Monday, April 14, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Monday, April 14, 2008

“At last I stand redeemed”

Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman writes Ellen today from his camp on the Shiloh battleground. He recounts yesterday’s expedition up the Tennessee River that successfully destroyed an important railroad bridge, but his biggest news is about a message Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck has just sent to Washington. The brief letter praises Sherman’s performance at the battle of Shiloh, saying it “contributed largely to the glorious victory of the 7th.” Halleck is recommending Sherman be promoted to major general.

Coming only days after Grant’s praise for Sherman’s performance, the once depressed Cump is now triumphant. “At last I stand redeemed from the vile slanders of the Cincinnati paper,” he tells Ellen. Sherman is referring to an article Murat Halstead published in the Cincinnati Commercial the previous December 11. Headlined “General William T. Sherman Insane,” the heavily opinionated piece painted a horrific picture of a Sherman terrified by events during his command in Kentucky. While the tightly wired Sherman may have suffered an emotional break in Kentucky, he never was “insane.”

Of course, part of Sherman’s problem with the press is his loathing for it, which the journalists return with interest. Now he tells Ellen how newspaper reporters “keep shy of me as I have said the first one I catch will hang as a spy.”

Then Sherman returns to his personal situation: “I made a fearful mistake in Kentucky and if I recover it will be a wonderful instance. I have made good progress here….”

He concludes, “I think you will have some satisfaction and I know your father will be pleased that I am once more restored to favor.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Skirmishes occur at Santa Fe Road, Diamond Grove, and Montevallo, all in Missouri, involving, on the Union side, mostly small cavalry detachments from Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri regiments. Nonetheless, two Union men are killed and seven wounded. From such little affairs, families suffer terrible losses while history scarcely notices.

Fort Pillow is a strategically located Confederate installation on the Chickasaw Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, north of Memphis, Tennessee. The fall of Island No. 10 to the north has made the fort vulnerable and today Federal mortar boats pound the fort and will continue until the Confederates abandon it in June.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Under pressure from Union troops, Confederate forces are fleeing New Mexico. In Alabama, Brig. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, the “astronomer-soldier” from Ohio, occupies Decatur. In the East, McClellan’s Army of the Potomac is advancing up the Virginia Peninsula, the Confederate capital of Richmond their object. Almost everywhere one looks, the Confederacy is in trouble.

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3 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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