Born in 1859, Eleanor Mary Sherman ("Ellie") was one of eight children from the union of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife Ellen Ewing Sherman. A devout Catholic, Ellen sought to raise her children in the Catholic faith, rather than their father’s Protestant beliefs. In doing so, the Sherman household proved a dynamic family setting uncommon in the Victorian age. Not much is known of Ellie’s childhood; however, included in this collection of family papers are a few letters composed by her during her school years. For a deeper analysis of Ellie’s relationship with her parents please consult the following graduate student papers: “The Sherman-Thackara Family Papers & Epistolary Art of Ellie Sherman: Gender Distinctions in Addressing her Parents” by George J. Benton, and “The Sherman Letters: A Window into a Father and Daughter Relationship in Nineteenth-Century America” by Nicholas Markellos.
The other prominent figure in this collection is Alexander Montgomery Thackara ("Mont"), born to Benjamin and Mary Thackara in Philadelphia in1848. In contrast to the Shermans, the Thackara family resulted in only three children- two boys and a girl. When Mont was 21 years old, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1869. Ten years later he would meet Ellie. During these in between years, Mont served in the Navy, traveling to exotic locales such as Java, Panama, and Japan. Many photographs from his time spent at sea as well as papers from his school days at Annapolis are included here within the collection.
In 1879, Mont met Ellie. After a brief courtship, they wed in General Sherman’s Washington D.C. home on May 5, 1880. Leading up to their marriage, Mont and Ellie exchanged numerous letters revealing their love and admiration for each other. Located within the collection, these love letters shed an interesting perspective on courtship in Victorian America. In her graduate school paper “Hidden Passions: An Example of Victorian Courtship through the Love Letters of Eleanor Sherman and Alexander Thackara”, Meagan Schenkelberg examines Mont and Ellie’s relationship within the context of 19th century America.
One year later (1881) Mont retired from the navy and settled into domestic life with his new bride, procuring a job in his father’s Philadelphia manufacturing and sales firm of gas fixtures (Thackara, Sons & Co.). Living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Ellie and Mont have four children— Mary Elizabeth, Eleanor, William T. Sherman, and Alexander Montgomery, Jr. The following years find the Thackara family traveling abroad (Canada and Europe) and domestically (Ohio, Washington D.C., New York, etc.). The children attend school in New York and often write home to their parents.
Almost two decades later in 1897, President McKinley appoints Mont to serve as a U.S. Consul at Le Havre, France. Villanova’s Sherman Thackara Collection ends here and does not contain any of the Thackara's personal papers from the turn of the century on. As Mont served in various consulates (Le Havre, Berlin, and Paris), Ellie actively worked toward relief aid with the Red Cross during World War I. In Paris, she passes away from an illness in 1915. Mont continues to serve as the Consul General in Paris until his retirement in 1924. He passes away from bronchial pneumonia in the American Hospital of Paris, located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1937 where he had been living since his retirement.
Born in Lancaster, Ohio on February 8, 1820, Sherman was orphaned at a young age by his father's sudden death. Having left no inheritance, Sherman's mother could not care for her eleven children. Senator Thomas Ewing took Sherman into his family and raised him. Sherman is best remembered in history for his leadership in the Union Army during the Civil War. He married Thomas Ewing's daughter, Ellen Boyle Ewing in 1850. The marriage resulted in eight children. In 1869, President Grant appointed Sherman Commanding General of the United States Army. Retiring from the army in 1884, Sherman lived out the remainder of his life in New York, where he passed away on February 14, 1891. For more information on Sherman's life, please consult the Additional Links & Bibliography page.
Like her husband, Ellen was born in Lancaster, Ohio on October 4, 1824. The daughter of Senator Thomas Ewing was one of six Ewing children and weds her father's ward, William T. Sherman in 1850. A devout Roman Catholic, Ellen spent her time working with various charities and holding social events. One example was her famous "pound party" she held in Washington, D.C. A dotting mother, the Sherman Thackara Collection contains many letter Ellen wrote and received from her children and grandchildren. Mrs. Sherman passed away in 1888.
Born in Haddonfield, New Jersey, Benjamin started working as a school teacher. Eventually he moved to Philadelphia and started a gas fixture company. With his wife Mary, he raised three children. According to his obituary which ran on September 16, 1896 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, after lifting his ailing wife, Benjamin dies from heart failure. They had recently celebrated their golden anniversary. The Sherman Thackara Collection contains letters Benjamin wrote Mont while Mont was studying in Annapolis. It also has a letter Benjamin composed in Chicago while Lincoln's funeral train was stopped there.
Not much information is recorded about Mont's mother. She passes away less than one month after her husband.
Being the oldest Sherman daughter, Minnie was very close to her mother and fulfilled many social obligations as a result of her position within the family. She spends a year in Europe and in London, Minnie meets Lieutenant Thomas William (Will) Fitch. They marry shortly after in 1874 in a grand ceremony held in Washington, D.C. As a wedding present, Minnie received a diamond necklace, consisting of four strands of diamonds, and matching earrings. At the time of their marriage, Will retires from the Navy. They move to St. Louis, OH and live in a house owned by Minnie's parents. During their marriage, Minnie has seven children, but only four survive. Toward the end of her life, she moves with her husband to Pittsburg, and here she passes away in 1913.
The second oldest daughter of Ellen and William Sherman, Lizzie never marries. She moves to Massachusetts and dies here in 1925. This collections possesses many letters by Lizzie and sent to her by various family members.
William T. Sherman, Jr. was General Sherman's oldest son. It was widely believed that he would follow in his father's military footsteps. Unfortunately, Willy dies when he is nine years old. With his death, General Sherman's aspirations for his oldest son are transferred to his next son, Thomas Ewing Sherman. The General and Ellen never fully recovered from this family loss.
Tom was General Sherman's second oldest son. After Willy's death, the General had high hopes that Tom would follow in his own footsteps. However, Tom desired a radically different career apart from the military. Connecting strongly with his mother's faith, Tom sought to become a Catholic priest, and in making this decision, greatly wounded his father. Here in the Sherman Thackara Collection is the letter General Sherman sent to Ellen revealing his anger and feelings of betrayal over hearing the news of Tom's choice. The General and Tom's relationship was never again the same. In 1889 Tom became a Jesuit priest, and during the Spanish-American War of 1898, he served as a chaplain. In his later years, Tom lived with his niece Eleanor Sherman Fitch, and passed away when he was 76 years old.
The youngest daughter in the Sherman family, Rachel married a physician, Dr. Paul Thorndike in 1891. The wedding took place in Senator John Sherman's Washington, D.C. home (Rachel's uncle) and was attended by President Benjamin Harrison. Like her other sisters, Rachel often wrote letters to her family members and many of those correspondences are included in the Sherman Thackara Collection. She has three children with Dr. Thorndike, and passed away in 1919 in her Boston home.
Charles was only ten months old when he passed away from pneumonia. His father, General Sherman, never even had a chance to see the child. It was not until New Year's Eve that the General learned of his son's death.
The youngest child in the Sherman family, Philemon became a lawyer after studying law at Columbia University. He is successful in law fields on unemployment and insurance. At 74 years old, still practicing law, Philemon dies of a heart attack in his New York home in 1941. Having never married, he was survived only by his nieces and nephews.
Unfortunately, like many members of the Thackara family, there is not a lot of information recorded about Charles' life. He married Ida McLellan in Chambersburg, PA on May 29, 1873. While Mont was in Annapolis, Charles wrote him some letters and these are included in the collection. Based on correspondences from the Thackara, Sons & Co., it appears that Charles worked for his father's company just like Mont did. Charles passed away in Springfield, PA and left everything to his wife Ida.
The only daughter in the Thackara family, Julia married Dr. W. Penn Buck in the early 1870s. There are only a few letters composed by her in the Sherman Thackara Collection.
Not much information is available about the oldest Sherman Thackara child. According to Ellie's obituary that ran in The Lexington Herald on July 19, 1915, Lizzie was by her mother's side when she passed away in Paris. She never marries.
Eleanor married Frederic Cauldwell on January 31, 1917 in Rosemont, PA. Shortly thereafter, the couple move to Washington, D.C. and have two children:Eleanor Thackara Cauldwell and Sherman Cauldwell. Frederic was a consular official, and the family lived in Paris until Mont's death in 1937. Like her sister, Eleanor was by her mother's side when she died in 1915 and she and her husband are with Mont when he passes away in1937. In 1942, Frederic dies at the age of 67 and Eleanor continues living through the early 1950s. She is still alive when her daughter weds in 1952.
According to his obituary which ran in The New York Times on July 14, 1983, Sherman graduated from Harvard College in 1908. During World War I, he served in Naval Intelligence in Argentina. Later on he worked for the Otis Elevator Company. Sherman married Lucy Marcel, and they had three children- James, Alexander, and Eleanor. Alexander marries Cynthia Thorndike on May 31st, 1940 and has four children: Pamela Thackara, William T. Sherman Thackara, Thomas Ewing Thackara, and Robert Lewis Thackara. Philemon Tecumseh Sherman was on friendly terms with both Alexander and Cynthia.
Like Lizzie, not much information is known on Lex. He is reputed to have been born in the United Kingdom and lived in Bath, having married Eleanor Lal, with four know children: John (b. 1951), Carolyn (b. 1953), Mark (b. 1960), and Emma (b. 1963 and living in London).
*Sources are located in the Additional Links & Bibliography page