William T. Sherman

William T. Sherman in Battle! Oil on Canvas Portrait

William T. Sherman in Battle! Oil on Canvas Portrait


Oil on canvas portrait of acclaimed Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891). The painting depicts the military commander gesturing while seated astride a chestnut horse. Signed "Grell" and dated "1893" in the lower right corner. Displayed within a period gilt frame decorated in floral and foliate relief. Both the canvas and the frame are in near fine condition with expected minor wear including isolated craquelure and frame checking.


An anonymous artist named Grell, probably of Northern heritage and pro-Union sympathies, executed this folk portrait of Sherman two years after the scrappy general's death from pneumonia in 1891. The painting depicts Sherman in mid-battle, as indicated by his upraised right arm urging on his troops, by the visible straining of his horse, and by the palisade in the lower left background. While the artist shows considerable skill in his treatment of the sky and landscape, the awkwardness of the body, especially in its foreshortening, indicates it was the work of an amateur.


This painting was no doubt inspired by turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the Civil War and its commanders. In 1893, William T. Sherman was just the latest famous Civil War celebrity to die. Robert E. Lee had died in 1870, John Bell Hood in 1879, U.S. Grant and George B. McClellan in 1885, Winfield Scott Hancock in 1886... A generation of war veterans was dying, and this artist wanted to commemorate their service.


Sherman graduated from West Point in 1840, and his first military experience was as an officer in the Second Seminole War. He did not fight in the Mexican-American War, instead serving in the California territory. Sherman then tried his hand at banking, running a street car company, and superintending a military academy. He reenlisted during the Civil War where he proved himself an able and popular military commander as well as an expert strategist.


His most lasting legacy, however, is Sherman's March to the Sea. This westward march of Union troops from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia between September-December 1864 delivered the death blow to the Confederacy. Sherman and his troops practiced total war against Confederate civilians, causing an estimated $100 million worth of property damage. While his use of scorched earth policy might have seemed extreme, it almost certainly guaranteed Abraham Lincoln's 1864 reelection.



Item: 64736

Price: $1,500.00
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William T. Sherman
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