Relationship between Abraham Lincoln and William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman was a Union general during the Civil War, playing a crucial role in the victory over the Confederate States and becoming one of the most famous military leaders in U.S. history. The logistical brilliance on fiery display during Sherman’s March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia, then north into the Carolinas, helped end the bloody war.

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But the devastation wrought by Sherman’s March remains controversial, with Sherman still loathed by many Southerners today. Sherman remained in the U.S. Army after the war. When Grant became president in 1869, Sherman assumed command of all U.S. forces. He was criticized for the role he played in America’s war on Native Americans in the West, but he himself was critical of U.S. mistreatment of the native population.

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught lawyer, legislator and vocal opponent of slavery, was elected 16th president of the United States in November 1860, shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader. His Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for slavery’s abolition, while his Gettysburg Address stands as one of the most famous pieces of oratory in American history. In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. His untimely death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln meets with Union generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman at City Point, to plot the last stages of the Civil War. as part of the trip, Lincoln went to the Petersburg. Once he sat down with Grant and Sherman , Lincoln expressed concerns that Lee might escape Petersburg and flee to North Carolina, where he could join forces with Joseph Johnston to forge a new Confederate army that could continue the war for months. In march 1861, Sherman went with his younger brother John to visit Mr. Lincoln. (Sherman is speaking)

He walked into the room where the secretary to the President now sits, we found the room full of people, and Mr. Lincoln sat at the end of the table, talking with three of four gentleman, whos soon left. John walked up, shook hands and took the chear near him,…. John then turned to me, and said, ?Mr. President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who is just up from Louisiana, he may give you some information you want.’ ?Ah!’ said Mr. Lincoln, ?how are they getting along down there?’ I said, ?They think they are getting along swimminglythey are preparing for war.’ ?Oh well!’ said he, ?I guess we’ll manage to keep house.’ I was silenced, said no more to him, and we soon left.

Sherman’s attitude toward President Lincoln varied throughout the war. General William T. Sherman had Mr. Lincoln respect-but not his friendship as we can see in the quote. They met briefly once in the spring of 1861 before Sherman returned to the Union Army and once again that summer. For the next four years, however, they did not cross paths, until shortly before the end of the war. In their first meeting, Sherman was disgusted by the President’s naive attitude toward the South’s secession. Although the Union army was defeated during the battle, President Abraham Lincoln was impressed by Sherman’s performance and he was promoted brigadier general August t, 1861, ranking seventh among other officers at that grade. So Sherman really start liking Mr. Lincoln, because in May 1864 Sherman wrote to his brother

I think Mr. Lincoln is a pure minded, honest and good man. I have all faith in him. In Congress & the cabinet there is too much of old politics, too much of old issues and too little realization. I think it is a great mistake to stop enlistments. There may be enough on paper, but not enough in fact.
As commander of the West, Sherman led the march to Atlanta which culminated in its siege and capture on September 1864, literally saving President Lincoln’s re-election. When he captured Savannah, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln: I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah In his reply, Mr Lincoln expressed many, many thanks for you Christmas gift and admitted he had been anxious, if not fearful of Sherman’s success. So on December 21, 1864 Sherman wired Lincoln to offer him an early Christmas present: the city of Savannah with the message,

I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton .

I think that was really nice and generous of Sherman and on the other hand he was trying to make Lincoln like him even more, because he wanted his friendship not just respect and at that point he was on the good way to get that. Sherman met with President Lincoln outside Richmond a few weeks before his assassination but never again. After the city point conference in late March 1865, Sherman wrote to his wife:

…Grant is the same enthusiastic friend. Mr Lincoln at City Point was lavish in his good wishes and since Mr. Stanton visited me at Savannah he too has become the warmest possible friend.

Lincoln had been murdered April 14. The Johnson administration immediately rejected Sherman’s terms and sent Grant to relieve Sherman of command, though on arrival Grant opted simply to inform Sherman his terms had been rejected. So what was wrong with Sherman’s initial terms? Firstable, they were silent on slavery, second, they opened the way for legal challenges to loyal governments, like those in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, not to mention the new state of West Virginia and third, they left open the possibility of paying the Confederate war debt.

All pretty bad right? How had Sherman, the terrible swift sword himself, come to offer such light terms? Sherman would later claim that he had offered only what Lincoln told him to offer.

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