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Reconstruction

Reconstruction

William T. Sherman in Reconstruction

William T. Sherman (1820-1891) was a Union general in the American Civil War and one of the greatest of the Civil War generals. His middle name was Tecumseh, for the famous Shawnee chief.

Prior to the Civil War, Sherman fought the Seminole Indians in Florida and spent the Mexican-American War years stationed out in California on an administrative post. After a failed attempt at becoming a gold rush banker, he returned to the Army when the Civil War began, and by March 1864, he was supreme commander in the West. After his force of 60,000 took Atlanta in September, Sherman began his infamous March to the Sea, leaving a wide swath of burned land and destroyed railroad lines behind him. He and his men wreaked even more devastation in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union; in 1865, he issued Field Order 15, which gave black families 40 acres of confiscated South Carolina land to farm as their own, in addition to one of the old requisition mules from the Army. President Johnson rescinded that order a few months later, but the legend of "40 acres and a mule" survived long after in the betrayed hopes and long memories of black families.

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