Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Heading for Redemption

He doesn’t know it, of course, but as Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman moves up the Tennessee River, he is heading for redemption, and soon. Straight ahead lies a large, rolling area of farm fields and woods, with a convenient landing place for boats. A couple miles inland stands a small, log church. It is called Shiloh.

The expedition of which Sherman is part is a huge movement of Union troops, ordered by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, with orders to sweep the river banks of Confederates and not stop until they reach Eastport, Mississippi, near the Alabama line.

Pausing at Savannah, Tennessee, Sherman takes a moment to write Ellen. He is still smarting over his emotional break while in command last fall in Kentucky, and he is deeply grateful to Ellen for her support during the crisis. “You may rest assured that the devotion & affection you have exhibited in the past winter has endeared you more than ever and if it should so happen that I can regain my position and self respect be restored I will labor hard for you and our children.”

Later in the war and after it, Ellen will have occasion to cherish letters like this. Over the years, her efforts to bring Cump into her beloved Roman Catholic Church when he wants no part of any church will cause serious tensions in the marriage. Words like those in Cump’s letter today will become rare.

Although he is back in command of soldiers, Cump's self-confidence is still shaky. He heads a division of about 9,000 soldiers, mostly “raw & green” Ohio men, but he is part of a much larger force guided by higher authorities, which is just the way he likes it. “As I have nothing to do with the plans, I feel perfectly easy,” he tells Ellen.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Union soldiers under Banks enter Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley. Stonewall Jackson is retreating now, but that will soon change. Confederate President Davis tells one of his generals, “we have suffered great anxiety because of recent events in Kentucky and Tennessee.”

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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