By Mick Woodcock
William Tecumseh Sherman is best known as a Union general during the American Civil War. His major claim to fame was making good on his statement to “make Georgia howl” by marching from Atlanta to Savannah, living off the land and generally leaving the inhabitants of that part of the south an estimated $100 million in property destruction.
When Ulysses S. Grant took office as President in 1869, Sherman was appointed Commanding General of the Army. As such, he oversaw the Army’s part in bringing peace to the American West as well as preparing the Army for the next conflict with a foreign power, should that become necessary.
The Prescott newspaper followed Sherman’s career with articles on his philosophy for dealing with the Native American tribes, as that was a major topic of conversation in the Arizona Territory. Sherman’s visits to other parts of the country were mentioned, and finally, in 1878, it was announced that the General would be coming to Prescott. The September 6, 1878 edition of the Weekly Arizona Miner stated, “Gen. Wilcox [sic] received a dispatch from General Sherman, to-day, saying he would visit his Department before returning to Washington.” The general mentioned was Brevet Major General Orlando B. Willcox, then Colonel of the Twelfth United States Infantry Regiment, who had recently taken over command of the Department of Arizona with headquarters at Fort Whipple.
The next week’s edition of the Weekly Arizona Miner noted that preparations were being made at Fort Verde to welcome the general, but there was no mention of Prescott doing anything. However, the September 20, 1878 edition was filled with news of the General’s visit. Many of the articles taken from the various daily editions of the newspaper reveal a lot about what was, or was not, going on regarding welcoming Sherman. The weekly edition came out on Friday and noted that “There was a highly spirited meeting, last evening, in the new theater building, to take action relative to the reception of Gen. Sherman.” The General was expected to arrive in Prescott the next day.
Acting quickly, committees of all sorts were formed and members assigned to them. These were all duly named in the newspaper and were a veritable listing of “who was who” in early Prescott, including Governor John Hoyt, Secretary of the Territory John Gosper, Prescott Mayor J. W. Blake and other prominent members of the community. Between what General Willcox had planned for Sherman and what the citizens of Prescott came up with, the General would be kept busy for his three days in the territorial capital.
Next week we will learn about Sherman’s visit.
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