February 8 —
Today in 1820 is the birthday of one of the most famous figures of the American Civil War, on the Union side of the line, next to the President himself. His father died when he was 9, leaving a widow with eleven children, and no inheritance and no estate to raise them with. In desperation, our boy is sent to live with a family friend and, attorney Thomas Ewing, himself a prominent member of the Whig Party who had served as senator from Ohio and as the first Secretary of the Interior. Senator Ewing secured an appointment at West Point for his ward when he turned sixteen, where he was remembered as a bright and likeable fellow, who had a disregard for the merit system that would result in his dropping in overall ranking from four to six. After he reached adulthood, he would eventually marry one of Ewing’s daughter’s. He entered the Old Army as a second lieutenant and enjoyed a very prosperous and steady rise in rank and reputation. He served in the Second Seminole War and performed at a desk job during the Mexican War. He served in California as an able administrator but later resigned his commission in 1853 when he was denied a combat assignment. He would soon get his fill of combat in the war that was coming. After a short period of civilian life, In 1859, he accepted a job as the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy in Pineville, he was drawn back into the military at the outbreak of hostilities. He quickly developed a reputation as an irascible leader who was prone to bouts of anxiety and depression, moderated by a fiery temper to match his short, bristling red hair. His leadership style caught the eye of the President, who promoted him to Brigadier General of Volunteers, a rank that brought him seniority over another future star, Ulysses S. Grant, his future commander. Eventually the stars would align to bring these two men, Ulysses S. Grant and his favorite subordinate, William Tecumseh Sherman to prominence as the saviours of the Northern Army. The South would have a different opinion of these two men.
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Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com