William Tecumseh Sherman Quotes

Quotes Of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman

War Is Hell

Sherman's march To The Sea

Sherman’s march To The Sea

  • “Oh, it is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization.”

Union Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman upon hearing of South Carolina’s secession from the Union. Sherman had lived in the South for nearly 12 years, and he had a true fondness for the South. Sherman would play a major part in winning the Civil War for the Union.

  • “I see every chance of a long, confused and disorganizing civil war, and I feel no desire to take a hand therein.”

…Sherman wrote these words to his wife Ellen, in January 1861.

  • “You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end.

“The North can make a steam engine, locomotive or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or a pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and determined people on earth-right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with.

“You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing!

“You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it…Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them?

“At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see that in the end you will surely fail.”

…The prophetic words of William Tecumseh Sherman on December 24, 1860, after he learned of South Carolina’s secession. Sherman was superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary and Military Academy at the time.

  • “You might as well attempt to put out the flames of a burning house with a squirt-gun. I think this is to be a long war-very long-much longer than any politician thinks.”

…William Tecumseh Sherman, assessing the war in 1861.

  • “I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash-and it may be well that we become so hardened.”

…General Sherman, from a letter to his wife written in July, 1864.

  • “Three years ago by a little reflection and patience they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity…Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late…Next year their lands will be taken…and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives.”

…General Sherman in January, 1864 regarding the situation of the Rebels. Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865 and the Civil War was over. Happily, Sherman is wrong here with his time estimate of the continuation of the war.

  • “If you don’t have my army supplied, and keep it supplied, we’ll eat your mules up, sir.”

…General Sherman’s warning to an army quartermaster before the departure of Sherman’s army from Chattanooga and heading toward Atlanta. 

William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman

  • “Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it; but the utter destruction of its roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl.”

…General Sherman, from a telegram sent to General Ulysses S. Grant at Atlanta, Georgia. September 9, 1864.

  • “The whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak violence upon South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate.”

…General William T. Sherman, as he prepared to march his army into South Carolina. This was following the March to the Sea.

  • “We have devoured the land and our animals eat up the wheat and cornfields close. All the people retire before us and desolation is behind. To realize what war is one should follow our tracks.”

…General William Tecumseh Sherman.

  • “That devil Forrest… must be hunted down and killed if it costs ten thousand lives and bankrupts the Federal treasury.”

…Sherman referring to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

  • “After all, I think Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side.”

…After the Civil War, Sherman made these comments about Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

  • “Wars are not all evil, they are part of the grand machinery by which this world is governed.”

…General William Tecumseh Sherman.

  • “War is at best barbarism…Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot, nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

…William Tecumseh Sherman. These words are from his June 19, 1879 address to the Michigan Military Academy.


William Tecumseh Sherman Facts

War is Hell…

Facts and Notes About General William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman

  • William Tecumseh Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio on February 8, 1820. Sherman’s middle name of “Tecumseh” was given to him at birth. The name “Tecumseh” was from a great Shawnee Indian leader and warrior who had almost defeated the United States Army.
  • Sherman graduated sixth in his class of 1840 at West Point. He was highly intelligent, aggressive, and had a good imagination. These characteristics would help to make Sherman one of the great Union generals of the Civil War.
  • When the Civil War broke out, Sherman was the superintendent of a military academy in Louisiana called the Alexandria Military Institute. This military academy would become the foundation of Louisiana State University.* Sherman was a West Point graduate, age 41, and a civilian when the Civil War started. He volunteered for service. Sherman took command of a brigade and led it at the Battle of First Bull Run. Sherman was lean, grizzled, and had red hair, he did not much care about his personal appearance.
  • The Battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6, and 7, 1862. On the first day of battle, troops led by General Sherman came under heavy fire. Despite efforts by Sherman to rally the men, the Union troops (who were new to battle) fled to the rear. That evening, Confederates were camped on ground that in the morning had belonged to Union troops. Confederate General Beauregard spent the night sleeping in Sherman’s bed. The next day, April 7, Grant renewed the fight and pushed the Rebel troops back to their original attack position. The Billy Yanks had their camp again. Perhaps on the night of April 7, General Sherman got his bed back from General Beauregard.
  • Benjamin Harrison was from Ohio and saw action in the Western Theater during the Civil War. He served in Sherman’s Army during the March to the Sea. In 1888, he became president of the United States of America.
  • On May 4, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman begins his march to Atlanta, Georgia. His army numbered 110,000 men. Sherman’s March to the Sea will make history, and make him hated in the South.
  • In 1864, when Sherman was making his way through the South, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston won a victory at Kennesaw Mountain. At the end of the Civil War, Johnston was in command in the Carolinas. Johnson staged a defensive campaign after Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston finally surrendered to General Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina on April 26, 1865. After the war, Sherman and Johnston became friends.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman died of pneumonia in New York City on February 14, 1891. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston (Sherman’s old Confederate adversary) had reconciled in the years since the Civil War. Johnston served as an honorary pall bearer at Sherman’s funeral on a rainy and cold day. During the funeral, Johnston removed his hat in the cold rain as other mourners did the same. He was urged to put the hat back on so he would avoid the wet and cold. Johnston said: “If I were in his place and he standing here in mine he would not put on his hat.” Former Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston developed pneumonia from the rain and cold at Sherman’s funeral. Johnston died only a few weeks later.
  • In Washington, D.C., there is a small park at Fifteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. At this park there is a statue of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. This statue is forty-three feet high and depicts Sherman on a horse during a march. On the granite base of this statue is a Sherman quote in which he states his idea of what the purpose of war is: “War’s Legitimate Object Is More Perfect Peace.”