A soldier’s funeral
General Sherman laid at rest — the impressive scenes
Homage to the honored dead — high tribute of reverence, love and regret — services at the grave were of the simplest character
St Louis, Feb 21 — St Louis today bade an impressive farewell to the soldier whose military genius was excelled by none and equaled by few.
No higher tribute of reverence, love, and regret could be paid any hero in any clime. For the first time in several days, the sun shone out gloriously, but its rays fell upon a city draped in mourning. The hearts of the people were saddened, and with one accord all manner of men abandoned their earthly pursuits and assembled along the line of the funeral procession to do homage to the honored dead.
It was a hushed and solemn multitude that greeted the trains on its arrival. The deep, ominous tolling of the heavy bell on the engine sounded a reverent, inspiring, but sorrowful funeral knell, and the vast crowd stood uncovered while the train with its silent occupants slowly rolled by.
It was a soldier’s funeral — the funeral of a general — but not alone of such a one, but of an officer beloved by the Army and honored by the people. It was a funeral of a hero, whose worth his fellow men knew, and whose memory they cherished as they would that of their nearest kin.
For miles, the streets were lined with solid walls of people standing at least a dozen deep, and the evidences of the affection and esteem in which his fellow townsmen held him were abundant on all sides. His comrades of Ransom Post marched in hollow square about the caisson. Their step was measured, their eyes downcast, and every face wore that solemn look which said too plainly the words, “I have lost a friend.”
Following the caisson was the handful of survivors of the old Thirteenth Infantry, a small and grief-stricken body of men, following their old leader over a road which they, too, must travel at no very far distant day.
The march to the cemetery from the depot was through some of the principal streets of the city. The route laid out was through Eleventh, Market, Twelfth and Pine streets and Grand Avenue, thence out Florrisant Avenue to Calvary cemetery.
The entrance to the cemetery was by the rear gate. When the caisson entered the gates of the cemetery, most of the troops remained outside of the cemetery. On account of the large number of carriages occupied by Grand Army men, members of the Loyal Legion, and Sons of Veterans who were unable to endure the fatigue of the entire march of nearly eight miles, and for whom carriages were provided at the corner of Grand and Eastern avenues, the roads from the entrance of the cemetery to the grave were soon blocked and many of those who occupied carriages and near the end of the procession were obliged to leave them some distance from the gate and walk to the grave. This caused some delay in the services, and it was not until 2:30 o’clock that all who had been assigned places took their positions about the open grave, which was lined inside with flags.
A short distance to the south was the brave Thirteenth, to the east members of the Grand Army, and directly around it to the north were grouped Senator Sherman, the Misses Sherman, P T Sherman, Col. Hoyt Sherman, Lieuts. Thackera and Fitch and their wives, Judge and Mrs. P B Ewing, General and Mrs Thomas Ewing, General and Mrs Nelson A. Miles, Secretary and Mrs Noble, Secretary and Mrs Rusk, Assistant Secretary Grant, ex-President Hayes, Gen. Schofield, Gen. Howard, Gen. Slocum, and others.
After all had taken their positions, the eight sergeants acting as body-bearers, lifted the casket from the caisson and bore it reverently to the grave, when all that was mortal of Gen. Sherman was lowered to its last resting place. The casket was draped with flags and bare of any floral tributes. The services at the grave were of the simplest character and were conducted by Rev. Thomas Ewing Sherman, all assembled at the grave standing with uncovered heads. As the casket was being lowered the regimental band played “Plyals hymn.” Father Sherman read the Catholic service, one of the selections being “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” offered fervent prayer, and the services were at end.
As the services progressed, many about the grave were visibly affected. and when the flags surrounding the casket were removed. the sound of low sobbing was heard.
At 3 o’clock, the closing of the grave was completed and the buglers of the Seventh Cavalry sounded “taps,” “lights out.” Volleys were fired over the grave by the Thirteenth Infantry, immediately followed by three salvos by the artillery, which was stationed some distance to the east. Wreaths and branches of evergreens were then placed upon the grave by loving hands. The funeral parties and the troops returned to the station and the many thousands of citizens who were present dispersed to their homes.
Thus was laid to rest by the side of his wife and his two sons, one of whom was his “soldier boy,” General William Tecumseh Sherman.
Top image: Military funeral and caisson with General Sherman’s casket turning onto Grand Boulevard during the procession from downtown St Louis to Calvary Cemetery (Courtesy Missouri History Museum); Image 2: Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman portrait by Mathew Brady, c1864; Image 3: Engraving of Gen. Sherman on horseback, based on photo by Mathew Brady. Appeared in Harper’s Weekly December 17, 1864.
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Publication: Sunday Herald and Weekly National Intelligencer (Washington DC)
Publication date: February 22, 1891