Unveiling the Man Behind the Myth: Meet the Unexpected William Tecumseh Sherman


General William Tecumseh Sherman, a towering figure in American military history, is the subject of much folklore and legend. But the intimate details of the human behind the icon are brought to light at the Sherman House Museum in Lancaster, Ohio, which opens for the season today, Wednesday, April 10.

William T. Sherman birthplace

General William T. Sherman was born in this home in Lancaster, Ohio on Feb. 8, 1820. It’s now the Sherman House Museum and opens for the season this year on April 10, 2024.

 (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

Beneath the Myth, an Extraordinary Artist

Sherman, born in 1820, resided in the Lancaster home until his father’s passing when he was just nine years old. The general, known for his military prowess, notably in the American South, displayed a lesser-known side at the Sherman House Museum.

Behind the legend of the warrior lies a thoughtful artist patronizing the theater and embracing Renaissance pursuits. His moniker “Uncle Billy,” bestowed by his troops, speaks to the affection he inspired even after the war.

Michael Johnson, Sherman House Museum director, emphasizes the significance of presenting these multifaceted historical figures.

“Sometimes we turn these heroes, like we’ve done with George Washington, almost into gods. I think that does a disservice to them.”

“I think it needs to be presented that these were ordinary people who did extraordinary things when the moment came, and that’s what set them apart.”

Artistic Expressions and Literary Influences

The museum houses a replica of Sherman’s remarkable illustration, “Death of Centaur,” an original that hangs at West Point Military Academy today.

Death of a Centaur

“‘Death of a Centaur,’ an illustration by West Point cadet William Tecumseh Sherman. The original drawing by the future general hangs at the U.S. Military Academy and a copy is found at the Sherman House Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.”

 (Michael Johnson/Sherman House Museum photo of authorized copy from USMA at West Point)

“Artistry ran through the Sherman family,” Johnson notes. “He loved the theater and he loved the arts. He finished top of his class at West Point in art.”

Needlepoint by Sherman’s mother, Mary Hoyt Sherman, and chairs carved with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays adorn the museum.

General Sherman chair

“General William T. Sherman was a gifted artist who supported theater. Chairs at the Sherman House Museum in Lancaster, Ohio, include depictions of Shakespearean drama the general had made after the Civil War. This chair offers a scene from ‘”Macbeth.”‘”

 (Michael Johnson/Sherman House Museum)

These chairs were commissioned by Sherman after the war during his time in New York City, where he became a prominent supporter of the city’s renowned theater scene.

Another intriguing fact: while residing in New York, Sherman personally selected Bedloe’s Island, now known as Liberty Island, as the site for the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France.

A Life of Contrasts

The life unfolded at the Sherman House Museum stands in stark contrast to Sherman’s fearsome wartime reputation.

Sherman orchestrated the Union force that conquered and burned Atlanta in 1864, a watershed event in American history that inspired “Gone With the Wind.”

Subsequently, he led his troops on the devastating “March to the Sea,” a campaign that has influenced modern warfare strategies.

American GIs in World War II marched to victory supported by Sherman tanks, further cementing the legacy of his name.

Rediscovering the Man Beyond the Legend

Sherman’s life was equally captivating before the Civil War, according to Johnson.

After graduating from West Point in 1840, he initially retired from the Army in 1853.

In 1859, the future Southern scourge accepted a position as the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.

He resumed service for the Union after Louisiana’s secession and ironically, the institution he helped establish is now Louisiana State University.