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HomeTravelOhio's Sherman House Museum displays humanity, artistry of fearsome Civil War general

Ohio’s Sherman House Museum displays humanity, artistry of fearsome Civil War general

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman lives on as a larger-than-life figure in the oft-told annals of American military history

The most intimate and unknown details of the man behind the legend are uncovered at the Sherman House Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.

It opens for the season today, Wednesday, April 10. 

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“Sometimes we turn these heroes, like we’ve done with George Washington, almost into gods. I think that does a disservice to them,” Michael Johnson, director of the Sherman House Museum, told Fox News Digital.

“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.”

William T. Sherman birthplace

Gen. 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)

Sherman was born in the home in 1820 and lived there until his father died when the future West Point cadet and U.S. Army legend, one of 11 children, was just 9 years old.

The general has long been remembered as a fearsome military commander, which included a notorious reputation in the American south. 

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But the legend of the warrior overshadows the thoughtful artist discovered at the Sherman House Museum: patron of the theater, Renaissance man and beloved old commander called “Uncle Billy” by his men long after the war.

The museum displays a copy of Sherman’s brilliant illustration, “Death of Centaur,” which he drew while a cadet at the United States Military Academy. 

Gen. William T. Sherman

General William Tecumseh Sherman on horseback during the American Civil War, circa 1864.  (Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

The original still hangs at West Point today.

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

“Artistry ran through the Sherman family. He loved the theater and he loved the arts.”

The museum displays needlepoint by the soldier’s mother, Mary Hoyt Sherman, and four chairs carved with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. 

Sherman had the chairs made after the war when he lived in New York City, where he became a prominent supporter of its famous theater scene.

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)

Among other little-known contributions to American history: Sherman, while living in New York, personally selected Bedloe’s Island, now Liberty Island — a short ferry ride from Ellis Island — as the location to place the Statue of Liberty, gifted by the people of France.

The life of the man known at the Sherman House Museum contrasts sharply with the fearsome wartime leader.

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Sherman led the Union force that overran and burned the little crossroads city of Atlanta to the ground in November 1864. 

It was a cultural watershed event in American history. Among other things, the burning of Atlanta inspired the beloved Civil War fictional epic “Gone With the Wind.”

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)

He then led his troops on a conquest of Georgia all the way to Savannah. It’s gone down in history as Gen. Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea.” 

It’s considered a harbinger of the “total war” to follow in the 20th century. 

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American GIs in World War II marched to victory across Europe and Asia supported by some 50,000 Sherman tanks, adding to the legend of his name.

Sherman lived a fascinating life before the Civil War, too, said Johnson.

William T. Sherman birthplace

Wiliam T. Sherman was born in 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio. His birthplace is now the Sherman House Museum. (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital; Apic/Bridgeman via Getty Images)

He graduated from West Point in 1840 and retired from the Army for the first time in 1853.

In 1859, the man later notorious for ravaging the South took a job as the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy. 

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He returned to service for the Union when Louisiana seceded from the Union in January 1861. 

The southern institution the Ohio native helped establish is known today as Louisiana State University.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

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