NRA Blog writes [via ammoland.com, our man Metesh’s video above]

Sometimes a handgun can impart the resonances of a bygone era, giving a hands-on impression of the past. In the NRA National Firearms Museum collection are many such historical pieces, but only one can connect us to a man who blazed through the American South.

William Tecumseh Sherman hailed from Lancaster, Ohio, and his four years at the United States Military Academy at West Point were marked with an annual accumulation of about 150 demerits each year. Despite this, Sherman became an officer assigned to the 3rd U.S. Artillery and served in the Second Seminole War.

At the end of the Mexican War, Sherman was in the West, serving in California and later assisting in the Gold Rush surveying for what would become the capitol of Sacramento. Life in the West suited the now-married Sherman, and as a captain, he resigned his commission to serve as a bank manager — but also as a major general of the California militia.

He left California for the Midwest, trying his best to become a lawyer in Kansas, but abandoned that effort to be the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy.

In 1861, states were seceding from the Union, and Sherman was placed in the less-honorable position of accepting the receipt of arms surrendered by the Baton Rouge Arsenal to the Louisiana State Militia. It didn’t sit well with him, and he departed for Washington D.C. to return to the military world once more.

As colonel of the 13th U.S. Infantry, he served at First Bull Run in charge of a unit filled with three-month volunteers. Sherman continued to climb the Army’s ranks, finally fulfilling his desire to serve under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as commander of the 5th Division of the Army of West Tennessee. At the battle of Shiloh, he has three horses shot out from under him and was wounded twice.

The national opinion of Grant and Sherman, as expressed in the newspapers of the time, characterized one as a drunkard and the other as a lunatic. After successes at Vicksburg and Chattanooga, Sherman was at the point he had dreamed of – Grant had been pulled to campaign in the East, and Sherman received the military command of the federal armies in the West.

Sherman’s campaign through the South – his “March to the Sea” — cut Confederate supply lines and caused more than $100 million in property damages. While Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces were harassing Grant in Virginia, Sherman sliced and diced the rest of the secessionist army.

Continuing his path of destruction through the Carolinas, Sherman met up again with Grant at City Point, Virginia — a meeting that also united President Abraham Lincoln together with his generals in March of 1865.

Throughout the war, Sherman knew well the advantages of superior arms, and in 1869, as he ascended to the rank of Commanding General of the Army. When Grant won the Presidency, Sherman received a special presentation firearm from his staff.

Sherman’s Smith & Wesson No. 2 was a .32-caliber rimfire revolver, a six-shot handgun with a spur trigger design. Like Sherman himself, his revolver was an unremarkable blued finish piece, not glorified by engraving or fancy grip panels, but bearing only a simple inscription on the backstrap.

During the Civil War, many of Sherman’s troops were armed with the best repeaters of the day, such as the seven-shot Spencer carbine that used metallic cartridges like his Smith & Wesson.

The difference in loading time between Colt cap-and-ball sixguns and the sleek S&W that broke open to load efficiently with self-contained ammunition was considerable. Many other Union officers chose the Smith & Wesson No. 2, and almost 50,000 were manufactured prior to the close of the war.

The presentation of this revolver to General Sherman followed countless earlier gifts to unit commanders from their men, but still this was an apt present for the man characterized as the first modern general. Cased in a plain factory wooden box that was cloth lined, this .32 revolver was likely with Sherman until his death in 1891.

Want to see this and other amazing firearms from American military history and beyond? Visit the NRA Museums in person or online!

44 Responses to William Tecumseh Sherman’s Smith & Wesson No. 2

    • +, or Henry can break into pistols.

      Nice weapon to own a copy of.

      Sherman’s exploits were not just military history and doctrine, they codified a portion of human nature.

    • The tip-up design is a bit weak for any smokeless powder loads. I do have one of these in my S&W collection, and they are a neat design – mine even came with a hand-made belt holster. The shaft under the barrel was used to push empty cases out of the cylinder, since they had no extraction mechanism. That was a later development in the top-break S&Ws. These Model 2s are referred to by S&W collectors as the “Model 2 Army Revolver”, and they sold quite a few of them to individual soldiers in the 1860s.

  1. L O V E
    love
    love

    That picture of Sherman. No FuX Given !

    The caption should read ‘Get on with the damn interruption before I go John Wick on your a _ _ !’ (screwed up internet histree dot calm)

  2. I won’t editorialize here but I simply must point out that a great many people are ashamed of the behavior of W. T. Sherman as an officer of the U. S. Army. And not all of us are Southerners, many find total warfare waged against civilians, particularly stealing their food during wintertime, reprehensible.

    Nice gun. A shame it was owned by a bad man.

    • Part of the ‘beauty’ of his badness is that it gave further (modern/contemporary) example to the admonitions of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz against it.

      We know it is bad BECAUSE HE DID IT. Now, one merely needs to convince an enemy that one will follow Sherman’s lead, in order to affect a cause for surrender.

      Those ‘offended’ by Sherman’s military will, or Truman’s dropping of the ‘bomb’ must still be able to steel their own selves by the example, or be comfortable with similar receipt.

    • The southern population was filled with moral individuals who did nothing wrong. (This is sarcasm). There is only one way to fight a war and that’s total war. I wonder what you think of Truman….

      Sherman did what was necessary and right; it’s a shame some southerners still don’t get it.

    • But didn’t you editorialize? Are there rules in a gun fight? I believe if you are at war be at war. Maybe, just maybe, the south should not have owned slaves. I’m glad W.T. Sherman did what he had too, it saved many Union lives.

        • Sherman’s brilliance was bringing to the people who supported the war the true horrors of it. That being said his march to the Sea and his Carolina campaigns were not as savage as reported. He had Soldiers under him hanged for murder and rape. He issued clear guidance for what and how to confiscate goods and livestock. He showed surrendering garrisons far more mercy then they did Union soldiers. The south fought a bloody war, over a bloody cause(states rights to own slaves) and he put a end to it.

      • The north owned slaves as well. They just rid of theirs faster because their economies didn’t rely on them, and if they did, the US would probably still have slavery. So don’t get too big of a head about being a northerner. Your army to make all men free then marched west to put thousands of free people in the ground shortly after that war ended. History is a bitch.

        • I believe you mean “Our Army” since the country was then reunited after the Unions victory, and citizens of the south took oaths of loyalty. History is a bitch.

        • Really? Because the civil war really didn’t end in 65. Several years of “reconstruction” was a very dangerous and violent time in the south and many historians refer it as a “civil war two”. Georgia actually wasn’t readmitted back into the union until 1870. Atlanta, and most southern capitols had to be occupied with federal troops, and state governments were set up as military provincial style governments, actually similar to what we set up in Iraq. In fact, Georgia had to be “re-invaded” twice after 65, to occupy the state Capitol because they were getting out of hand. That lasted until the end of reconstruction, under president Grant, who ended it by making a deal in his re-election to end it, out of fear of another full blown civil war occurring. Which was a very real likleyhood at the time. The version of history were Lee surrendered and we sang the battle hymn of the republic together flat out didn’t happen.

    • Might want to check out the history of WWII. Particularly bombings of London, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc. And the fact that our fathers and grandfathers would not talk to us about their experiences until they were very close to death. Sometimes not then.

    • Sherman actually did not hate the south. He actually liked the south a s southern culture, one reason he spared Savannah. He waged “total war” because he had to, to win. Grant actually conducted total war as well, though with less pillaging. Sherman likely was a madman, but unfortunately, much like the Russian front in WWII, it probably had to happen. You have to remember how cruel the civil war was. There was nothing like it in American history before or since really, because even in WWII the battles were fought “over there.” Also, the union was losing that war, until grant came along. Even after Gettysburg, the union brass was too chicken shit to fight to win. They were too afraid of Lee to take the fight to him and spent half their time arguing about what Napoleon would do.

      • You seem to grasp the big picture however Lee was overrated if it was not for Jackson he would not have achieved that much and the war would have been over much sooner.

        • While Lee may be a bit glamorized in history, and you are certainly correct about Stonewall Jackson’s importance, I’d still argue that Lee was a superior general to every Union general in that war. Even Grant. But Grant had the bigger, badder war machine.

        • Grant did have a better war machine, although I don’t know if I buy it the quote ” the north fought the war with a arm behind its back” does have some truth. I think that as the war progressed Union Leadership got better and southern leadership got worse. Jeff Davis was a horrible leader who fired or passed over great leaders out of pettiness. I still stand by my statement that Jackson was the greatest southern general, seconded I think by Cleburne and his Texas fighters.

        • I’d agree with that statement. One thing I like to point out to people in this day and age is how ruthless Lincoln was to his own administration and brass, and rightly so. I believe he fired the secretary of defense more times than several presidents combined did. I like to point that out because these days firing someone of that level by a president is seen as a failure. It definetly should not be. The president should constantly be trying to find the best person for the job. I’m also quite certain the longest serving secretary of defense was Donald Rumsfeld, who was also probably the worst we’ve ever had. In my opinion even worse than macnamara.

  3. @Alan Esworthy

    Who’s ashamed of Sherman? I forgot the southerners were all innocent people and never did anything wrong. (This is sarcasm) Remember southerners were fighting FOR slavery. He did what was necessary to end a war as quick as possible. Screw ’em.

    It’s a shame some southerners can’t get past this and recognize just how good he was.

  4. Eff him and his pistol. No I’m not bitter about the war of Yankee aggression and the erosion of states rights.

    • People of all sides actually have very good reason to be angry at the north’s conduct during that war, to this day. Lincoln and the union shredded the constitution to fight and pay for that war. For example, the whole reason we even have income tax is because of the civil war. That war fundamentally changed this country in ways we’re still dealing with. And many of the reasons why we fought it still simmer just below the surface of society.

      • Bill, you make some salient points. Remember though that our grand experiment has faced many challenges and had to answer many questions. Before the civil war it was unclear if a state could succeed, it turns out it can’t. Just like the constitution not being enacted until the articles of confederation proved too weak.

        • Saying a state can’t succeed because they lost a war is like saying you can’t keep your lunch money because the bully punched you in the stomach and took it.

        • Your analogy is humorous and rather true. Human progress so far has been determined by the bigger, more powerful exerting control over the weaker.

      • I always find it strange when Confederate sympathizers claim to support the Constitution. The Confederacy actually, literally usurped the Constitution in their States, and then created an entirely new, alien and inferior Constitution in its place.

        You want to talk about the valid points of Lincoln suspending Habeas Corpus and posse comitatus, fine. Those are worth talking about. But the man was influential overall in actually saving the Constitution against a people bent on it’s destruction. You can be Confederate or a Constitutionalist. Not both.

        • Maybe you should go back and read some of my other comments bud, esspecially the ones where I in fact defended Lincoln, sherman and grant. Within many of those comments I also praise Lee and Jackson. If you actually read them, you’ll understand why. Perhaps it is you, who should stop seeing issues as so black and white.

      • Yeah. Sure is a shame that every white southerner wasn’t killed. Because without southern whites then all those evil conservatives wouldn’t have any power today, and all guns could’ve been confiscated by the 1990s. Man. What a utopia we could’ve had.

        • I was more referring to my desire to live in a country free of racist, dumbass, backwards, redneck, bible-thumping, cousin fucking, “heritage not hate”, Dixie dipshits. The Southeast is a blight on the rest of this beautiful country. To hell with them.
          Have a nice day.

  5. The Civil War is long past. We are at war with one another right now, today. A very real war, without the bloodshed, yet. May want to be more concerned with that.

    • Care to name the belligerents ? Cause we got the war on terror(always hard to defeat an emotion)
      The war on drugs( a war against psychosis?)
      The social war(liberals and conservatives and libertarians oh my)
      The war on Islam
      War on Christmas
      ….

  6. Let me make this perfectly clear to the TTAG readers.

    WT Shermand does not strike fear in the hearts of Southerners but DISGUST and DISDAIN.

    Make no mistake, he was a War Criminal because of all of what he did in the South.
    And you are naive if you think he fought for the North because he was not a racist and hated the institution of slavery you are wrong.
    Because after the so-called civil war he was the leader of the GENOCIDE campaign against the Indians.
    HE was the person who coined the phrase, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.
    Does that sound like a person who was not a racist?

    RACIST. WAR CRIMINAL.

    Look at his possessions as you would of Adolph Hitler.

    Would you relish having a pistol owned by Adolph Hitler?

    I think no decent person would any more than own child pornography.
    If you relish owning anything of WT Sherman I morally equivocate you worse than a child pornographer.
    You are a pornographer of death.

    • I would like to see you apply your standards of racism to the Confederate States of America’s willingness to go to war to maintain their “peculiar institution” of human slavery. Please feel free to justify southern slaveowners here …

    • Gen Phillip Sheridan turned that particular phrase. Granted he was WTS’s cavalry commander, but it didn’t come from WTS.

      • Phil Sheridan also conducted the Shenandoah campaign which was even more vicious then Sherman’s March. Far more war criminals in the south then the north, then again if black people are just cattle then maybe it’s okay to slaughter them wholesale.

    • You go too far. Sherman used disciplined destruction to end a ruinous war, the south commited far more atrocities and one of the failures of reconstruction was not holding them accountable. Fort Pillow, Andersonville, and the exploits of Quantrill and Anderson far surpass any war crimes of the north. Not to mention the evil of slavery and the horrors of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and civil rights south. It makes me laugh when southerns build up this noble cause bs.

  7. Good to see so many of my fellow TTAGers denigrating all Southerners as racist slave owners that essentially ‘had it coming’ when it came to the total war Sherman brought. Say what you will about the man and/or his tactics and strategies, but the facts are that the war happened, he helped end it, and as a course of war, people die. War ends sooner? Less people die.

    The Civil War was a travesty for everyone involved. Assholes on both sides, but that’s history. Don’t lie about it or you are no better than a lying shithead Democrat/Communist.

  8. Sherman was an excellent general and did much to bring the war to a successful conclusion. His destruction of the trator’s will to fight is what ended the war. He was so successful at psychologically breaking the traitors that many people whose ancestors owned farms in South Carolina over 100 miles from his router of march claimed that his men burnt their farms and only recently has his campaign started to fade from their collective memory.

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