General William T. Sherman's Role in Civil War Research Paper

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¶ … William Sherman's Role in the Civil War

General William T. Sherman's Role in Civil War

In history there are those personalities that have such a lasting impact upon an event, that the persona of the person can become larger than life. One such example is General William Sherman, who would go from obscurity to become one of the most influential generals in American history. His most notable legacy was forged during the Civil War, where he would become known as a confident tactician that would do what was required to achieve victory. This desire to win at all costs made Sherman a general, who had a profound impact in taking the war to heart of the Confederacy. However, to fully understand the role that Sherman played in the Civil War requires: examining his early career and his role during / after the Civil War. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights, as to the total impact that Sherman would have in affecting the outcome of the Civil War.

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TOPIC: Research Paper on General William T. Sherman's Role in Civil War Assignment

William Sherman was born on February 8, 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio. He was the son of Charles Sherman, a prominent Ohio lawyer. At a young age, William would excel academically by studying advanced courses in the subjects of: Latin, French and Greek. However, his life was filled considerable with ups and downs, as the untimely death of Sherman's father would leave the family nearly broke and would challenge the strength of everyone. During this time, he would learn self-reliance and would begin using this, to help him excel academically. As he was forced to live with a neighbor named Thomas Ewing. Ewing would serve as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Navy. By 1835, Sherman began to become interested in perusing higher education. While his relatives were lawyers, William wanted to pursue a course of study that would challenge him and offer a sense of adventure. In 1836, at the age of 16 he was accepted as a cadet at West Point. Where, Sherman would concentrate his studies in mathematics and French. During his time at the military academy, he was not known as the model cadet, instead he was considered to be someone who followed the rules and traditions, demonstrating loyalty to his superiors. This would create the image that the Sherman was a team player, who could work within the boundaries of the organization to achieve success. As a result, he would graduate sixth in his class of 43 cadets.

After graduating, Sherman was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and was assigned to Governor's Island in the New York Harbor. Shortly after arriving, Sherman would command a unit that would help secure the newly acquired territory of Florida. Where he would be stationed, in South Florida between: Fort Pierce and Key West. During his time, Sherman would lead small squad / platoon sized elements that would engage pockets of Indians (during the Second Seminole War). Their objectives were: to relocate the Seminole Indians to reservations in Arkansas. This is significant, because the experience that Sherman would have in Florida, would begin to build a foundation of his views of war, brutality.

Next, Sherman and his company would be transferred from Florida to Charleston, South Carolina; where they would remain for five years. At which point, he would go to California, while many of his friends and associates were fighting the War in Mexico.

In California, he would play an instrumental role in establishing several modern day cities. It all started when he and Lieutenant Edward Ord, would reach the small town of Yerba Buena. This is significant, because it was two days before the town would change its name to San Francisco. This highlights how Sherman was either directly or indirectly, playing a role in the development of modern day California. Further evidence can be found by looking no further than an 1848 expedition, with Colonel Richard Mason. Their objective was to confirm that gold had been discovered in an obscure region, in the middle of the state. However, during the expedition Sherman and Mason would not only confirm the discovery, they would also assist the miners by creating a variety of schematics along with subdivisions. This would serve as the foundation for the establishment of the city of Sacramento. While, Sherman made a number of different achievements in California, the inability to serve in Mexico would cause him to resign his commission in 1853.

This is significant, because the success that he experienced in California would show how Sherman was a brilliant tactician. Yet, his frustrations of not serving in Mexico would lead him to obscurity until the beginning of the Civil War. As a result, a conflict would emerge, as Sherman was known for his brilliance; but his desire to want to be part of something bigger would hide his strengths.

Over the next several years, Sherman would begin working in the private sector. It all started with his employment at a St. Louis bank branch; located in San Francisco, California. However, the boom and bust atmosphere of the city; would cause the real estate market to go through extreme amounts of volatility, that was accompanied by tremendous amounts of speculation. This would cause Sherman to experience stress, as he believed that a bubble was developing in the real estate market, which could affect the financial viability of the branch. As a result, between 1855 and 1857, a collapse in the real estate market would contribute to a run on the city's banks. During the financial panic of 1857, the branch that Sherman was running would close.

At which point, he would be transferred to one of the banks other branches located in New York City. In 1858, Sherman would return to San Francisco to oversee the liquidation of the branch. This trip would help him to realize that he should engage in other career fields. As a result, Sherman would move to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1858. Where, he would have a short lived career in the legal field, without much success.

This is significant, because it shows how Sherman had went from brilliance to obscurity in private life. Where, he would encounter a string of challenges and failures that would hide his true talents.

In 1859, Sherman took the position of Commandant of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy. He would serve in the position until the complete session of the South in 1861. At which point, he would be ordered to surrender the schools armory to Confederate forces. Refusing to comply, he resigned his position and headed northward to join the Union war effort. This is significant, because it would show how Sherman's life was transforming from obscurity, to his new role as military leader during the Civil War. Where, he would have a tremendous impact on the way war would be fought and how future American wars.

General Sherman in the Civil War

After heading North, Sherman would meet with the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C. Where, he would express concern about the Union's inability to successfully wage war. Despite these criticisms, Lincoln was unresponsive to Sherman's concerns. At which point, he would become the President of the Saint Louis Railroad. While in Missouri only a few months, the experience would let Sherman see the first hand effects of session. Where, the state would wrestle the issue of: remaining in the Union or joining the Confederacy. These events would force Sherman to have the realization that the war was going to be long and drawn out. Despite this belief, he offered his services to Union Army and was summoned to Washington in May 1861.

The events in Missouri are important, because they would instill a belief in Sherman that you must fight a total war to win. At first, this would start out as a passing thought. However, as the war would progress, this thinking would lead to the beliefs behind the strategies the North would use, to win the war.

The Battle of Bull Run

On May 14th Sherman was commissioned as a Colonel in the U.S. Thirteenth Infantry Regiment. This was a newly created all volunteer unit, where Sherman was in command of one of the regiments protecting Washington D.C. As the summer began, the pressure would build for the forces protecting Washington to move south and attack Richmond (the capital of the Confederacy).

The idea was to use overwhelming force, to bring about a swift victory over the South, by capturing their capital. The Battle of Bull Run began when Union forces would cross the Potomac River into in Virginia on July 21, 1861. At Bull Run Creek, is where the Union forces would face a numerically smaller Confederate army (the Army of Northern Virginia). Who out maneuvered the Union forces. Despite the loss, Sherman would show courage during the battle, when he was grazed three separate times by stray bullets. This would prompt a visit… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

General William T. Sherman's Role in Civil War.  (2010, July 14).  Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

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"General William T. Sherman's Role in Civil War."  July 14, 2010.  Accessed October 17, 2021.