Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Tecumseh Sherman Collection, 1813-1888

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, March 2011

Summary Information
Title: William Tecumseh Sherman collection
Creator: Haskell, Clinton H.
Inclusive dates: 1813-1888
Bulk dates: 1861-1882
Extent: 52 items
A miscellaneous collection of letters and a volume of telegrams, by or relating to William Tecumseh Sherman, collected by Clinton H. Haskell.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by Clinton H. Haskell, 1949 and 1950. M-732, M-783.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

William Tecumseh Sherman Collection, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The items are arranged into two series: Correspondence and Documents and Telegram Book.


William Tecumseh Sherman was born February 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio, the son of Charles Sherman and Mary Hoyt. After Charles Sherman's sudden death in 1829, Mary and her 11 children were left impoverished, and William went to live with the family of a prominent Ohio politician, Thomas Ewing. In May 1836, through Ewing's influence, Sherman received an appointment as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated sixth in his class. He served as a second lieutenant in the Second Seminole War and took an administrative post in California during the Mexican-American War. In 1850, he married Eleanor ("Ellen") Ewing, the daughter of Thomas and Maria Ewing; they had eight children. From 1853 to 1857, he managed a bank in San Francisco, and following this, he served as superintendant of the Louisiana Military Seminary, the forerunner of Louisiana State University.

During the Civil War, Sherman rejoined the Army as colonel of the 13th Infantry, and was soon promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. After a promotion to major general of volunteers, he assumed command of the Memphis defense and served in the Vicksburg and Chattanooga campaigns. In 1864, he gained command of the Union armies in the West, and was promoted to major general of the Union Army. He earned fame and notoriety for his "total war" tactics and his destructive march across Georgia to the sea. Postwar, Sherman held the position of commanding general of the United States Army from 1869 to 1884. He died on February 14, 1891.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Tecumseh Sherman collection consists of 51 letters written by or relating to Sherman, 1813 to 1888 (bulk 1861-1882), and a volume of outgoing telegrams that he wrote, 1882-1884. The collector Clinton H. Haskell gathered these materials.

The Correspondence and Documents series is a miscellaneous collection of letters and documents, primarily written by Sherman to various correspondents. The earliest letters in the collection include one from Sherman's father Charles about a desired appointment as collector of internal revenue (August 24, 1813), and several by Sherman concerning several aspects of his early career in the west. Sherman wrote 13 letters in the collection during his Civil War service, and they span 1861 to 1865, with 1864 covered in the greatest depth (5 letters). In a letter of January 20, 1863, he wrote about plans for the capture of Vicksburg and called it "a great if not the greatest task yet undertaken in this war." In other letters, he recommended the strengthening of Fort Donelson (March 27, 1864), discussed troop positions at the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign (May 5, 1864), invited Colonel Absalom Markland and his wife to a social gathering in Savannah (January 3, 1865), and planned to move on Raleigh, North Carolina, after the capture of Richmond, Virginia (April 3, 1865). Also included is a set of special field orders, no. 20, dated February 18, 1864, which call for troop movements after Vicksburg and specify that "Buildings must not be burned on the return march…unless they are used as a cover to the enemy, from which to fire at our men." Special field orders no. 22 are also present (February 28, 1864).

The collection also includes several personal letters written during the Civil War period. In one of these, dated September 23, 1864, Sherman wrote to his foster father, Thomas Ewing, discussing money raised by his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, to buy him a new horse. In it, he also noted that three of his horses had died during the war, with one shot out from under him, and commented on the training, care, and gaits of war horses. He wrote to his wife Ellen, describing souvenirs that he had sent home to her (April 6, 1865). Included are several letters concerning, but not addressed to, Sherman. In one, General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel complains about Sherman's division of Mitchel's forces and the assignment of different leadership to part of the division (October 21, 1861).

The postwar letters in the collection mainly focus on Sherman's career as the commanding general of the United States Army. They pertain to such matters as personnel and appointments, the hiring of Edmund Palmer to sketch Native Americans on the plains (July 11, 1875), Civil War memorials (May 16, 1878), the construction of railroads (September 1, 1882), and other topics. Also present is an essay dated January 16, 1888, by William C. Shaw, entitled "What I Saw on Sherman's March to the Sea," in which he described participation in the campaign, including foraging, the destruction of railroad tracks in Georgia, and the slaves and slave quarters he encountered.

The Telegram Book contains 28 telegrams sent and received by Sherman in his official capacity as commanding general of the United States Army. The telegrams span June 19, 1882, to April 7, 1884. Many of the items concern routine matters of scheduling or personnel, but a few refer to larger issues. On April 19, 1883, Sherman wrote a telegram to General John Schofield, concerning the joint operations of the U.S. and Mexican troops in pursuit of "hostile Apaches depredating on both sides of the national border." Several telegrams also discuss governmental actions toward the Creek Indians (April 9, 1883; May 26, 1883).

Subject Terms

    • Apache Indians.
    • Atlanta Campaign, 1864.
    • Creek Indians.
    • Sherman's March to the Sea.
    • United States. Army.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Mitchel, O. M. (Ormsby MacKnight), 1809-1862.
    • Sherman, Ellen Ewing, 1824-1888.
    • Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Telegrams.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence,  1813-1888 and  undated [series]
    Telegram Book,  1882-1884 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The James S. Schoff Civil War Letters and Documents collection contains letters by Sherman for the following dates:

    • November 1, 1862
    • January 5, 1863
    • February 21, 1864
    • April 2, 1864
    • April 4, 1864
    • April 23, 1864
    • May 10, 1864
    • May 15, 1864
    • May 16, 1864
    • May 20, 1864
    • May 28, 1864
    • June 3, 1864
    • June 21, 1864
    • June 22, 1864
    • July 17, 1864
    • July 20, 1864
    • September 28, 1864
    • October 2, 1864
    • October 21, 1864
    • March 20, 1865
    • April 21, 1865 (2 letters)
    • April 27, 1865
    • May 6, 1865
    • January 2, 1866
    • November 25, 1870
    • May 30, 1883

    Marszalek, John F. "Sherman, William Tecumseh" in American National Biography Online. Accessed March 18, 2011.