The Union of Sherman and Grant

Sherman’s first name was Tecumseh, really, after the Shawnee chief, but a priest tacked on William, after the Saint of Vercelli, on account of him needing a Christian name in order to be baptized, and it being the day of the Feast of Saint William. Grant’s real first name was Hiram and his middle Ulysses. It was a clerical error when they enrolled him at West Point, and they wouldn’t let him change back, so his middle name became his first and he somehow gained the initial S. It didn’t stand for shit. They were both sort of failures before the war. Sherman a job jumper, and Grant an alcoholic forced to resign from the army. The Civil War seemed to create them. They were kindred in their memories’ miseries. They kind of seemed queer for each other. They’d hugged happily when they met. Sherman the older, sensitive to his general’s feelings. It was the sensitivity that won the war. The Confederates were thumping the Union at Shiloh. Grant was wounded when Sherman went to advise retreat. We’ve had the devil’s day of it, Sherman Said. Lick ’em tomorrow though, said the General. Sherman knew it’d destroy Grant to say the truth. He kept quiet. The next day the Union rallied. Killed nearly 2,000 with their pummeling guns. The Union lost nearly the same number of men, but was dubbed victorious. Later the Confederate George Washington Cable wrote, “The South never smiled after Shiloh.” It’s imagined they embraced at that battle’s finale. Their graying beards grazing as others carted away the dead.

Brian Allen Carr lives near the Texas/Mexico border. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Boulevard, Texas Review, Keyhole Magazine and other publications. “The Union of Sherman and Grant” is his first historical essay.