Preview – Smith & Sokolosky, “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming”

21 11 2015

Layout 1A decade or so ago I was lucky enough to tour North Carolina sites with a small group that included then U. S. Army officers Wade Sokolosky and Mark A. Smith, who were then putting the finishing touches on their book “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar”: Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro. Now the duo have published through Savas Beatie the slightly less wordily titled “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming”: The Battle of Wise’s Forks, March 1865.

The book has all you’ve come to expect from Savas-Beatie. Illustrations throughout, George Skoch maps, appendices with orders of battle and numbers and losses, bottom of page notes, bibliography (plenty of newspapers and manuscript collections, usually a good sign), and index. Of course the meat is in the 223 page narrative that takes the reader along with the opposing forces of Jacob Cox and Braxton Bragg, culminating in the four-day confrontation at Wise’s Forks, which ultimately provided Confederate commander Joe Johnston with the time needed to concentrate about Bentonville. The final chapter is devoted to a Final Analysis, which should prove interesting given the career army background of the authors.

And Now, a Song about R. E. M. and W. T. Sherman…

26 10 2015

This weekend, friend Mike DelNegro of Ashburn, VA, hipped me to an old song by the band Pavement, which ties together the band R. E. M. (see here for more on them and the Civil War) and First Bull Run participant William T. Sherman. Enjoy!

Some bands I like to name check,
And one of them is REM,
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me.
are – E – M
Flashback to 1983,
Chronic Town was their first EP
Later on came Reckoning
Finster’s art, and titles to match:
South Central Rain, Don’t Go Back To Rockville,
Harbourcoat, Pretty Persuasion,
You were born to be a camera,
Time After Time was my least favourite song,
Time After Time was my least favourite song.
The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer he knew restraint.
And the bass man he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint.
So lets go way back to the ancient times
When there were no 50 states,

And on a hill there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates.
And they’re marching through Georgia,
we’re marching through Georgia,
we’re marching through Georgia
They’re marching through Georgia,
we’re marching through Georgia,
marching through Georgia
and there stands REM

(Aye Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir they’re coming, Aye Sir, move those wagons, Aye
Sir, Artillery’s in place Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir, hide it, hide it, Aye
Sir, run, run.)

Captain Richard Watt York (3), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Capture of “Sherman’s Battery”*

14 08 2015

Who Took Sherman’s Battery? – A letter to the Raleigh Standard, from Capt. York, answers this question fully: –

“Several regiments claim the honor of silencing and taking this battery. iIt was taken by the 6th Infantry N. C. State Troops.i The regiment was led up within 40 yards of it, and their fire silenced it, and Col. Lightfoot, Maj. Webb, Capts. Kirkland, Avery, and Lieuts. Avery and Mangum, marched right up to it with their men, and passed beyond it, and received a galling fire from the left, when they were ordered to cease firing and fall back. Maj. Webb was resting on one of the pieces, facing the fire, and our men retreated in good order, all the while delivering their fire.” Around Sherman’s battery where our Regiment fired, every horse and cannoneer was killed, and lay in one indiscriminate heap. All over the battle field were strewed the dead and dying. Some had placed their arms under their heads as they went to their last sleep. Others folded their arms across their breasts, some with features distorted and fists clenched as they wrestled in the agonies of death; others wore the calm, placid smile which should grace the face of a soldier dying in a glorious cause. In the little clump of cedars, the wounded had crawled and died, and lay there in ghastly heaps.**

“That portion of the Regiment rallied by the gallant Lightfoot and Webb, pitched into the hottest of the fight, and joined in the final charge, when the enemy were put to a precipitate flight, and joined in the pursuit for several miles. No more gallant spirits strode over that field, than Lt. Col. Lightfoot and Maj. Webb. The remainder of the regiment, under different officers, fell in with other regiments and fought to the last. No regiment behaved with more bravery and gallantry than the North Carolina 6th Infantry, on that memorable field. Led up into the hottest of the fight, within a few yards of a battery that was raking our army, they delivered their fire with the deadliest precision.”

(Fayetteville, North) Carolina Observer, 8/6/1861.

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Sherman’s (Ayres’s) Battery (Co. E, 3rd US) was nowhere near the 6th NC, and in fact did not cross Bull Run. The author is here referring to a section of Griffin’s West Point Battery (Co. D, 5th US.) Sherman’s Battery was from the time of the Mexican War a very well known battery, and was reported in many areas of the field by both Confederate and Union participants, nearly always in error. This battery is sometimes also referred to by historians as William. T. Sherman’s battery and, while it was attached to that colonel’s brigade, it derived it’s title not from him but from past commander Thomas. W. Sherman.

**The passage between those marked with quotation marks appears to have been written by the editors.

See a more complete version of this letter published in the Richmond Examiner here.

R. W. York at 

W. T. Sherman’s Boyhood Home

6 08 2014

While I’m posting these letters of W. T. Sherman (there are a few more to come), it’s about time a share of few of the photos I took earlier this year on my visit his boyhood home in Lancaster, OH. The trip was made the day after my presentation to the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable on March 12, courtesy of friend Mike Peters.

The Sherman House Museum is located at 137 East Main St. This is the main drag of the town, and it’s not until you actually stand there on the street that you realize how proximate are the sites familiar to students of Sherman and the Ewing family to one another. Sherman’s father Charles was a lawyer, as was Thomas Ewing, with whom Cump went to live after his father passed away. The homes of Sherman and Ewing, and the courthouse where they did business, are all located within a block of each other. The two houses are separated by two lots, on one of which Cump’s sister and her lawyer husband built their home.

The Sherman House was not scheduled to be open that day, but Mike called ahead and the Fairfield Heritage Association, which maintains the museum, graciously opened up for us anyway. I believe it was FHA Executive Director Andrea Brookover who guided us through the home. No interior photos were allowed, but below are a few shots of the exterior and of the Ewing house. Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

The house was expanded over the years, and not all is as it was when Uncle Billy lived there. There are some items that are original to the home at the time of the general’s occupancy, and some of his furnishings from later homes. The second floor includes a pretty cool – and large – collection of Sherman memorabilia and ephemera. We were also treated to a look at the basement, which always gives me a better idea of a structure, although I’m not sure the original dwelling had a basement, and it certainly did not have this particular basement.

The Sherman House Museum is definitely worth the trip if you’re in the Columbus area.

Sherman House Front

Sherman House Front

Sherman House Rear

Sherman House Rear

Sherman House Yard

Sherman House Yard

Sherman House Plaque

Sherman House Plaque

Ewing House

Ewing House

Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Blackburn’s Ford

4 08 2014

Camp – 1 m. West of Centreville

26 from Washington

July 19, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

I wrote to John yesterday, asking him to send you my letter that you might be assured of my safety.  Thus far the enemy has retired before us – yesterday our General Tyler made an unauthorized attack on a battery over Bull Run – they fired Gun for Gun – and on the whole had the best of it – the Genl. finding Centreville a strong place evacuated, followed their tracks to Bull Run which has a valley deeply wooded admitting only of one narrow column. I was sent for and was under fire about half an hour, the Rifled Cannon shot cutting the trees over head and occasionally pitching into the ground. 3 artillerists – 1 infantry a & 3 horses in my Brigade with several wounded – I have not yet learned the full extent of damage – and as it was a Blunder, dont care – I am uneasy at the fact that the Volunteers do pretty much as they please, and on the Slightest provocation bang away – the danger from this desultory firing is greater than from the Enemy as they are always so close whilst the latter keep a respectful distance. We were under orders to march at 2 1/2 A.M. – the Division of Tyler to which my Brigade belongs will advance along a turnpike Road, to a Bridge on Bull Run – This Bridge is gone – and there is a strong Battery on the opposite shore of the River – here I am summoned to a council at 8 P.M at General McDowell’s camp about a mile distant – I am now there, all the Brigade commanders are present and only a few minutes intervene before they all come to this table.

I know tomorrow & next day we hall have had hard work – and I will acquit myself as well as I can – with Regulars I would have no doubts, but these Volunteers are subject to Stampedes[.] Yesterday there was an ugly stampede of 800 Massachusetts men – the Ohio men claim their discharge and so do others of the 3 months men – of them I have the Irish 69th New York which will fight.

I am pretty well, up all night and sleeping a little by day – Prime [,] Barnard, Myers & others of your acquaintance are along – Prime slept in my camp last night.

My best love to all – my faith in you & children is perfect and let what may befal me I feel they are in a fair way to grow up in goodness and usefulness. Goodby for the present yrs. ever


Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 118-119


Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Brother, On Preparations to March

3 08 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown,

July 16, 1861.

Dear Brother,

We start forth today –  camp tonight at or near Vienna – tomorrow early, we attack the enemy at or near Fairfax C. H., Germantown, and Centreville – thereabouts we will probably be till about Thursday when movement of the whole force some 35,000 men on Manassas, turning the position by a wide circuit. You may expect to hear of us about Aquia Creek or Fredericksburg (secret absolute)

I leave your saddle & bridle with the Commissary Gray with orders to Send it with my large trunk over to you – I take your saddle bags, along – and will have my small trunk to follow.

If anything befal me, my pay it drawn to embrace June 30 – and Ellen has full charge of all other interests. Goodbye, Yr. brother,

W. T. Sherman


Ellen will write to your care and you can enclose her letters. This will give me a better assurance of receiving them. Send the enclosed to her. Yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, p 118

Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (2)

17 07 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown.

July 16, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

We start forth today at 2 P.M. move forward 10 miles to Vienna, there sleep – and tomorrow morning expect to fight some six or eight thousand of the enemy, at or near Fairfax, Germantown or Centreville – There we may pause for a few days & then on Manassas Junction, Beauregards Hd. Qrs. distant from here about 30 miles. I think we shall make a wide circuit, to come on his rear.

I am going to mind my own Brigade – not trouble myself about General plans – McDowell commands the whole – Brig. Gen. Tyler our column of 4 Brigades of about 10, or 11,000 men. I will have 3,400 – New York 13, 69 & 79th & Wisconsin 2nd with Shermans Battery now commanded by Capt. Ayres.

I take with me a few clothes in the valises & saddle bags – leave my small trunk to follow – have about 50 dollars in money, a Boy named John Hill as servant – have drawn pay to June 30 – and you know all else.

I think Beauregard will probably fall back tomorrow on Manassas, and call by R. R. from the neighborhood of Richmond & Lynchburg all the men he can get, and fight us there, in which case we will have our hands full.

Yesterday I went to the convent to bring the Girls over to see a drill – I found India Turner over visiting John Lee – Miss Whittington out in the country – so I brot over Miss Patterson and a Miss Walker of New Orleans – and after drill took them back – I saw Sister Bernard, and another who said she was your drawing teacher – She had a whole parcel of little prayers, and relics to keep me from harm – I told her you had secured about my neck as it were with a Silk cable a little medal which would be there, and her little relics I would stow away in my holsters.

Whatever fate befalls me, I Know you appreciate what good qualities I possess – and will make charitable allowances for defects, and that under you, our children will grow up on the safe side. About the Great Future that Providence that gives color and fragrance to the modest violet will deal justly by all – knowing the Secret motives & impulses of every heart. In the noise, confusion, hustle and [crises] of these thousand volunteers, my tongue and pen may be silent henceforth about you and our children, but I confide them with absolute confidence to you and the large circle of our mutual friends & relations.

I still regard this as but the beginning of a long war, but I hope my judgment therein is wrong, and that the People of the South may yet see the folly of their unjust Rebellion against the most mild & paternal Government ever designed for men – John will in Washington be better able to judge of my whereabouts and you had better send letters to him. As I read them I will tear them up, for every ounce on a march tells.

Tell Willy I have another war sword, which he can add to his present armory – when I come home again – I will gratify his ambitions on that score, though truly I do not choose for him or Tommy the military profession. It is too full of blind chances to be worthy of the first rank among callings.

Watch well your investments – the note you left with Turner, as well as you others lest you may be necessitated to fall back on them. Always assure Maj. Turner and Mr. Lucas of the unbounded respect I feel for them. Give your father, mother, sis & all my love. Tell Henrietta it has been an impossibility for me to go over to see her father & mother without neglecting my command which I never do. Good bye – and believe me always most affectionately yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 116-118

Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (1)

16 07 2014

Rosslyn, opposite Georgetown.

July 15, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

Charles Sherman came over yesterday & spent most of the day with me. He brought your two letters of the 11th and I was very glad to hear you were so well and that the little baby was also flourishing. We certainly have a heavy charge in these Six children, and I know not what is in store for them. All I can now do is to fulfil the office to which I am appointed leaving events to develop as they may. After all Congress is not disposed to increase the Regular Army as the President supposed. The ten new Regiments are only for the war, and will be mustered out, six months after the close of hostilities, but who know when hostilities are to cease? I won’t bother myself on this point but leave things to their natural development.

I now have my brigade ready for the March – Mine is the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division[.] Brig. Gen Tyler commands the Division composed of four Brigades – Keyes’s (you remember him in California) Schenck – Sherman and Richardson – In my brigade are-the New York 69, Irish, 1,000 strong – the 79 Scots, 900 strong – Quinbys 700 strong, and Wisconsin and Col. Peck 900 strong, and the Battery of Capt. Ayres – used to be Shemans battery 112 men – 110 horses and six Guns – We move without baggage – I have Lt. Piper adjt. – McQueston & Bagley aids – two mounted orderlies and a negro servant John Hill.

4 columns move out against the forces of Beauregard – posted from Fairfax C. H. to Manassas Junction – supposed to be from 30, to 45,000 men – one under Col. Miles starts from below Alexandria – one Col. Heintzelman from Alexandria – one Col. Hunter from Long Bridge – and ones from this point Gen. Tyler – This latter is a West Point Graduate, at present Brig. Genl. from Connecticut. I don’t know him very well, but he has a fair reputation – McDowell commands the whole – say 40,000 men – The purpose is to drive Beauregard beyond Manassas – break his connection with Richmond, and then to await further movements by Gen. Patterson and McClellan – I know our plans, but could not explain them to you without maps – It may not produce results but the purpose is to fight no matter the result. We have pretty fair knowledge of the present distribution of Beauregards forces, but he has a Railroad to Richmond from which point he may get reinforcements, and unless Patterson presses Johnston, he too may send forces across from Winchester. Manassas Junction in our possession, Richmond is cut off from the Valley above Staunton. But with these Grand strategic movements I will try to leave that to the heads, and confine my attention to the mere handling of my Brigade[.]

Keyes Brigade is about 5 miles out – the Ohio 4 miles – mine here, Richardson is on the other side – on the first notice we simply close up – and early next morning at Fairfax C. H. where there are 6 or 7 S. C. & Georgia Regts. – Close at hand at Germantown, Flint Hill, Cumberville, Bull Run & Manassas are all occupied & fortified – but we may go round these. I take with me simply valise, & saddle bags – and leave behind my trunks to be sent over to John Sherman. Letter can take the same course. If we take Manassas, there will be a Railroad from Alexandria to that point, so that letters can be received regularly. Though we momentarily look for orders to cook Rations to be carried along, I still see many things to do, which are not yet done, and General Scott, will allow no risks to be run – He thinks there Should be no game of hazard here. All the Risks should be made from the flanks.

I wrote to Minnie yesterday – Poor Charley will be disappointed sadly – He overrates my influence and that of John Sherman – I have some hopes of the transfer with Boris. I will write again before we start but the telegraph will announce all results before you can hear by mail – as ever &c.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 114-116

Sherman’s March to the Sea

2 07 2010

Thanks to friend Susannah Ural for passing this along.  Anne Sarah Rubin has a cool site of interactive maps, Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory.  From the introduction:

Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory is designed as an experiment in digital history. Historian Anne Sarah Rubin is working on a project about the ways Americans have remembered Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864, and wanted to bring her work to a broader audience. Rather than build an archive of documents, images, and essays, she decided to take a more interpretive approach, and this site is the result. A generous Digital Innovation Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) allowed Dr. Rubin to collaborate with Dan Bailey and Kelley Bell (both of the UMBC Visual Arts Department and the Imaging Research Center). What we have here is a small prototype—a proof of concept for our larger vision.

Mapping Memory is organized around both place and narrative. It consists of five maps, each one representing a genre of tales about the March. They are:

  • The Sherman or Fact Map, which lays out the basic events of the march.
  • The Civilians Map, for events involving African-Americans and Southern civilians.
  • The Soldiers Map, for events told from the perspective of veterans
  • The Tourism Map, which is about tourism and travel accounts.
  • The Fiction Map, which plots places both real and imagined that have appeared in novels and films about the March

When you draw the time slider across the base of each map, two lines, schematically representing the left and right wings of Sherman’s Army move across the landscape. At the same time, an array of map pins, or points, also appears. These points mark spots of significance, and the idea is that you can toggle between the maps, and see how different people remembered or wrote about different places or events. Not every place appears on every map, but most of them are on two or three, and Atlanta, Savannah, and Milledgeville are on all five. Clicking on a point will bring up a window with a mini-documentary about that place, from the map’s perspective.

For now, we have only animated one point per map, although ideally we will receive funding to complete the stories for each and every point. We tried to pick a range of places and stories, and also use a variety of styles and techniques to illustrate them. The active points, which are highlighted, are:

  • Sherman Map—Ebenezer Creek: A place where one of Sherman’s Generals abandoned scores of African-Americans to drown or be captured by Confederates.
  • Civilians Map—Oxford: The story of Zora Fair, the “girl spy of the Confederacy”
  • Soldier’s Map—Milledgeville: Sherman’s men repealing secession in a mock session in the state capitol building.
  • Tourism—Camp Lawton: The story of the prison camp turned state park outside of Millen. (
  • Fiction—Tara Plantation, Jonesboro, Clayton County: The roots of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind

We hope you find the site thought-provoking, and welcome your comments.

William T. Sherman

28 07 2009

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.


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