General William Tecumseh Sherman arrives at the head of his Corp at Hard Times Landing and begins the process of transporting his men across the Mississippi to Grand Gulf. When word of his arrival on the Eastern shore reaches Grant he gives the go ahead to McPherson and McClernand to begin moving their men across the Bayou Pierre, to regaind contact with the rebel army. Grant has now decided what his initial target will be, but to keep Pemberton in the dark for as long as possible.
Sherman’s road to Vicksburg really began ten years earlier when he floated into San Francisco Bay on the overturned hulk of a sinking lumber schooner. It was the beginning of a decade of failure. Sherman’s father had died when he was nine, and the boy known as Tecumseh had been adopted by Thomas Ewing, a powerful Whig senator from Ohio. Sherman had graduated from West Point in 1840 and attained the rank of Captain, but he resigned from the army in 1853 when he was offered the presidency of a San Francisco bank. On his way around the horn Sherman was shipwrecked twice, and that voyage proved to be an omen. In the panic if 1857 Sherman’s bank failed, leaving him broke and far from home. He then moved to Leavenworth, Kansas and failed as a lawyer. And then, in 1859, he secured the appointment as the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Military Academy. Just a year later, as secession spread, Sherman famously wrote a Southern friend, “You are rushing to war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on earth – right at your doors. You are bound to fail.” On resigning his post he told the governor, “On no account will I do any act or think any thought hostile…to the…United States.”
The coming of war seemed to offer Sherman opportunities. But they all seemed to lead to failure. He served as a colonel at First Bull Run where he was wounded in the knee and shoulder. In May of 1861 he was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers and placed in command of the Department of the Cumberland. But all he could see were shadows of threats and in the fall of 1861 Sherman was relieved of duty, suffering a nervous collapse. While contemplating suicide at home in Ohio, General Halleck offered Sherman the command of Grant’s army. Instead Sherman offered to serve under Grant.
At Shiloh, on April 6, 1862, Sherman was commanding a division when his unprepared men were overrun by Confederate troops. Sherman managed to just prevent his divison from being driven into the Tennessee River. It seemed yet another confirmation of his failure. But that night, when he reported to Grant’s command post, half expecting to be relieved, and confessed “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we”, Grant calmly replied, “Yes. Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.” And with that stoic exchange Sherman’s luck had changed, and he knew it. He might disagree with Grant on some specific approach, but he would always “...co-operate with zeal”.
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