William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant are now known as the heroes who won the war for the sake of the Union. Sherman’s March to the Sea is regarded as the deathblow to the Confederacy, and Grant’s overall command of the Union forces would ultimately lead to the war to a decisive finish. However, neither were particularly liked or trusted going into the conflict. Grant was known to be a heavy drinker, and his early career was plagued with issues of drunkenness on off days, when he had little to do between fights. Sherman was even less liked.
In October 1861, Sherman, then commander of Union forces in Kentucky, told U.S. Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, he needed 60,000 men to defend his territory and 200,000 to go on the offensive (the Union army at this time across the country was less than 200,000 total). Cameron called Sherman’s request ‘insane’ and removed the general from command.
In a letter to his brother, a devastated Sherman wrote, “I do think I should have committed suicide were it not for my children. I do not think that I can again be trusted with command.” But in February 1862, Sherman was reassigned to Ulysses S. Grant, who saw not insanity but competence in the disgraced leader. Later in the war, when a civilian badmouthed Grant, Sherman defended his friend, saying, “General Grant is a great general. He stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always.”