Skip to main content

William T. Sherman Family Papers

Identifier: SHR

Scope and Content

Correspondence, clippings, scrapbooks, diaries, legal and financial papers, drafts and copies of articles, speeches and military orders, and explanatory notes; originals, photostats, microfilm, typewritten copies and handwritten copies; also books from the Sherman family library and photographs, including many by George Barnard taken during the Civil War.

Available on microfilm from the Archives of the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.


  • Creation: 1808-1959.


Language of Materials



The sixth of the eleven children of Charles Robert and Mary Hoyt Sherman, upon the death of his father in 1829 he went to live with the Thomas Ewings, a prominent Ohio family. In 1850 Sherman married one of the Ewing daughters, Ellen. They had eight children: Maria Ewing Sherman Fitch, Mary Elizabeth Sherman, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jr., Thomas Ewing Sherman, Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara, Rachel Ewing Sherman Thorndike, Charles Celestine Sherman, and Philemon Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman, a West Point graduate and Army captain at the time of his marriage to Ellen, resigned his commission in 1853; before his re-entry into the service in 1861, he served as a banker in California, a lawyer in Ohio, a superintendent of a military academy in Louisiana (forerunner of Louisiana State University), and president of a street railway in St. Louis. His success during the Civil War led eventually to his command of the army in 1869, a position he held until his retirement in 1883.

William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the most prominent of the Union's Civil War generals and for many years thereafter Commanding General of the Army, was born at Lancaster, Ohio, on Feb. 8, 1820, the third son and sixth child of Charles Robert and Mary Hoyt Sherman. His father, a noted Ohio lawyer and judge, had been born and educated at Norwalk, Connecticut. Admitted to the Connecticut bar before he turned twenty-one, Charles Sherman practiced law at Bridgeport for a year. Shortly after his marriage on May 8, 1810, to Mary Hoyt, the daughter of Isaac and Mary Raymond Hoyt of Norwalk, he set out to seek his fortune in Ohio, then a wilderness menaced by hostile Indians. After finally deciding upon Lancaster for his permanent residence, he returned Norwalk for his wife and infant son, Charles. The couple eventually had eleven children.

  1. Charles Taylor Sherman (Feb. 3, 1811-Jan. 1, 1879)
  2. Mary Elizabeth Sherman Reese (April 21, 1812-Aug. 1900)
  3. James Sherman McComb (Dec. 12, 1814-July 10, 1864
  4. Amelia Sherman McComb (Feb. 18, 1816-Jan. 9, 1862)
  5. Julia Ann Sherman Willock (July 24, 1818-April 3, 1842)
  6. William Tecumseh Sherman (Feb. 8, 1820-Feb. 14 1891)
  7. Lampson Parker Sherman (Oct. 13, 1821-Dec. 30, 1905)
  8. John Sherman (May 10, 1823-Oct. 22, 1900)
  9. Susan Denman Sherman Bartley (Oct. 10, 1825-Jan. 10, 1876)
  10. Hoyt Sherman (Nov. 1, 1827-Jan. 25, 1904)
  11. Frances Beecher Sherman Moulton (May 5, 1829-Feb. 22, 1889)

Appointed Collector of the United States' Revenues for Ohio on Nov. 9, 1813, and a Judge of the Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 8, 1823, he died on June 24, 1829, while riding the circuit.

The disruption of the Sherman family, occasioned by the untimely death of their father and the consequent distribution of most of the eleven children among friends, relatives and neighbors, saw young "Cump," as he was known affectionately throughout his life, move several doors up the street where he was informally adopted into the family of Thomas Ewing, then a leading member of the Ohio bar and a close friend of the Shermans. Appointed to West Point in 1836 by Ewing, then United States Senator from Ohio, he attended the Academy from July 1, 1836, until July 1, 1840. Subsequently assigned to field service with the Third Artillery in Florida, he was raised to the rank of first lieutenant in 1841. Later service at Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay, Alabama, and at Fort Moultrie near Charleston, South Carolina, where he remained for nearly five years, gave him ample opportunity to become acquainted with the South and its people- knowledge which stood him in good stead during the Civil War. After brief recruiting duties at Pittsburgh and Zanesville in 1846 upon the outbreak of the Mexican War, he was assigned to duty in California where, much to his dislike, he was compelled to sit out the battles then raging in Mexico. Upon his return to the States in 1850, on May 1, after an engagement of seven years, he married Ellen Boyle Ewing (Oct. 4, 1824-Nov. 28, 1888), the daughter of his mentor, Thomas Ewing, then Secretary of the Interior in the Cabinet of President Zachary Taylor. The couple eventually had eight children:

  1. Maria Ewing Sherman Fitch (Jan. 18, 1851-Nov. 22, 1913)
  2. Mary Elizabeth Sherman (Mar. 17, 1852-April 6, 1925)
  3. William Tecumseh Sherman, Jr. (June 8, 1854-Oct. 10, 1863)
  4. Thomas Ewing Sherman (Oct. 12, 1856-April 29, 1933)
  5. Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara (Sept. 5, 1859- July 18, 1915)
  6. Rachel Ewing Sherman Thorndike (July 5, 1861-Oct. 26, 1919)
  7. Charles Celestine Sherman (June 11, 1864-Dec. 4, 1864)
  8. Philemon Tecumseh Sherman (Jan. 9, 1867-Dec. 6, 1941)

After service for a year and a half at St. Louis and New Orleans as a captain in the subsistence department, he resigned his commission on Sept. 6, 1853, in order to return to California and establish a branch bank of Lucas and Symonds at San Fransisco for his close friend, Major Henry S. Turner. When a severe depression forced that branch to close its doors in the spring of 1857, he proceeded to New York where, for a few months, he represented the parent firm. After the failure of the firm itself, he joined his brothers-in-law, Thomas and Hugh Boyle Ewing, in the practice of law at Leavenworth, Kansas. Unsuccessful in law, in 1859 he secured a position as superintendent of a new military academy, the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning -- predecessor of Louisiana State University, about to be opened at Alexandria, Louisiana. Although successful in his efforts to establish the Academy on a firm foundation, his overriding love of the Union nevertheless compelled him to resign his post on Jan. 18, 1861, in face of the imminent secession of Louisiana.

Following brief employment as president of a street railway in St. Louis, he rejoined the regular army with the rank of colonel in May, 1861. After being relieved of his command in Kentucky, where his realistic appraisal of the difficulties facing the Union forces and his anxiety for the well-being of the raw recruits committed to his care caused him to oppose the wishes of his superiors and the public at large for a rapid advance into Confederate territory, he subsequently distinguished himself at the battle of Shiloh (April, 1862) and in the campaign that led to the surrender of Vicksburg (July, 1863). Already a major-general of volunteers, the ability he demonstrated during the later campaign earned him the rank of brigadier-general in the regular army. In May, 1864, as supreme commander of the Union Army in the West, he set out from Chattanooga on the road to Atlanta. Success once again brought promotion -- this time to the rank of major-general in the regular army. With the capitulation of Atlanta on Sept. 1, he prepared for his next great maneuver -- the devastating "March through Georgia" which brought him the plaudits of the North and the vituperation of the South and which will ever be connected with his name. After the fall of Savannah on Dec. 21, he proceeded northward through the Carolinas. By April, 1865, he had compelled his Confederate opponent and West Point classmate, General Joseph E. Johnston, to make overtures for surrender. The liberal terms which Sherman proposed were accepted by Johnston but rejected in a Washington embittered by the recent assassination of Lincoln and they earned for Sherman the hostile criticism of Secretary of War Stanton and radical Northern newspapers. Nevertheless, he emerged from the War, along with Ulysses S. Grant and the Philip H. Sheridan, as one of the North's three most famous heroes.

After the termination of hostilities, Sherman remained in the army and proceeded to St. Louis where he took over command of the Division of the Mississippi. Offered a cabinet post as Secretary of War by President Johnson in January, 1868, he declined despite his sympathy for Johnson in the latter's difficulties. Upon Grant's inauguration as President, Sherman, on Mar. 4, 1869, assumed command of the army, a post he retained until his retirement from active service. As commanding general, in addition to the normal duties of the office, he was forced continually to do battle with politicians eager to reduce the peacetime army to a strength which he considered incompatible with national security. Although in 1874 he endeavored to escape the political turmoil of Washington by moving his headquarters to St. Louis, he was persuaded to return to Washington in 1876. Mentioned on a number of occasions, and especially in 1884 when many leading Republicans were eager for his nomination, as a desirable presidential candidate, his disdain for politicians and intense dislike of politics led him to refuse without hesitation without hesitation the office that many were avidly seeking.

Subsequent to the General's retirement form active service on Nov. 1, 1883, the family resided in St. Louis for several years before moving to New York City in 1886. The last years of his life were spent, as most of his adult years had been, in a bustle of activity, for his popularity as a speaker, his reputation as America's most prominent toastmaster, and his duties as president of the Society of the Army of Tennessee, a post he held from 1869 until 1891, did not diminish. The death of his beloved Ellen on Nov. 28, 1888, left him desolate and despondent but within a few weeks he had recovered much of his old resilience. His own death came at New York on Feb. 14, 1891, hastened by the asthmatic condition that had plagued him throughout life.


20 linear feet. 15 reels of microfilm. 2 linear feet of photographs. 11 linear feet of printed material.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The William Tecumseh Sherman Family Papers, as they were deposited in the University of Notre Dame Archives by Miss Eleanor Sherman Fitch, the granddaughter of General Sherman, prior to her death in 1959, consisted of correspondence, clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, various legal papers and documents, cancelled checks, bankbooks, financial ledgers, drafts for and copies of articles, speeches and military orders, and explanatory notations -- sometimes on the items themselves and sometimes on separated sheets. This material ranged from the year 1808 to the year 1959 and consisted of originals, photostats, microfilm, typewritten copies and handwritten copies. The nucleus of the collections had been gathered and preserved by Philemon Tecumseh Sherman followed the death of the father, General Sherman. It was subsequently augmented by Miss Fitch, Philemon's niece, who added items in her own possession, typewritten copies which she had made of various items in the collections itself, items or copies of items which she was able to acquire from the others, and her own explanatory notes.

Processing Information

The microfilm edition, sponsored by the National Historical Publications Commission, was completed in 1967, together with a guide to the edition. Most of the original material in the collection dating 1808-1891 was filmed.

For the most part only original items belonging to the period up to and including the year 1891 -- the year of General Sherman's death -- have been selected for microfilming. To this material from the Sherman Family Papers have been added various items of relevant correspondence gleaned from other collections in the possession of the University of Notre Dame Archives. The great bulk of this additional material is from the Ewing Family Collection. However several items have been added also from the Orestes Augustus Brownson Papers, the Papers of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Daniel E. Hudson, C.S.C. Papers, and the Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C., Papers. The material not filmed, which consists of items of more recent vintage, printed material, clippings, and copies of items for the period up to 1891, is available for consultation at the Archives.

Although Miss Eleanor Sherman Fitch had begun the task of arranging the material that constitutes the William Tecumseh Sherman Family Papers, that work was far from completion when she deposited those papers in the University of Notre Dame Archives. Where meaningful groupings that lend themselves readily to microfilming, such as the correspondence between William T. Sherman and his wife Ellen or items relating to the Sherman children, had been constructed by Miss Fitch, these have been preserved and perfected. Items within each such grouping have been arranged chronologically with undated items pertaining to the particular grouping coming last. Items which did not fit in with any such grouping have been placed together in one over-all chronological series entitled "General Correspondence and Related Items."

In a large number of instances, dates have been supplied as part of the editorial procedure. Where this has been the case, the supplied dates have been placed in brackets in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Question marks have been used to indicate questionable dates. Items dated only by month have been placed at the beginning of that year. Enclosures have been placed immediately after their cover letters. Undated items have been arranged in alphabetical order.

William T. Sherman Family Papers
University of Notre Dame Archives
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Archives Repository

607 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame Indiana 46556 United States
(574) 631-6448