Cump Sherman Finds His Way
Cobblestone American History Magazine for Kids|January 2018

Of the 11 children in the Sherman family, red-haired Cump was the studious one. He read books and studied mathematics and Latin, while his younger brother John got into fistfights.

Heather Cox Richardson

No one could have imagined that Cump would grow up to become famous as a fighter and a soldier. Yet, although William Tecumseh “Cump” Sherman is best remembered for his military role in the Civil War (1861– 1865), he was a thinker, too. He fought for the country because he cared deeply about the promise of the American nation.

Cump was born on February 8, 1820. His father, a well-known lawyer and judge on the Ohio frontier, died nine years later. His mother could not take care of her children alone, so Cump went to live with family friends. His foster father, Thomas Ewing Sr., was a prominent politician. He introduced Cump to congressmen, senators, cabinet officials, and even presidents. He also pulled some strings and got his teenaged foster son an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. Cump hoped to become an officer in the U.S. Army.

As a child, Cump had watched his father and his foster father manage the country’s affairs through law and politics. As a cadet at West Point, he learned how to serve the country through military service. He was an excellent student. He didn’t care much about how neatly he dressed or how well he behaved, however. In a school based on obeying rules, that approach got him into trouble. Yet, he managed to graduate close to the top of his class in 1840.

Sherman was assigned to fight in the Second Seminole War. It was a long, bloody effort to force Native Americans out of Florida. When it ended in 1842, he stayed in the South. He was stationed in Georgia and South Carolina. His connection to his famous foster father made him welcome in the homes of the nation’s wealthiest families.

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