Colonel William. T. Sherman (while his commission as BGUSV was dated 5/17/61, he was not nominated until 8/2/61 and was confirmed three days later) commanded a brigade in Daniel Tyler’s division of McDowell’s army during the First Bull Run campaign. He’s been in the news lately thanks to a couple of programs on The History Channel (see here and here). The battle marked an inauspicious beginning to his storied Civil War career, and he would end up as the commanding general of the U. S. Army after his friend U. S. Grant became president. But at Bull Run, Sherman committed his brigade in the same piecemeal fashion favored by his fellow commanders on both sides. I’m not too hard on those fellows, because McDowell’s army of about 35,000 was the largest ever assembled on the North American continent up to that point, and the only man in the country experienced in commanding a force of even 40% its size was Winfield Scott.
As with all Union generals from Ohio, I’m finding the interrelationships surrounding Sherman and shaping his rise to brigade command somewhat labyrinthine. Sherman briefly partnered in a law firm with members of the Ohio McCooks and his influential in-laws the Ewings. And the colonel of the 1st OHVI in Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s Division, Alexander McCook? His middle name was McDowell. Powerful Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, during this time sometimes referred to as General Chase, was from Ohio, and Sherman’s brother Thomas was elected to fill Chase’s vacated senate seat when the latter was appointed to Lincoln’s cabinet. It doesn’t take long to realize that a non-political general was a rare bird indeed.
Brian Downey recently wrote of a post-war scandal involving Sherman and the widow of Joseph Audenried, who as a young Lt. served on the staff of Sherman’s direct superior Tyler during the campaign. John Tidball, who was also with McDowell’s army in the summer of ‘61, would wind up on Sherman’s staff years later, when “Uncle Billy” held the highest military office in the land. Tidball’s biography (discussed here) includes his sketch of his boss at that time which touches on Sherman’s affection for the ladies (page 415):
He was exceedingly fond of the society of ladies, and took as much delight in dancing and such pleasures as a youth just entering manhood, and with them he was as much of a lion as he was a hero with his old soldiers.
With those of the romantic age he was often sprightly upon their all absorbing topic of love and matrimony, a condition of mind that he regarded as a mere working out of the inflexible laws of nature; but while regarding it in this light he did not condemn or ridicule the romantic side of it as mere nonsensical sentimentality. From young ladies with whom he was intimately acquainted he was fond of extracting the kiss conceded by his age and position, and which they were not loath to grant, nor upon which neither parents or beaux were disposed to frown. By the envious it was said that in these osculatory performances he sometimes held in so long that he was compelled to breathe through his ears.
Cump, you dog!
This article was originally posted on 5/26/2007, as part of the William T. Sherman biographical sketch.