William Tecumseh Sherman was a businessman, educator and author, but was most famous for his service as a general for the Union in the American Civil War. He was born on February 8, 1820 and died on February 14, 1891. He was a brilliant but ruthless general, and advocated a “scorched earth” policy of total war against the Confederate states, which he was very effective in implementing. Renowned military historian Basil Liddell Hart famously labeled Sherman as the first modern general.
Sherman served under General Ulysses S Grant in 1862 and 1863 during the Vicksburg campaign, culminating with the rout of the Confederate armies in Tennessee. In 1864, Sherman replaced Grant as the Union commander in the western theater of war. He led his troops to the capture of Atlanta, a military success that contributed substantially to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States. Shermanís infamous march through Georgia and the Carolinas further crippled the Confederacy’s ability to continue the war. He accepted the surrender of all the Confederate armies in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida in April of 1865.
When Grant later became president, Sherman succeeds him as Commanding General of the Army, serving in this capacity from 1869 to 1883. He was responsible for the conduct of the Indian Wars in the western US. He refused to be drawn into politics, and his 1875 memoirs are one of the best-known firsthand accounts of the civil war.
Sherman is somewhat controversial for his approach to the war. His advocacy of total war, regardless of whether it inflicted suffering on the civilian population, was considered brutal by the south and highly effective by the north. Scholars of military history see his approach as very modern and very disciplined, as subsequent wars have consistently been willing to inflict suffering on the civilian population to get results.