Abraham Lincoln said that “A House divided against itself cannot stand”. Thomas Ewing Sherman was born into a House divided by religion on October 12, 1856. He was the son of William Tecumseh Sherman, at the time an obscure former officer, and Ellen Ewing Sherman. Ellen Sherman was a devout Catholic, and, I think, a saint. She constantly did good works and was a champion of the Church her entire life. Among her many activities was the foundation of the Catholic Indian Missionary Association, and a prominent role in the Golden Jubilee celebrations in the US of the reign of Pio Nono in 1877 for which she received the personal thanks of the Pope.
William Tecumseh Sherman attended mass with his family when he was at home prior to the Civil War, but ceased doing so during the war. He and Ellen had been raised together, Ellen’s father, Thomas Ewing, a Senator from Ohio, taking the orphan “Cump” Sherman into his home after the death of Sherman’s father, an Ohio Supreme Court justice, in 1829. The Ewings were devout Catholics, although Thomas would not be baptized into the Faith until just before his death after decades of attending mass, and “Cump” was baptized a Catholic while living with them. Sherman’s religious views are often described as agnostic but that is an oversimplification. I think he basically believed in God, but he was skeptical of organized religion and especially the Catholic Church. However he had no objection to Ellen raising all of their children as Catholics, but over the years the religious tension between Sherman and his wife grew. (more…)