Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Oct. 17, 1861

Today will be one of the most memorable in William Tecumseh Sherman’s military career—but it will not be a pleasant memory. Returning from a western inspection trip, Secretary of War Silas Cameron meets with Brigadier General Sherman in Sherman's bedroom at Louisville’s Galt House. Sherman had “begged him” for the meeting, believing it his chance to make the case for more support from Washington. Cameron is accompanied by six or seven newspaper reporters, a breed Sherman detests, but somehow the newsmen are allowed to sit in on a meeting that should have been private.

Sherman uses the opportunity to pour out his troubles—Confederate forces could easily invade his territory, because Union forces lack men and equipment to resist them. As the newspapermen listen, open-mouthed, Sherman tells Cameron he needs 60,000 men immediately for defense and 200,000 for offense. Cameron, thunderstruck, exclaims, “Good God! Where are they to come from?”

Sherman will receive only a fraction of the troops he wants and his request will be referred to in Washington as “insane.” Newspapermen—who resent Sherman’s hostility to them—will soon be publishing throughout the country that Sherman is “insane, crazy.” And soon, the Ohioan's career will take a sharp turn.

Another Ohioan—Maj. Rutherford B. Hayes in western Virginia—is in a sunnier mood. He writes wife Lucy that he is “pleasantly located in a romantic valley…We are strongly posted. No force would dare attack us….We have had the finest of fall weather for several (it seems many) days…I never have enjoyed nature so much….”

1 comment:

John Ettorre said...

Hi Jim,
I just flipped through your book at the bookstore, making a mental note to buy it as soon as I whittle down the pile of yet-unread books next to my bed. It looks like an astoundingly wonderful piece of work. Congratulations. I'll be sure to write about it on my blog, at the very least, and perhaps also try to review it somewhere in print.