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Sherman Thackara collection

Identifier: OM E467.S53

Scope and Contents

The collection contains family papers and correspondences and covers the period from 1854 to 1897. The correspondence contains many letters from Eleanor to her father, General Sherman, and makes frequent references to public events and personalities. Another feature of the correspondence that calls for special attention is the local color and references to many individuals, events and institutions of Philadelphia and the Main Line in the 1880’s and 1890’s. A unique part of the collection is A. M. Thackara’s correspondence, photographs and memorabilia relating to his years at Annapolis up until his marriage. Here can be found an unusual first-hand picture of Navy life in the post-Civil War period.

Also included is an in-depth sketch of life in the United States Navy after the Civil War based on Mont's diary from 1872-1873, correspondences, and memorabilia from his time at Annapolis and at sea; an intimate look at Victorian courtship practices through Ellie and Mont's relationship; and a portrait of the social customs and manners of a middle class Victorian family. Specific highlights of the Sherman Thackara collection are Ellie's love letters to Mont, Thomas Ewing Sherman's notebook from St. Louis University, first-hand accounts of Lincoln's funeral procession in Chicago and Philadelphia, and a large collection of Japanese and Javanese photographs acquired during Mont's time spent stationed in the Pacific.


  • Creation: 1854-1897

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact Distinctive Collections staff.

Biographical / Historical


February 8, 1820 William Tecumseh Sherman born in Lancaster, OH

October 4, 1824 Ellen Boyle Ewing born in Lancaster, OH.

1829 Sherman becomes Senator Thomas Ewing’s ward

1840 Sherman graduates from West Point

1848 Born: Alexander (“Mont”) Montgomery Thackara

May 1, 1850 Sherman marries Ellen Ewing in her father’s Washington, D.C. home

January 18, 1851 Born: Maria (“Minnie) Ewing Sherman

March 17, 1852 Born: Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Sherman

June 8, 1854 Born: William Tecumseh Sherman, Jr.

October 12, 1856 Born: Thomas Ewing Sherman

1859 Sherman becomes the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy in Pineville, Louisiana

September 5, 1859 Born: Eleanor (“Ellie”) Mary Sherman

April 12, 1861 The Civil War begins

July 5, 1861 Born: Rachel Ewing Sherman

1862 Mont enters the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis

October 10, 1863 Died: William Tecumseh Sherman, Jr.; aged 9 years old

March 9, 1864 General Ulysses Grant places Sherman in charge of the Union troops in west

June 11, 1864 Born: Charles Celestine Sherman

September 2, 1864 Sherman’s troops capture Atlanta, Georgia

December 4, 1864 Died: Charles Celestine Sherman; aged 10 months

December 21, 1864 Sherman and his troops reach Savannah, Georgia

April 15, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln dies

April 18, 1865 Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to Sherman, ending the Civil War

July 25, 1866 Sherman appointed to Lieutenant General of the Army

1867-1868 Thomas attending St. Louis University

January 9, 1867 Born: Philemon (“Cumpy”) Tecumseh Sherman

1869 President Grant appoints Sherman to Commanding General of the United States Army

1869 Mont graduates from Annapolis

1869-1881 Mont oversees in Europe, Japan, Java, and Panama

1872? Wedding: Julia E. Thackara (Mont’s sister) to Dr. W. Penn Buck

1872-1873 Minnie travels throughout Europe; meets Lieutenant Thomas W. Fitch in London

May 29, 1873 Wedding: Charles Thackara (Mont’s brother) to Ida McLellan

1874 Wedding: Maria Ewing Sherman to Thomas W. Fitch

June 1878 Thomas Ewing Sherman decides to become a Jesuit priest, causing great distress to his father

1879 Mont is introduced to Ellie in Washington, D.C.

May 5, 1880 Wedding: Eleanor Mary Sherman to Alexander Montgomery Thackara

1881 Mont retires from the Navy and works for his father’s business, Thackara, Sons & Co.; Sherman Thackara family lives in Rosemont, PA for three years (1881 – 1884)

January 18, 1881 Born: Mary Elizabeth Thackara

November 1, 1883 Sherman steps down as commanding general

February 8, 1884 Sherman retires from the army and with Ellen, moves to New York City

1886 Philemon graduates from St. Louis University

1887 Born: William Tecumseh Sherman Thackara

1888 Philemon graduates from Yale University with a Bachelor of Philosophy

November 28, 1888 Died: Ellen Ewing Sherman; aged 64 years old

July 9, 1889 Thomas is ordained a priest in Philadelphia. His father, General Sherman, is noticeably missing from the occasion

February 1891 Died: General William T. Sherman; aged 71 years old

June 1891 Ellie travels throughout Canada and writes a newspaper article about her “summer jaunt”

December 12, 1891 Wedding: Rachel Ewing Sherman to Dr. Paul Thorndike in Washington, D.C.

1892 Ellie travels throughout Europe

September 15, 1896 Died: Benjamin Thackara of heart failure

October 6, 1896 Died: Mary A. Thackara

1899 Philemon graduates from Columbia University with a degree in law

1903 Philemon starts practicing law in New York City

1905-1913 Mont is reassigned and serves as Consul General in Berlin

1905 With Mont’s appointment to Berlin, Ellie in turn receives her own recognition: She is elected President of the American Women’s Club, a position generally offered to an ambassador’s wife

1908 William Thackara graduates from Harvard

1913 President Woodrow Wilson appoints Mont to be Consul General in Paris

November 22, 1913 Died: Maria Ewing Sherman Fitch; aged 62 years old

July 1914 World War I begins

1914-1918 William T. Sherman Thackara serves in Naval Intelligence in Argentina

1914-1915 Ellie works with the Red Cross on the Serbian relief effort

April 1915 Ellie becomes seriously ill

Spring 1915 At this time, both Lex and William are abroad- Lex in New York and William in Buenos Aires

July 18, 1915 Died: Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara in Paris; aged 55 years old. Around this time, Ellie receives a letter of thanks from the King of Serbia for her efforts with the Red Cross. Mont and their two daughters Eleanor and Elizabeth, are by her side when Ellie passes away

August 28, 1915 Died: Charles Thackara

January 31, 1917 Wedding: Eleanor Sherman Thackara to Frederic Cauldwell in Rosemont, PA

October 26, 1919 Died: Rachel Ewing Sherman Thorndike; aged 58 years old

1920 Mont given the Croix de Guerre award, but cannot accept it for another 14 years because of his status as a government employee

December 27, 1921 Died: Alexander (“Lex”) Montgomery Thackara, Jr., in London

August 1924 Mont retires as the Consul General in Paris and is replaced by Robert P. Skinner

April 6, 1925 Died: Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Sherman; aged 73 years old

April 29, 1933 Died: Thomas Ewing Sherman in New Orleans, LA; aged 76 years old

October 24, 1934 Mont allowed to accept his Croix de Guerre award as a result of a joint house resolution

January 19, 1937 Died: Alexander Montgomery Thackara or bronchial pneumonia in the American Hospital of Paris, located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France; aged 88 years old

December 6, 1941 Died: Philemon Tecumseh Sherman in New York City of a heart attack; aged 74 years old

July 12, 1983 Died: William Tecumseh Sherman Thackara in Mystic CT; aged 96 years old


Eleanor Sherman-Thackara (1859-1915) was one of six children of General William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife Ellen Ewing. While living in Washington from 1879 until her marriage on May 5, 1880, Eleanor met her future husband, Lieutenant Alexander Montgomery Thackara (Mont), who had graduated in the class of 1869 from Annapolis and who had seen duty at sea in European and Far Eastern areas. The wedding took place in the Sherman’s Washington home and among the guests were President Hayes and members of the Cabinet and Congress. Following their marriage, the young couple lived for a year in Boston, where Lieutenant Thackara was stationed. In the fall of 1881, he left the service to enter his father’s business in Philadelphia, where he and his wife made their home in Rosemont. During their years there, Mrs. Thackara and her four children attended the Chapel of St. Thomas of Villanova. Mr. A. M. Thackara was appointed by President McKinley to serve as a United States Consul at Le Havre, France in 1897. Later, Mr. Thackara was Consul General in Berlin from 1905 to 1913, and President Wilson appointed him to be Consul General in Paris in 1913. Alexander M. Thackara died in the American Hospital at Neuilly in 1934. Eleanor Sherman Thackara died in Paris in 1915.


Family Biographies:

Eleanor Mary Sherman Thackara (Sept. 5, 1859 - July 18, 1915) and Alexander Montgomery Thackara (1848 - 1937): referred to as "Ellie" or "Elly" and "Mont" in family correspondences

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. Parents:

William Tecumseh Sherman (1820 - 1891): Father of Ellie; sometimes referred to as "Papa" and "Cump" in family correspondences

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.

Ellen Boyle Ewing Sherman (1824 - 1888): Mother of Ellie; referred to as "Mama" in family correspondences

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.

Benjamin Thackara (1820 - 1896): Father of Mont

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.

Mary A. Thackara (d. October 6, 1896): Mother of Mont

Not much information is recorded about Mont's mother. She passes away less than one month after her husband. Siblings:

Maria Ewing Sherman Fitch (1851 - 1913): Older sister of Ellie; referred to as "Minnie" in family correspondences

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.

Mary Elizabeth Sherman (1852 - 1925): Older sister of Ellie; referred to as "Lizzie" in family correspondences

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 Tecumseh Sherman, Jr. (1854 - 1863): Older brother of Ellie; referred to as "Cumpy" or "Willy" in family correspondences until his death

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.

Thomas Ewing Sherman, (1856 - 1933): Older brother of Ellie; referred to as "Tom" or "Tommy" in family correspondences

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.

Rachel Ewing Sherman Thorndike, (1861 - 1919): Younger sister of Ellie; referred to as "Rachey" in family correspondences

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 Celestine Sherman, (June 11, 1864 - December 4, 1864): Younger brother of Ellie; referred to as "Charley" in family correspondences

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.

Philemon Tecumseh Sherman, (1867 - 1941): Youngest brother of Ellie; referred to as "Cumpy" in family correspondences after Willy'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.

Charles Thackara, (d. August 28, 1915): Older brother of Mont

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.

Julia E. Buck: Older sister of Mont

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. Children:

Mary Elizabeth Thackara, (1881 - ?): Oldest daughter of Ellie and Mont; referred to as "Lizzie" or "little Lizzie" in family correspondences.

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 Sherman Thackara Cauldwell, 1880s? – ?):

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.

William T. Sherman Thackara, (1887 - 1983): Son of Ellie and Mont; referred to as "Sherman" in family correspondences.

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.

Alexander Montgomery Thackara, Jr., : Son of Ellie and Mont; referred to as "Lex" or "Lexie" in family correspondences

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).


4 Linear Feet (9 manuscript boxes, 1 trench coat)


The collection includes correspondence, photographs, and military coat from the Sherman Thackara family between 1854 and 1897.


The collection is arranged into two series-- correspondence and photographas. The correspondence is arranged by author and recipient and then chronologically.

Physical Location

Special Collections


Donated to Villanova College by Eleanor Sherman Thackara in 1897 (unverified).

Guide to Sherman Thackara Collection
Andrea D. Reed; Revised by Beaudry Allen
May 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Falvey Library
800 E Lancaster Ave
Villanova PA