William Tecumseh Sherman

  • Sculptor: Augustus Saint Gaudens
  • Pedestal: Charles McKim
  • Dedicated: 1903
  • Medium and size: Gilt bronze (15 feet), granite pedestal (about 9 feet)
  • Location: Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue at 59th St.
  • Subway: N, R, W to Fifth Avenue - 59th St.

Sherman

Knox on Sherman

Thomas Knox made it clear from the beginning of his article on the failed attempt to capture the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburgh that he was annoyed with Sherman and saw no reason to keep military actions secret. Here are the opening paragraphs of his report, as published in the New York Times in January 1863:

I wrote you on the 25th an account of our adventures from Helena to Milliken’s Bend; and again on the 29th wrote you, giving full details of our late battles, together with maps, diagrams, &c., of the battle-ground and surroundings. I knew then, when mailing the letters, that I was among suspicious characters, and for that reason inclosed the letters in other envelopes, sealed them up, put on the proper number of stamps and addressed them to private parties in Cairo, with a request to remail them. I did not suppose at the time that offices here were under charge of gentlemen, who would descend to the small business of robbing mails and opening private letters; but in this my conclusions appear to have been incorrect. All the communications to newspapers have, whether addressed directly or to private parties in the North, been opened, their contents read and the letters retained.

It may be remarked here that had the Commanding General, W.T. Sherman, and his staff, spent half the time and enterprise in the legitimate operations of their present undertaking, that they have in bullying correspondents, overhauling mail-bags and prying into private correspondence, the country would not now have the shame of knowing that we have lately experienced one of the greatest and most disgraceful defeats of the war.

It will, however, scarcely be expected that men whose forte lies in sneaking into the private affairs of other parties - in ransacking mail-bags, tearing open envelopes and reading private correspondence, are calculated to carry out successfully an operation so gigantic as the reduction of Vicksburgh. -- Thomas Knox, “The Vicksburgh Failure: A Full History of the Last Attempt to Capture the Rebel Stronghold,” dated Up the Yazoo [!], January 1, 1863; special report to the New York Times, published 1/19/1863 

Sherman on Journalists

In his Memoirs, published in 1886, Sherman wrote:

Newspaper correspondents with an army, as a rule, are mischievous. They are the world's gossips, pick up and retail the camp scandal, and gradually drift to the headquarters of some general, who finds it easier to make reputation at home than with his own corps or division. They are also tempted to prophesy events and state facts which, to an enemy, reveal a purpose in time to guard against it. Moreover, they are always bound to see facts colored by the partisan or political character of their own patrons .... Yet, so greedy are the people at large for war news, that it is doubtful whether any army commander can exclude all reporters, without bringing down on himself a clamor that may imperil his own safety. Time and moderation must bring a just solution to this modern difficulty. –William T. Sherman, Memoirs (1886) 

Saint Gaudens on Keeping One’s Perspective

Saint Gaudens, in failing health, was supervising his assistants as they worked on the Sherman statue. This account of his comments to them is a great illustration of the importance to artists of selectivity and a sense of perspective.

“I am going to invent a machine to make you all good sculptors.”

The stillness promptly became uneasy.

“It will have hooks for the back of your necks, and strong springs.”

The stillness grew even more uneasy.

“Every 30-seconds it will jerk you fifty feet away from your work, and hold you there for five minutes’ contemplation.” -- Recorded in Homer Saint Gaudens, Reminiscences of Augustus Saint Gaudens, 1913

Augustus Saint Gaudens

Saint Gaudens (1848-1907) is arguably the greatest sculptor America has produced. Born in Dublin, he was brought to New York City as an infant. He worked as a cameo-cutter while studying art at Cooper Union, then studied for several years in Paris. Farragut, 1881, was his first major commission. Other significant works include the Puritan, 1886 (Springfield, Mass.); the Standing Lincoln, 1887 (Chicago); the Adams Memorial, 1891 (Washington), and the Shaw Memorial, 1897 (Boston).

Aside from Farragut, Manhattan has Cooper and Sherman, 1903. The Metropolitan Museum's American Wing has several of his works, including Diana, 1894 (a copy of the weathervane from Madison Square Tower). Staten Island has Richard Randall, 1884, at Snug Harbor, and Brooklyn has the David Stewart Memorial, 1883, in the Green-Wood Cemetery. At Theodore Roosevelt's invitation, Saint Gaudens designed the famous "Walking Liberty" ten-dollar gold piece in 1906.

 For more on Saint Gaudens, see “Artist-Entrepreneurs: Saint Gaudens, MacMonnies, and Parrish,” available as a taped lecture from the Ayn Rand Bookstore

At the Dedication of Sherman

The principal speaker at the dedication of Sherman in 1903 was Secretary of War Elihu Root. He said, in part:

Rarely, as the centuries pass, some great National crisis, with the inspiration of struggle and the test of requirements beyond the capaticy of common men, sifts the material of a nation, and reveals a man equal to the occasion, whose deeds link his name forever with the decisive events which determine the world's progress, render his existence a fact of historical significance, and make what he was a part of the commeon and familiar knowledge of mankind. Such a crisis was the American war of the Union. Such a man was William Tecumseh Sherman ...

The part that Sherman played in the great struggle was not merely courageous, loyal, devoted, brilliant. It was essentially decisive. Erase it from the pages of history, and no human mind can divine how the blanks would have filled .... --Secretary of War Elihu Root, quoted in the New York Times 5/31/1903

Cross References

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art has one of the small-scale replicas of Sherman’s Victory, usually on display in the American Wing Courtyard. Go see it in gilt without pigeons.
  • Sherman was originally intended for a spot at the south end of the Mall. With John Quincy Adams Ward as president, the National Sculpture Society acknowledged the quality of Saint Gaudens's work but that it was not in keeping with the mood of the park. Saint Gaudens collaborated on finding a new site.
  • On the Civil War, see also Lincoln and Greeley.
  • See Lincoln for a comparison of Henry Kirke Brown’s portrait of Lincoln with Saint Gaudens’s standing Lincoln in Chicago.
  • John Lewis’s Nothing Less Than Victory has an excellent chapter on Sherman.
  • Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan has more on the details of the sculpture and on the historical context of Sherman's dispute with Knox.

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante