Sunday, June 19, 2016

Biography of Union General William T Sherman, Truth about the "March to the Sea"

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman is often portrayed as the father of scorched-earch warfare.  However, as this book, like others,  points out, he did not engage in that type of  warfare.

Although "Union forces wreaked havoc on the towns in Sherman’s path, their actions do not add up to the apocalyptic barbarism that plays such a role in Lost Cause mythology."

"WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN :In the Service of My Country, a Life
By James Lee McDonough
Illustrated. 816 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $39.95.

Most of all, he played a major and strategic role in the Civil War. In looking back at that conflict, Sherman uttered one of the most memorable phrases in American history — “War is all hell.”

Of course, his 1864 movement across central Georgia also is remembered by his name — Sherman’s march. Yet this most famous of his actions is probably his least understood, or perhaps most misrepresented. He did not conduct “total war.” Nor did he use violence indiscriminately. To the contrary, his march across Georgia and then into South Carolina was a targeted use of violence against wealthy Confederate die-hards in the rural South who had been largely untouched by the war. It was to these plantation owners that Sherman intended to bring “the hard hand of war,” and he did so with audacity and courage.

"But Sherman had studied the 1860 census data, McDonough notes, and so he knew where the biggest and richest farms lay in Georgia. In many places [during his "march to the sea"] his soldiers feasted on ham, bacon, chicken and corn. His march was most of all a political effort, designed to show Southerners that those who were with the Union would be untouched, and those who persisted in opposing it would suffer. In areas where his troops were “unmolested,” he stated in an order issued on Nov. 9, 1864, as the march began, no property would be destroyed. But when resistance was encountered, he continued, his forces should react with “a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.” The campaign from Atlanta to the Atlantic actually involved very few battles or casualties. In fact, of about 60,000 troops, only 103 were killed in combat. Yet the campaign had a devastating effect on the South’s determination to continue ­fighting.
If only our generals today were as ­astute."

1 comment:

  1. Sherman's troops subsisted on food taken from civilian farms. Per Nuremberg, that's a war crime. If a civilian resisted, he was shot. Nuremberg, again.

    My ex-wife has a silver plate pitcher she inherited from her great-grandmother. It has the imprint of a horse's hoof in the side. One of Sherman's officers. On horseback. Inside the family home. In Atlanta.

    Spare me the re-write of historical reality.