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Feb. 14: Sherman leaves a sad love letter

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Here’s what happened.

General William Tecumseh Sherman spared a plantation during his infamous trek through Georgia because of love and respect for its owner.

Here’s why it matters.

In 1836, West Point Cadet Sherman fell in love with his roommate’s sister, Cecelia Stovall. He proposed, but she declined. According to sources such as this, she said, “Your eyes are so cold and cruel. I pity the man who ever would become your foe. Ah, how you would crush an enemy.” Sherman responded, “Even though you were my enemy my dear, I would ever love and protect you.” Stovall married Charles Shelman, a wealthy cotton merchant like her father.

In 1864, as Sherman’s troops marched toward Atlanta, they approached Shelman Manor, in Bartow County. Only slaves were there to meet them. After one identified his mistress, Sherman ordered the mansion and its contents to be left alone. He handed a note to the slave for “Miss Cecelia:” “You once said that I would crush an enemy and you pitied my foe. Do you recall my reply? Although many years have passed, my answer is the same. 'I would ever shield and protect you.' That I have done. Forgive all else. I am only a soldier."

A fire destroyed Shelman Manor on January 1, 1901. But the note survived.

Here’s an interesting fact!

This fascinating story for Valentine’s Day story is told in the book, My Dearest Cecelia: A Novel of the Southern Belle Who Stole General Sherman’s Heart, by Diane Haeger.

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