This article is an excerpt from the book “The Top 20 Best – and Worst – Generals of the Civil War”, by Robert C. Jones. It is used by permission.
William Tecumseh Sherman, like his colleague Ulysses S. Grant, showed no indication in his pre-Civil War career that he would one day become the second ranking general in the Union during the Civil War, and go on to be Commanding General of the United States Army for fifteen years after the Civil War. After resigning from the army in 1853, Sherman had several jobs, including bank manager, lawyer, superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy and president of a St. Louis streetcar company. While his civilian career was probably more successful than Grant’s, it was relatively uninspiring.
Sherman’s first great battle in the Civil War was at Shiloh. The Union forces were taken by surprise on the first day at the Battle of Shiloh, but Sherman recovered enough from the initial attack to lead an organized retreat. At the end of the first day, Sherman had one of the most famous exchanges of the War with a cigar-puffing Grant about the day’s battle:

Sherman: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”
Grant: “Yes. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

Sherman was an integral part of the counterattack the next day, April 7, 1862, which led to a Union victory at Shiloh.