Sherman on His Saddle – His One “Honest Relic” of the March to the Sea
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“Yesterday the Hon. S. B Bowman called … asking the loan of “the sword or sabre I wore” during the famous March to the Sea … I explained to Mr Bowman that the truth was I did not have a sword or sabre during that march, nor at any time after I succeeded General Grant in the command of the Western Armies at Nashville March 1864.” WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN.
Autograph Letter Signed, to Colonel Herbert E. Hill. Washington, D.C., December 6, 1881. 4 pp., 5 x 7¾ in. On “Headquarters Army of the United States” stationery. Laid onto a larger sheet of paper.
Headquarters Army of the United States,
Washington, D.C. Dec 6 1881
Col. Herbert E. Hill
My dear sir,
Yesterday the Hon. S. B Bowman called with your letter of Novr 29, asking the loan of “the sword or sabre I wore” during the famous March to the Sea for exhibition at the Fair in the interest of a Soldiers Home to be held at Boston <2> December 7, inst &c &c.
I explained to Mr Bowman that the truth was I did not have a sword or sabre during that march, nor at any time after I succeeded General Grant in the command of the Western Armies at Nashville March 1864. The only honest Relic I possess of that march is my saddle, a Grimsley, which I value for its real goodness. I use it now when I have occasion to mount a horse <3> Still for the purpose you name, to please “several thousand old soldiers” I have sent it to you by Adams & Co Express, and hereby certify that I actually used that saddle during the war from about July 1862 till the end. I rode that identical saddle from Corinth Miss to Chattanooga, to Atlanta, and to Washington.
I have several swords here dress swords never used in war, and I also possess in some old chest at St Louis swords worn by me as Col, Brig Gen <4> and Maj Genl, but I reiterate that I did not wear any sword at all during the march to the sea, only occasionally an old black belt, long since thrown or given away.
When you are done with my saddle, please send it back to me No 817, 15th St. Washington DC, as I have confidence in this saddle and propose to use it as long as I am able to ride.
Wishing you all success in your laudable & noble enterprise
Your friend and Servant
Thornton Grimsley of St. Louis, Missouri, manufactured saddles from the early 1830s. In 1846, he received a government contract to manufacture saddles for the mounted forces of the United States, and his pattern was officially adopted by the army in 1847. Although it appeared similar to its predecessor, the Ringgold, the Grimsley saddle’s tree was lighter and covered in rawhide and the seat was stuffed with deer hair under the quilting. It had a high pommel and cantle. The United States cavalry and officers of all branches used the Grimsley saddle until the adoption of the 1859 McClellan saddle. However, officers of both the United States and Confederate forces still rode Grimsley saddles throughout the Civil War.
Most likely, the saddle to which Sherman refers is the one donated to the United States National Museum in 1919 by his family. From the Smithsonian Institution, Report on the Progress and Condition of the United States National Museum for the Year Ending June 30, 1919 (GPO, 1920): “From Miss Mary E Thackera [presumably granddaughter], Mrs. Eleanor Sherman Thackara Cauldwell [daughter], through Mr. P. T. Sherman [son, Philmon Tecumseh], New York City, were received as a gift, a saddle, bridle, pair of holsters, and blanket roll, owned by Gen. William T. Sherman, United States Army, during and subsequent to the Civil War.”
William T. Sherman (1820-1891), a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, served as a corps commander under General Grant in successful campaigns down the Mississippi and in Tennessee. He then took command of the western armies when Grant was reassigned to the Virginia theatre. He was both recognized and criticized for his tactics of “scorched earth” and “total war,” evidenced by his capture of Atlanta and “March to the Sea” through Georgia. He followed this feat by a swift campaign north through the Carolinas to force the surrender of the last major Confederate army. Sherman served as Commanding General of the U.S. Army from 1869-1883, during a period of Westward expansion and Indian Wars.