Confidence and Gen. W. T. Sherman

I usually find historical figures interesting, but I have to admit that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman has not been at the top of my list of people to learn more about. He probably should have been, as it appears he and the protagonist in my novel have much in common.

An article over at Forbes.com takes a deeper look at a man who suffered from a lack of self-confidence, but learned over time to trust himself.

And so it has gone for General William Tecumseh Sherman, known as the “destroyer of the south,” the heartless monster who cut a path from the Mississipi to coast during American Civil War and gave the conquered city of Savannah to Lincoln as a Christmas present. This obscures who he really was: not just a unparalleled grand strategist who managed to cut short a potentially endless civil war, but a thoughtful, loyal and humble man who throughout the course of the war went from an uncertain and occasionally unstable soldier to a confident, inspiring leader. A man who, with distance, some historians have even become to go as far as to call “magnanimous.”

The article goes on to list eight lessons from Sherman’s own words. I recommend you read the entire article, but here are some highlights:

On thinking

“Never give reasons for what you think or do until you must. Maybe, after a while, a better reason will pop into your head.”

On being wrong

[Sherman initially opposed the battle plans for Vicksburg which resulted in a critical Union victory:] “Grant is entitled to every bit of credit for the campaign. I opposed it. I wrote him a letter about it.” Years later when Sherman heard that Grant had destroyed his copy of the letter, he made sure to send him a new one so his mistake would be included in Grant’s memoirs.

On arguing/fighting

“You remember what Polonius said to his son Laertes (in Hamlet): ‘Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in, bear it, that the opposed be aware of thee.’”

As I said, I don’t know much about General Sherman, but I think I may have to find out. It’s been awhile since I read a good biography. Perhaps it’s time.