June 7, 1865 - Maj. Gen. William Tecumsuh Sherman speaks at graduation

Major General William Tecumseh Sherman is most known for this Civil War victories. In the last year of the war, Sherman was very busy but very victorious. On November 14, 1864, Sherman began his march on Atlanta and destroyed everything on a 60-mile wide "March to the Sea." After capturing Savannah on December 23, 1864, Sherman continued north. In April 1865, General Sherman received General Joseph E. Johnston's surrender near Durham, North Carolina. A few days later, Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. With the war over, Sherman returned home to South Bend and would speak at the Class of 1865's commencement ceremonies. While there had been specific speakers at the earlier ceremonies, Sherman was the first speaker with a national reputation.

William Tecumseh Sherman grew up in Ohio and was agnostic, but his wife Ellie was a devoted Catholic and a cousin of Mother Angela. During the war, Mother Angela and others of the Sisters of Holy Cross ran sea hospitals along the Mississippi. Mother Angela worked near Memphis and treated Sherman's wounded soldiers. When Notre Dame was sending priests to join the war effort, Ellie helped facilitate Father Joseph Carrier being sent to Grant's army near Vicksburg. Ellie sent their first born son, Willy, to Notre Dame as a minim and their daughter Minnie to St. Mary's. Sadly, Willy would die while visiting his father in Memphis in October 1863.

In September 1864, Ellie moved their entire family to South Bend and continued to develop the family's relationship with Mother Angela and Father Sorin. The Shermans had strong ties to the leaders of both Notre Dame and St. Mary's. Mother Angela was so influential that Angela Boulevard is named after her [Editor's note: in the future we will be doing a history of South Bend streets as Father Sorin had a strong hand in the layout and naming of many of the streets just south of campus]. Once in South Bend, Ellie sent her next son Tommy to the minim program.

Once General Sherman returned to South Bend, he was moved to tears hearing the stories about his son Willy in the minim program. Sherman had blamed himself for his son's death and it drove him nearly mad. He promised the boys at Notre Dame that they would always be dear to him. While Sherman mostly showed his gratitude for how well his family was treated, he did part advice to the young men saying to "be ready at all times to perform bravely the battle of life."

In 1959, Sherman's granddaughter Eleanor Sherman Fitch, gave all of the family's papers to Notre Dame and created the William T. Sherman Family Papers Archive. It is a wealth of knowledge, containing microfilm of letters written between the family and many pictures. Sherman's graduation address is also available in the book, Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses.

Keywords: graduation, general sherman, civil war, commencement, mother angela, minim, father sorin, st marys, general grant, robert e lee

Posted On: 2012-06-07 05:16:19 by IrishTrpt07
Edited On: 2012-06-07 08:12:20 by IrishTrpt07


      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: John Clark at 2012-06-07 07:56:32[#1]
Really cool post!
Reply To

   Post New Comment

Name: *

Comment: *

Reload Image

Enter Captcha (case sensitive):