He had come to Columbus many times over a long career. Now, in winter 1891, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was returning to the city for the last time.
Born in 1820 in Lancaster, Sherman had received his middle name from a Shawnee warrior who had led a long struggle to keep his homeland free.
The young Sherman faced difficulties of his own. Sherman's father died when he was young. His mother, faced with little money and a large family, placed young Sherman with the next-door neighbors.
Those neighbors were Sen. Thomas Ewing and his family. Ewing was what then was referred to as "a gentleman of property and standing," aka a good man to know. Young Sherman came to know him quite well, and in time, he married the senator's daughter.
After a quiet upbringing in central Ohio, Sherman attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and received a commission as an officer in the U.S. Army. Tiring of military service in a small peacetime army, Sherman tried his hand at a number of business ventures and for a time was the superintendent of the military school that eventually became Louisiana State University.
Through all these years, Sherman continued to seek the place and vocation that suited him best. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, he found it.
Rising in rank through action in the western theater of the war, Sherman became a trusted confidant of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Grant's successes in the west eventually would lead him to command in the east. He left his western command in the hands of a number of his trusted subordinates. First among them was Sherman.
While Grant moved south to engage the army of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Sherman began a campaign against the heart of the Confederacy. Moving south from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Sherman took Atlanta and then undertook his famous March to the Sea, which laid waste to much of the state.
Sherman was a master strategist and realized that a campaign attacking the totality of an enemy's ability to wage war would effectively defeat his opponents. It would come to be called "total war," and Sherman was one of its earliest practitioners.
After the war, Grant would become president and would name Sherman to supreme command of the Army. As its commander, Sherman supervised the campaign to end conflict in the settlement of the west. Successful in those endeavors, Sherman retired in 1883 and lived with his family in New York.
With family and friends in central Ohio, he returned to Columbus on several occasions. In April 1880, he addressed more than 10,000 assembled veterans at a reunion in what is now Franklin Park. There he remarked, "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell." It would become a famous remark of a man called "Uncle Billy" by the men he led.
On Feb. 14, 1891, Sherman died of pneumonia in New York at age 70. A funeral train bore him to a family cemetery in St. Louis. The train arrived in Columbus on Feb. 20, 1891, and stopped in the city for the night. Gov. James Campbell closed all state offices for the day and joined former President Rutherford B. Hayes at Union Station, where the Greater Columbus Convention Center now stands.
They were met by what was probably the largest crowd to gather there since the Lincoln funeral train had passed through in 1865. A local paper described the scene:
"The tracks were lined with men and boys. East of the depot the tracks were also lined with spectators. Fortunately, the weather cleared up so the people could go outside of the depot, or the jam inside would have been very great.
"When the train entered the depot there were no cheers or demonstration of any kind, except there was a general movement on the part of the large crowd to get nearer to the train, especially the combination car, in which was the coffin containing the remains of the dead hero.
"The side doors of the funeral car were open and there was soon an immense jam around it, the people being anxious to see the inside of the car. The casket was in full view, being parallel with the sides of the car. It was covered with flags and flowers. ...
"After some effort, the police succeeded in controlling the crowd about the car. A double line of police was formed and the crowd marched two abreast through the file past the car door and then on out the end of the depot. ...
"The engine attached to the train was artistically draped with flags and flowers. ... After a wait of forty-five minutes, the funeral train proceeded westward to Indianapolis via Urbana and Piqua."
At stops along the way and simply by the railroad tracks, veterans and admirers of the general waited to say goodbye.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.