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William Tecumseh Sherman’s Civil War Uniform: a treasure returns

An important part of the Sherman Thackara Collection has been returned to Falvey Memorial Library from a long term loan to the Civil War Museum. General William Tecumseh Sherman’s U.S. Civil War frock coat had been reunited with the papers, photographs, and other items donated by the Sherman Thackara family, making this a unified collection once again. This specific coat was worn during the period when Sherman was a major general. Sherman was promoted to this rank officially on August 12, 1864, but it was likely he wore the uniform much earlier from 1862 when he was promoted to Major General of Volunteers just after Shiloh, so this coat was likely worn during the fateful Georgia Campaign and the subsequent Union army “March to the Sea”. One can almost smell the whiff of burning Atlanta!

Frock Coat

The physical coat is on prominent display on the 2nd floor of Falvey Memorial Library in the climate controlled and secure Special Collections Rare Book Room which houses other treasures of the University. A digital surrogate can be viewed online as part of the Digital Library’s Sherman Thackara Collection which documents Sherman’s family especially his favorite daughter Elly Sherman Thackara and her husband Alexander Thackara.

As can been seen in this photograph of the coat, the army’s regulations stipulated an organization of buttons to designate the rank of general officers. The buttons on a major general’s frock coat, like Sherman’s, were grouped in three sets of three; those on a brigadier general’s coat were arranged in four sets of two. This helps us date the garment to a specific date range.

Here is a detailed photograph of the buttons from the Sherman coat, which were specific to the General Staff, and worn on Union general’s coats:

General Staff buttons

Two period photographs from the Library of Congress’s Civil War Photograph Collection showing Sherman wearing his Major General’s coat follow:

Sherman on Horseback

Sherman leaning on cannon

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4 Comments »

  1. Comment by Weather Stations For Home — March 25, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

    That U.S. Civil War frock coat is over a hundred years old, though the one who wore it was not so prominent, I think the coat should be stored or shown off in some sort of protective case. What kind of preservation is being done?

  2. Comment by Martin — September 23, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

    What an amazing find and it’s great to see the photos showing the coat actually being worn. It looks to be in amazing condition as well.

  3. Comment by Jeff Beisker — May 5, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

    I am so proud to see this item is back where it belongs. I am adecendent of the General’s, he was a great man and understood what war was. “HELL” It should be to make anyone think twice before going to conduct it. He was very black and white, you knew what you got when you had him. It is amazing to me that it is alot like I am. May we all live a life as he did and understand that was a man we were lucky to have……

  4. Comment by Civil War Emporium — October 26, 2012 @ 6:29 am

    Wow! Now that is history. Is there anything telling about the history of the coat being displayed with the coat?

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Last Modified: October 19, 2009