Gen. William T. Sherman at Notre Dame

Sherman Wm

One of the most famous generals of the Civil War was intimately connected to Notre Dame. Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman sent his children to Notre Dame and St. Mary’s during the war, while his wife Ellen lived in South Bend. The Shermans’ oldest son, nine-year old Willy, was enrolled in the Minim department but took ill visiting his father at camp after the Battle of Vicksburg. He died of “camp fever” in October 1863. Tragically, the Shermans buried another son, 10-month old Charley, at Cedar Grove Cemetery on campus the following year. Fr. Sorin performed the rites of infant burial. (The casket was later exhumed and moved to the family plot in St. Louis.)

Both Gen. Sherman and Ellen played key roles in providing an exemption from the Conscription Act of 1863 for Holy Cross brothers. Months after the war’s end, the general returned to South Bend to gather his family. He attended commencement exercises on June 7, 1865, and gave a largely extemporaneous commencement address in which he advised the graduates, “Life is only another kind of battle and it requires as good a generalship to conduct it to a successful end as it did to conquer a city, or to march through Georgia.“