Volume 29, No. 6 – June 2016
The President’s Message:
Thank you to those who have paid their dues.
Someone asked me at our last meeting how other Round Tables function. Each Round Table operates independently. There is no unifying national organization. Some Round Tables have a lunch or dinner meeting and members are charged for the meal as well as the cost of the speaker. Each local group creates a structure that works best for them.
April 13, 2016 Program:
Josh Liller is the Historian & Collection Manager at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum. He is a passionate historian (particularly military and political history) with experience as a tour guide, lecturer, and archivist. Josh has a particular focus on the American Civil War and lighthouses. His duties include cataloging, data entry, organization, inventory, research, lectures and presentations, visitor tours, and generating content for social media and newsletters. Research includes answering staff and visitor questions, conducting oral history interviews, and expanding collection content and knowledge.
May 11, 2016 Program:
Sherman at Shiloh was presented by Robert Schuldenfrei. This was a study in psychology. It is not quite what the title suggests. It is an attempt explain the character traits possessed by William Tecumseh Sherman from early childhood until the battle of Shiloh. It was these changing traits that made Sherman the first modern general. One of the most impressive features of Sherman’s mind is his ability to look at facts on the “ground” and see the big picture. The best example of this is a dinner conversation with a faculty members, David Boyd, of the Louisiana College that had Sherman as president. As recalled by Boyd, it is worth taking time to listen to Sherman’s words on December 24th 1860:
You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.
William Tecumseh Sherman, called “Cump,” by his friends and family, was born into a prominent family. His father was a member of the Ohio Supreme Court. Sadly, his father died when Cump was 9. The family was destitute. His mother, with 9 of 11 children to raise kept the 3 youngest at home with her while the oldest 6 were raised by friends. William went to live in the household of Thomas Ewing. This was very fortunate as the Ewings were very kind, but still young William felt, and this is key, abandoned. This is the first critical mindset that will play a large part in our story. While he was at West Point we see another element of his character; Sherman was very observant. We know this through the vehicle of his letters home, many of which survive because Ellen kept them. For example Cump writes about the physical features of the campus like the Kosciuszko monument. He describes himself as a “happy cadet.” The Army notes that he was creditable, but unremarkable. He ranked 6th out of a graduating class of 47. He would have ranked 4th if it were not for his tendency not to regard “neatness in dress and form” as important. He concluded that he himself was “not a good soldier.” In the spring of 1839 Sherman writes home about the possibility of war with England and/or Canada or at least some trouble with Indians. He comments that this would be good for the cadets at West Point as they would get to go into the field and do what they were being trained to do. Sherman graduated and was assigned to the 3rd US Artillery stationed in Ft. Pierce, FL. Although the Seminole war was still on, and is in fact still on today as there was never a formal end to that conflict, there was almost no combat. What Sherman did see was Army life at a station out in the wilderness.
In 1841 his unit was transferred to Ft. Moultrie just outside Charleston, SC. Here we get some insight into Sherman’s feelings about the South. Over the next 4 years he will mix with all levels of southern society, but mainly with the elite. He would conclude that Southerners had steel and determination under a veneer of charm and hospitality. During this time Cump kept up his correspondence with Ellen Ewing. On leave in 1843 he officially became engaged to her over the objection of her father. Although Thomas Ewing liked Sherman, he did not want to see his sickly daughter marry an army officer and endure the rigorous life on the frontier. Thus, the engagement dragged on for 7 years. In April of 1846 the United States went to war with Mexico. Although he was not sent to Mexico as part of Taylor’s army, he was pleased to be ordered to California. Sherman thought that this would be an important theater of operations. Sherman shipped out on USS Lexington for the long trip around the horn. The Mexican settlers in California had surrendered to the local Americans so that when Lexington arrives the Army will play the role of occupiers, not fighters. When gold was discovered Sherman was called in to verify that the nuggets brought in from Sutter’s Mill were actually gold. He determined that they were. It was hoped by many that the discovery could be kept secret, but this was not to be. This caused rapid inflation such that Sherman could not live on his Army salary. The ever resourceful Sherman hired himself out as a surveyor.
Ellen Ewing made it quite clear, although she wanted to marry him, she did not look forward to being an army wife. When he returned from California he asked for and obtained a 7 month leave of absence from the Army. Thomas Ewing, and Ellen, looked upon this as a good sign that Cump would leave the Army altogether. So, on May 1st 1850 he and Ellen tied the knot. It was a lavish affair with the guest list including President Zachary Taylor and the Cabinet. Sherman did not leave the Army after the leave, but by 1853 he resigned and took a job as a bank manager in San Francisco. While Ellen like his position as banker, she hated the West Coast and missed her family. In 1856 he accepted the position of commander of the state militia. He had the rank of Major General, but the State was broke and could not pay him very much. Fortunately, he kept his banking job. This taught him something about character. First, he was very skilled in multitasking. Second, he found himself in the middle of political corruption which made him very reluctant to enter politics or have anything to do with politicians. And third, he was in command of volunteers who were almost impossible to command. The end of the gold rush had caused banks to fail. Because of his good management his bank did not, but when it was decided to close his branch Sherman left to return east.
The Panic of 1857 finished off the bank so he was out of work. Cump did the thing he dreaded most; taking a position from his father in law. As he feared he was Thomas Ewing errand boy in spite of the fact he headed up a law firm. In desperation Sherman applied for readmission into the regular Army. There was no room for recent West Point graduates let along someone who had resigned. Another character trait, pride, was both his downfall and support in these times and in times to come. David Boyd wrote of him that he was no scholar, but a man of brilliant and original thought. On January 26, 1861 Louisiana seceded and Sherman resigned with a heavy heart. In order to honorably wrap up his affairs, he stayed on until April. In formation, he bid goodbye to the staff and the cadets. He was choked with emotion in delivering his farewell speech. It was clear that William Tecumseh Sherman had a deep love and understanding for the people of the South.
As proof of his loyalty to the Union, Cump left the South. But it was more a loyalty to a cause rather than to men. His Senator brother John invited him to Washington and set up a meeting with the President in hopes that he could persuade him to enter the government. His meeting with Lincoln went rather poorly. The President was not interested in the views of the South for which Sherman was an expert. Sherman was shocked at how casual the North was treating secession. And even in John he saw just another politician. This view of that profession would stay with him for life. As the clouds of war enveloped the nation that April, job offers came in. The first were civilian government positions. Sherman refused these. Then Ft. Sumter happened and more positions in the War Department opened up. John suggested he go back to Ohio and raise a regiment of volunteers, Sherman’s mind was dead set against volunteers. In his letters home you see his mind at work. The war would be fought, he said, for Union and Slavery. He believed that it should be fought over the former and not over the latter. If slavery was the issue the South would fight to the last man he reasoned. On May 8th he swallowed his pride and wrote Secretary Cameron asking, really begging, for a position. The War Department offered him either a regular army commission as a colonel or as a major general of volunteers. He chose being a colonel and was given command of the 13th US Infantry. This clearly demonstrates how his mind was working.
When Sherman reported into Washington he met with General Winfield Scott. He wanted to leave immediately, but Scott had other ideas. Sherman was to serve as the Army’s inspector general. Although it was not what he wanted, the job gave him the ability to travel all around the eastern theater of operations and see for himself the “big picture.” And what he saw was the folly of most of Washington, except for Scott, in believing in a short war. “On to Richmond” was in vogue. At the last moment Sherman was placed in command of a brigade in McDowell’s army. He summed up the situation: “We had good organization and good men, but no cohesion, no discipline, no respect for authority, and no real knowledge of war.” On the morning of July 21, 1861 Sherman deployed his men on the north bank of Bull Run. A small incident occurred which, once again, gives you insight into his thinking. A rebel officer on horseback crossed Bull Run and came up on the Yankee positions, just out of musket range. There he proceeded to shout curses and insults at Sherman’s men. Cump’s sharp eye followed him carefully and noted the ford that the hot-headed officer used to cross the stream. At 2:00 PM Sherman’s unit was ordered to advance, so he marched his men to the remembered ford and got the brigade across in short order. The advance went well, but when they were close to the fighting the terrain was rough so the regiments had to be sent forward one at a time. This piecemeal commitment of troops meant they were each chewed up in turn. Finally, the men decided on their own that they had had enough. Despite their commander’s urgings to stay each unit began making its way slowly and deliberately to the rear. Therefore Sherman wisely guided them back to the ford and safely made it across. Unlike many other units he kept his brigade in reasonably good order despite heavy losses. Sherman had kept his head, while many around him had lost theirs. In fact, on the way back he formed his brigade into strong defensive positions for the follow up attack he thought was coming. It never did. But the actions at Manassas caused him to sink into a “black depression.” Never mind that he had predicted poor results and that he performed very well, defeat weighed heavily on his psyche. He could never choose to lead volunteers nor would he have much faith in them.
During his depression Sherman expected to be cashiered, as did a number of Union officers. Much to his surprise he received a promotion to Brigadier General. He was ordered that summer to serve under Robert Anderson, late of Ft. Sumter. Before leaving Anderson and his four assistants, Sherman, Thomas, Buell and Burnsides met with President Lincoln. Sherman had one request; to serve only in a subordinate capacity and not in high command. This gives us insights to his mind and his personal assessment of his own strengths and weaknesses. Anderson was ordered to keep Kentucky in the Union and told to control 300 miles of front with only 18,000 men. Still reeling from Sumter, Anderson request to be relieved of command. Much to Sherman’s horror, he was made commanding general. He was by nature tense and nervous and this put him over the top. The enemy was led by the much feared Albert Sidney Johnston so our boy complained to everyone that he did not have the force to populate a command he did not want. In a conference with Secretary of War Cameron he was asked how many men would he need. He exclaimed that just to hold the state he would need 60,000. Cameron was shocked and this was reported to the press as an “insane” request. From this newspapers reported that Sherman WAS insane. This was the source of his “madness,” and also the beginnings of his opinion of the press.
Cump was fortunate that his career did not end there. Halleck, his friend, gave him an assignment to be an inspector general in Missouri. But the Black Depression did not improve, but got worse. In February he was assigned to command a support unit. The unit was to support Grant on his advance on what was to become the battles of forts Henry and Donelson. It is interesting to note that at the time Sherman had rank on Grant. Further, Grant had out run his supplies in moving on to Donelson. Sherman was ordered by Halleck to help Grant and, because of his rank, could have made the command difficult. This Sherman did not do. He was very deferential. With every boat that came up with supplies he included a note of encouragement. Grant never forgot this and thus a pattern for the future was established. We should note what this means for our study of Sherman’s mind.
At this point we are ready to put it all together. Here are the character traits that I believe explain his action during the battle of Shiloh and during the rest of his military career. In no particular order, we have discussed these topics. Although he will have a serious lapse in the upcoming battle, Sherman was an objective observer of things as they are. He never really got over the feeling of abandonment and poverty of his childhood. He was both smart and flexible while being guided by an internal “compass.” Sherman was both likeable and somewhat prideful and this led him to be an excellent manager of men. In both business and battle he was cool under pressure and learned from his mistakes. Sherman was resourceful and always played the “hand he was dealt.” And finally, he was loyal to superiors above him and subordinates below him.
Like so many battles in so many wars, the battle of Shiloh was never supposed to take place. It was Halleck’s plan to combine Grant and Buell’s forces into one large army led by Halleck. With Anderson out of the picture, Sherman now finds himself leading the 5th Division and ready to move by river starting from Paducah. Halleck understands logistics far better than any other commander in the west needs to cut Rebel supplies from the east to Corinth, MS. Sherman is given the independent mission to destroy the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Starting on March 6th they load transports and steamed south, up-river, to accomplish the mission. Along the way, the ever observant Sherman, notes Pittsburg Landing where some of Hurlbut’s division is already based. Continuing south the expedition meets with rain and floods so severe as to endanger the naval vessels upon which it depends. He makes the decision to withdraw and disembarks his troop at Pittsburg Landing. This is excellent grounds for doing what Sherman needs to do; train his green troops. Grant concurs with this decision and sends all but one of his divisions there to wait for Buell’s men and Halleck to take command. None of the Union commanders considered it necessary to construct defensive positions because all was quiet and the South had been retreating after a string of defeats.
Sadly for the North, the Rebels were thinking something else. Although the brilliant and aggressive Johnston was saddled with Beauregard, plans were being made to strike Grant where he was least Buell could join him with overwhelming strength. Now began a series of encounters that should have warned the North that the Rebels meant to attack them and not wait to be attacked in Corinth. The first occurred on April 1st when Cheatham stumbled into Lew Wallace’s division. Cheatham was well out in front of the main body of Rebel troops due to the horrible logistical mess in the move up from Corinth. On the 3rd cavalry was spotted. On April 4th one of Sherman’s units reported it had seen a sizable enemy force. Later that same day more Southern cavalry was spotted. Prisoners were captured who stated that they were part of a “grand army.”
Since most of these actions were reported to Sherman, let’s look at what developed and how Cump’s traits worked against him. Sherman and Prentiss divisions are way out in front of the encampment and closest to the Rebels. His keen sense of observation sees nothing. His division is made up of raw recruits and his brigade commanders are green. His inner directed mind suggests that he knows what is going on while he sees others as timid and childlike. From his feeling of abandonment Cump has come to learn he must depend on his own judgement. Thus, when the report comes in of a “sizable enemy force” he tells Hildebrand, one of his brigade commanders who rode out and saw the enemy, that the Rebs are a “reconnoitering party.” Later that day Sherman orders infantry and cavalry units out to scout which does suggest resourcefulness and cool under pressure. However, when the brigade commander, Buckland, reports contact with the enemy, Cump orders him to take your units back to camp and he will deal with Buckland “later.”
The first shots came in on the afternoon of Saturday, April 5th. This was not the real attack, which would happen the next day, but a serious little fight which was to play on Sherman’s psyche. All afternoon reports of sightings came into his headquarters near Shiloh Church. This caused him some irritation. 31 year old Jesse Appler of the 53rd Ohio, in Buckland’s command, got reports of butternut clad troops to his front. Appler commanded the “long roll” and sent word to Sherman that the enemy was to his front. Appler heard from his courier that the division commander wants him to: “Take your damned regiment back to Ohio. There is no enemy closer than Corinth.” Sherman’s behavior may have stemmed from being labeled “insane.” To have appeared to be shaken and alarmed would have invited more criticism. In presenting a posture of confidence he overlooked legitimate cause for concern. At this point we see the character traits working against him. Early the next morning the battle began. The traits will now work in his favor.
At 6:30 AM on Sunday the Confederates hit Sherman full force where his division met Prentiss’ division. Although this was the real thing, the attacking troops were as inexperienced as the defenders so the advance was not coordinated. As they hit the aforementioned Jesse Appler was heard to say: “This is no place for us” and “Retreat, and save yourselves!” All was chaos along Sherman’s front. At 7:00 AM he rode to Rea’s Field where he realized how wrong he had been as he exclaimed: “We are attacked!” Shots rang out. His orderly fell dead and Sherman was shot in the hand. At this point a wounded commander might have retreated or at least gone to a field hospital. Cump made his stand with the troops that had not “skedaddled.”
Of the traits we have listed these were on display that fateful morning: objective observer, smart, flexible, inner directed, prideful, manager of men, cool under pressure, learns from errors, and resourceful. This was not the turning point in the battle, but it was the turning point in his mind. He kept in close communication with his brigade commanders, winning some fights, losing others. As at Bull Run, his front continued to resist in spite of the panic which plagued a sizable group of his division. The battle ebbed and flowed around Rea’s Field. Some of his units stood up to the onslaught in fine fashion like the CPT Allen Waterhouse’s artillery.
But the weight of the Rebel attack was too much so that by 10:00 Sherman know he could not hold the line. His division was being pushed back from south to north and from west to east. But, the move back was causing the Confederates to have to commit more troops in this area and not the planned push towards the river. This four hour effort paid big dividends for Grant who had landed and rode out to confer with Sherman first. Grant was pleased with his division commander and did not stay long. They made plans to form a new line to the north and east along the Hamburg – Savannah Road also called the River Road. The resourceful Sherman did not just retreat, but made a counter attack along the Pittsburg – Corinth Road. The reinforced Rebel troops made holding that line impossible, but by 4:00 PM Sherman’s division was safely behind the new line on the River Road. Although beaten it was a strong defensive position with Mulberry field to its front and to the west of that lies the ravine of Tilghman Creek.
Earlier, Sherman had called for artillery support for this defensive position. At about 3:30 PM various cannon units arrived and set up shop. Many of these were armed with the highly effective 20# Parrott rifles. The Rebs brought up Ketchum Alabama battery and the “Great Artillery Duel” was fought. After a while the South tried a frontal assault which never stood a chance. As the battle shifted to the famous “Hornet’s Nest” Sherman had stabilized Grant’s line. At the end of day one he has learned from his errors, kept cool under pressure, and demonstrated his flexibility. With Lew Wallace’s division and Buell’s army on the way, things would be very different the next day. About midnight Sherman went to meet with Grant that concluded with the famous exchange: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant replied: “Yes. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.” Sherman is both likeable and loyal and that will serve him well in the immediate future and down the months and years to follow.
Before the sun comes up on April 7th, the Confederates are expecting an easy “mop up” operation. However, it is now the Rebs who are surprised. Buell, who had crossed the river during the night, opened up on the Union left by the river. In Sherman’s sector Beauregard’s troops moved forward into Jones’ Field to face Sherman and the fresh troops under Lew Wallace. Grant, sensing Rebel weakness, orders Wallace and Sherman to move forward into the fray. At first they were successful, but later on that morning the Confederates stiffened and started to turn the tide back again. A small note about the aforementioned Jesse Appler and the Ohio 53rd. His unit is now attached to McClernand and true to form it broke and ran. So disgusted was McClernand at their “disgraceful and cowardly” conduct that he ordered the whole unit from the field. Sherman’s cool once again contributed staving off the panic that might have prevailed at 1:30 PM.
Some of Buell’s units came to support and the Rebel threat was squashed. By an hour later Beauregard had thrown in the last of his reserves and by 3:00 PM it was all over for the South. Sherman did not play a big role during the late morning and early afternoon. This should come as no surprise as his 8,000 man division had been reduced to 2,500 effectives by the 4,000 who had fled and the rest who had been killed or wounded. Historian continue to argue as to what would have happened if Grant and/or Buell had given a vigorous pursuit. Time does not permit going into that here. It suffices to say that a perfunctory pursuit was conducted by Sherman on the April 8th. He sent out a couple of small contingents that were easily driven off by the Rebel rear guard. Later on he sent a brigade sized unit out that ran into a small force of Confederate cavalry under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The resourceful Forrest ambushed the much larger Union force and got them along with Sherman to flee back to their own lines.
Almost immediately after the battle the blame game began. It was clearly a Northern victory, but the “butcher’s bill” was so high that someone had to pay the price. Sherman was spared from being a target due in no small part for being a friend of Halleck. Halleck was jealous of Grant and believed this was his chance to scuttle Grant’s ship. Sherman was promoted to Major General, but his loyalty and honesty caused him to speak out when he could have remained silent. Cump publically spoke out against politicians and army officers who found fault with Grant. And Grant had one politician whose vote counted the most; the President. Grant never forgot who stood with him after Shiloh. This relationship would last the whole war through and in the post war years.
There is but one last story to tell. On a cold and windy day in mid-February 1891, an elaborate funeral was held in New York City for General of the Army William Tecumseh Sherman. All the important people were there: Among them were President Benjamin Harrison, former presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Grover Cleveland, and thirty thousand troops, including the entire corps of cadets from West Point. One of the honorary pallbearers, present, at Sherman's previous request, was an unlikely member: Joseph Eggleston Johnston, a onetime general of the Confederate States of America and Sherman's fierce antagonist. The two men, with a fourteen-year difference in their ages, had fought hard against each other during the Civil War, but in later years they had developed a warm friendship, working together to repair the Union that had been rent asunder between the years 1861 and 1865. Johnston's friends were worried about him, for despite the icy winds, his eighty-four years of age, and frail health, he insisted on remaining bareheaded throughout the ceremony. Johnston would have none of his friends' protests. If I were in Sherman's place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat."
Last changed: 06/02/16