William Tecumseh Sherman Writes About The Weirdness In The Air In The Country Just Before Ft. Sumpter.

 General William Tecumseh Sherman


General William Tecumseh Sherman


One of the great advantages of the digital age is that the access to printed word has been multiplied a thousand times. For free I downloaded William Tecumseh Sherman’s memoirs. He was quite a prolific writer and  wrote with great eloquence. Here is a passage from Volume 1 of his memoirs recalling the difficult and elegiac times in America just before the Civil War broke out.


You see it was 1859. Sherman was given a job as the superintendent of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy in Pineville. Soon minatory messages were coming from the authorities around him that they would not cotton to a Northern government nor the abolition of their own economic model. He resigned, and friends and colleague s panegyrized him at his departure. Zachary Taylor said of him: “if you had hunted the whole army, from one end of it to the other, you could not have found a man in it more admirably suited for the position in every respect than Sherman.”


Here is passage about the moments after he resigned his commission before he left for St. Louis.



“Mrs. Sherman and I gathered our family and effects together, started for St. Louis march 27th, where we rented of Mr. Lucas the house on Locust Street, between Tenth and Eleventh, and occupied it on the 1st of April. Charles Ewing and John Hunter had formed a law partnership in St. Louis, and agreed to board with us, taking rooms on the third floor. In the later part of March, I was duly elected president of the Fifth Street Railroad, and entered on the discharge of my duties April 1st, 1861. We had a central office on the corner of Fifth and Locust, and another up at the stables in Bremen. The road was well stocked and in full operation, and all I had to do was to watch the economical administration of existing affairs which I endeavored to do with fidelity and zeal.”


“But the whole air was full of wars and rumors of wars. The struggle was going on politically for the Border states. Even in Missouri, which was a slave state, it was manifest that Governor of the State, Clairborne Jackson, and all the leading politicians, were for the south in the case of war. The house on the corner if 5th and Pine was the rebel headquarters, where the rebel flag was hung publicly, and the crowds about the Planter’s House were all more or less rebel. There was a also a camp in Lindell’s Grove, at the end of the Olive Street, under command of General D. M Frost, a Northern man, a graduate of West Point, in open sympathy with the Southern leaders. This camp was nominally a state camp for instruction, bit beyond doubt, was in the interest of the Southern cause, designed to be used against the national authority in the event of the General Government’s attempting to coerce the Southern Confederacy. General William S. Harvey was in command of the Department of Missouri, and resided in his own house, on Fourth Street, below Market; and there were five or six companies of the United States troops in the arsenal, commanded by Captian N. Lyon; throughout the city, there had been organized, almost exclusively out of the German part of the population, four or five regiments of “Home Guards,” with which movement Frank Blair, B Gratz Brown, John Schofield, Clinton B. Fisk., and others, were most active on the part of the national authorities…”



“…The newspapers fanned the public excitement to the highest pitch, and threats of attacking the arsenal on the one hand, and the mob of damned rebels in Camp Jackson on the other hand were bandied about. I tried my best to keep out of the current, and only talked freely with a few men; among them Colonel John O’Fallon, a wealthy gentleman who resided above St. Louis. He daily came down to my office in Bremen, and we walked up and down the pavement by the hour, deploring the sad condition of our country, and the seaming drift toward dissolution and anarchy. I used to go down to the arsenal occasionally to see Lyon, Totten, and other of my army acquaintance, and was glad to see them making preparations to defend their post, if not to assume the offensive.”


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