that the South could have employed, I submit that Jomini’s space and time defensive strategy is the best of these alternatives. I will not state unequivocally that Jomini’s strategy would have changed the fortunes of the Confederacy in the war. I will, however, say that if the strategy had been employed from the beginning the possibility exists.

 

Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals online exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute presents the photographic works of probably the most well known of American Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady. This exhibit begins by explaining that while Brady was mostly known for his Civil War photographs, he also had a New York studio where he had portraits done in photography of a variety of clients, including many of the Union Civil War generals. The exhibit explains that the portrait prints included in the exhibit were created from negatives in the museum’s Frederick Hill Meserve Collection[1] including William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Ambrose Burnside, George B. McClellan and others.

General George B. McClellan by Matthew BradyUlysses S. Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibit is in slideshow format and opens with an introduction that explains how Brady and his team of photographers not only captured amazing images of the war but of many prominent Union generals. By the outbreak of the Civil War, Brady was already quite well known as a portrait photographer. What is interesting to know is that while large-format portraits were made, the majority were calling-card size photographs known as cartes de visite.[2] These prints were popular with not just the generals themselves, but with the public who eagerly purchased these photographic images of the men they believed would lead the Union to victory and put them into parlor albums. The exhibit then continues on with the images of twenty-one Union generals and a brief biography of each including their contributions to the war, quotes, and also included their full name, birth and death year and birthplace.

The main points that the exhibit appears to attempt to present is the importance of these men to the Union war cause and in showing Brady’s work as ahead of it’s time in the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately, the only sources given are that of Brady’s studio and that the photos came from wet-collodion negatives. The accompanying text is not cited and is fairly general in nature, providing the very basic of overviews of each general.

The exhibit is unfortunately not extremely effective at providing anything but the basic information about each general. There is no real information about the photos themselves or more detail on the process Brady used to create these photographs. The photographs are fascinating, but the lack of any detail in the photos themselves does not present any historical information to the public short of the already mentioned basic profile of the generals.

The exhibit could have been highly effective. With a more detailed slideshow not only exhibiting the photographs, Brady’s work could have been discussed more in detail; the importance of the photographs to the general public during the war would also have been relevant; comparison and contrast of other photos of Brad’s work could have presented an interesting history of photography in the Civil War.

Sources:

[1] Smithsonian Institute. “Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals,” accessed October 5, 2014, http://www.si.edu/Exhibitions/Details/Mathew-Brady’s-Photographs-of-Union-Generals–4701.

[2] Smithsonian Institute. “Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals,” accessed October 5, 2014, http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/uniongenerals/index.html.

March 10, 1861
The Confederate Congress unanimously adopted the Constitution of the Confederacy. CSA Brig. General Braxton Bragg took command of Confederate forces. General Winfield Scott was briefing President Lincoln on the events at Ft. Sumter and options that were available.

March 10, 1862
Confederate President Jefferson Davis attempted reassure Gen. Joseph E. Johnston that reinforcements were on the way by telling him, “you shall be promptly and adequately reinforced.” Johnston was on the retreat in Virginia.

March 10, 1863
President Lincoln issued a proclamation giving amnesty to Union soldiers who were absent without leave (AWOL) if they reported by April 1st. If not, they would be regarded as deserters and arrested.

March 10, 1864
General Ulysses S. Grant took control of the entire Federal army Grant was not in Washington to receive the order but in Virginia with current commander George Gordon Meade discussing current and future plans of the Army of the Potomac. Beleaguered Maj. General Franz Sigel took command of the Department of West Virginia replacing Brig. General Benjamin F. Kelley

March 10, 1865
Maj. General William T. Sherman‘s army was nearing Fayetteville, NC. after skirmishing with Confederate cavalry. Meanwhile, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was in a scramble to consolidate what forces he had left available to him. General Robert E. Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis proposing a law to enlist negro troops as soon as possible, however, the Confederate Congress debated on.

 

It’s been a while since I put anything on this site, so I figured I would write about my research regarding the Civil War and my ancestors.

On the maternal side I have the most who served during the war. My 2nd great grandfather was 2nd Lieutenant George W. Brown, CO. K 12th Wisconsin Infantry. He enlisted 31 August 1861 as a corporal, was promoted to 1st Sergeant and on 11 February 1865 promoted to 2LT. He mustered out on 16 July 1865. The 12th Wisconsin Infantry was organized between October 18 and December 13, 1861, at Camp Randall in Madison. The regiment left Wisconsin for Fort Leavenworth,Kansas, on January 11, 1862, arriving on February 16. During its service, the regiment moved through Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Washington D.C. It participated in the sieges of Jackson, Atlanta and Savannah, and fought in the battles of Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta and Jonesboro and also participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea. The regiment mustered out on July 20, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky. It lost 323 men during service. Three officers and 93 enlisted men were killed. Three officers and 224 enlisted men died from disease.

My 4th great grandfather, Hiram Tye Shirrell served in CO. G, 31st Indiana Infantry from 5 September 1861 until 8 December 1865. His son, my 3rd great grandfather, William Henry Shirrell, served in CO. G, 18th Indiana Infantry from 16 August 1861 and was discharged for disability, no date given.

My 4th great grandfather Richard Wade Bond, had two brothers and three sons serve in the Civil War. His brothers, Samuel R. Bond served as a 1LT with CO. A 87th Illinois Infantry and his brother Moses Bond a private with CO. F 1st Regiment Missouri Light Artillery Volunteers respectively.

Richard Bond’s three oldest sons, Jesse Franklin (my 3rd great grandfather), Wiley W. and Reuben Shirly all served in the war. Reuben was a private with CO. G 154th Illinois Infantry. Wiley was also a private with CO. G 154th Illinois Infantry and died in a battle in Murfreesboro TN. on 15 March 1865.

My 3rd great grandfather Jesse, mustered in a private on 13 August 1862 with the 87th Illinois Infantry and was discharged for disability on 6 June 1863. However, he was able to re-enlist as a sergeant with CO. G 154th Illinois Infantry on 16 February 1865 and mustered out with the unit on 18 September 1865 in Nashville, TN.

On the paternal side, my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph D. Burchett was a private in Cochrans Bollinger County Volunteer Missouri Militia under Capt. J. R. Cochran in Bollinger County Missouri from 17 March 1865 until 8 July 1865.

So far, all of my ancestors fought for the Union and represented four states, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.