February 17, 2017


General Sherman's Destructive Path Blazed a New Strategy : Sherman's devastating march led to the kind of warfare that culminated in World War II. (Jay Tolson, riter June 24, 2007, US News)

[S]herman knew his limitations and weaknesses. When he was offered commands above his friend Grant, he refused and insisted on serving under him. "Sherman looked at Grant and concluded that he was a better general, who had the whole package," says historian John Marszalak, a professor emeritus at Mississippi State University and author of several books on Sherman. "Grant only worried about what he saw in front of him, whereas Sherman worried about things over the next hill." After the first day of the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, Grant's reply to Sherman's evaluation of the nearly disastrous outcome was typical: "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though."

The two men proceeded to give the Confederates a licking throughout much of what was known as the Western Theater, achieving great successes (notably in Chattanooga and Vicksburg) that largely eluded Union generals back in the East. Experiences in this theater had a decisive effect on Sherman's emerging vision of what was necessary to win the war. The primary lesson was the sheer carnage of combat, with 23,700 combatants left dead, wounded, or missing after the Battle of Shiloh alone (2,000 of whom were in Sherman's division). Appalled by the numbers, Sherman grew even angrier at what he considered the irregular warfare of the Confederates, including guerrilla attacks and the mistreatment and murder of Union prisoners. Sherman also felt that Southerners, many of whom he had befriended before the war, were personally and collectively responsible for the treasonous split. Why, he increasingly questioned, should the society that initiated the war not be made directly mindful of its cost? Foreshadowing his full-blown policy, Sherman tore down houses in one Kentucky village to rebuild a bridge that retreating Confederates had destroyed. When the villagers requested vouchers for repayment, Sherman told them to bill the Confederacy.

That view only hardened with time. When Abraham Lincoln summoned Grant to Washington to assume command of all Union armies, Grant put Sherman in charge of the Military Division of the Mississippi. Grant urged Sherman not to go after territory but to pursue the Confederate forces and destroy them. It was counsel that Sherman, his sights set on Atlanta, quietly ignored. Indeed, apart from one disastrous battle with Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston's army, Sherman conducted brilliant maneuvers around his foe, all the while protecting the railroad lines that conveyed some 1,300 tons of supplies a day to support his three moving armies. The fall of Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1864, was not just the conquest of a crucial urban transportation hub between the upper and lower South. It also saved Lincoln from certain electoral defeat and made Sherman a Union hero.

Not resting on his laurels, Sherman launched his most famous campaign: the March to the Sea. He decided to forsake supply lines behind him and instead plunder his way to Savannah, feeding his 60,000 troops with what his foraging "bummers" collected from farms and destroying anything that directly supported the war effort or the institution of slavery (including dogs, notoriously used for tracking escaped slaves). His goal, as he put it bluntly, was to "make Georgia howl." After taking Savannah, Sherman persuaded Grant to let him proceed through the Carolinas, expressly to punish the state (South Carolina) that had led secession. Grant, who had wanted Sherman to bring his army north by sea, relented.

As democrats we believe that people are responsible for their governments, except the most totalitarian.

Posted by at February 17, 2017 5:42 AM