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Shermans March

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Shermans March

By: Starr Klotz


Sherman's March In November of 1864, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman cut a 300-mile long, 60-mile wide corridor of destruction across the Confederate State of Georgia. He burned every thing in his path. He torched plantations, bridges, crops, factories, and mills. The goal of this war of attrition was to stop the heart of the Confederacy. By all accounts this campaign was very successful. Sherman's campaign raised many questions. First, what did Sherman think off his march? Did he see it as vindication, or did he see it as an unnecessary step in reuniting the United States? Did Sherman think that his army needed to destroy everything in its path? Also, what did Sherman's troops think about the highly destructive march? Part One The following quote form Jim Miles book To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide of Sherman's March, gives a brief example of how both sides felt about the march. To people of the North it was a triumphal procession in which right prevailed and an evil rebellion and its institution were destroyed. To the South, it was the ultimate cruelty-a cowardly war against innocent civilians, an act so despicable that it took Georgia one hundred years to recover economically. A scar still remains on the southern psyche. (Miles, Intro) When I look carefully at this quote, I can see the strong emotions each side had toward the march. The North saw it as a great triumph; while the South saw the march as if the devil himself had come down and burned their homes and crops. What Sherman thought about this is expressed in the introduction of David Nevin's book Sherman's March. To Sherman, the secession was the South's greatest sin and Southerners who supported the Confederacy. Confederacy deserved to be treated like criminals. 'To those who submit to rightful authority, all gentleness and forbearance,' he proclaimed. 'But to petulant and persistent secessionists, why death is mercy and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. (Nevin, 8) This quote shows a very hard man, one who could not forget why he was destroying Southern plantations in the first place. A comparison could be drawn between Sherman and the Arch-Angel Loki. Both were sent by a higher power to destroy evil with fire and brimstone, or in Sherman's case, fire and cannonballs. Sherman also threatened the civilians during his occupation of Savannah, right before he began his march. In a letter he wrote to Brigadier General John E. Smith in Cartersville Georgia, he showed his total disdain for people of the South who challenged him. Arrested some six or eight citizens know or supposed to be hostiles. Let one or two go free to carry word to band that you give them forty-eight hours' notice that unless all the men of ours picked up by them in the past two days are returned, Kingston, Cassville, and Cartersville will be burned, as also the houses of the parties arrested. I suppose the band of guerrillas is known to you: and you can know where to strike. (Simpson, 753) In this quote he shows just how far he is willing to go to stop the South. Sherman also wanted to mislead his enemies in his true intentions. In a letter he wrote to H. C. A. Dana, the Assistant Secretary of War he says: If indiscreet newspaper men publish information too near the truth, counteract its effect by publishing other paragraphs calculated to mislead the enemy- such as 'Sherman's army has been much reinforced, especially in the cavalry, and he will soon move by several columns in circuit, so as to catch Hood's army;' (Simpson, 754) The reason for such lies would give the Confederates a diversion that would lead them away from his real goal of breaking the back of the Confederacy. He probably did not want people to know his true intentions of burning Georgia. He also would not want General Hood's armies to have any inclination of what he was about to do. This shows that he was a very clever man who used all things at his disposal wisely. Sherman remained silent about what his army was doing in Georgia in order to protect his troops. In a letter to his wife he wrote, We start today. My arm is quite well. The box of clothing came last night. I have all your letters to including Nov. 3. Write no more till you hear me. Good-bye. (Simpson, 758) He knew that he had to sever all ties with everyone in the North, just incase his letters were intercepted by someone in the south. This demonstrates how committed he was to the cause. He had to dedicate everything to the cause and separate himself from his wife and brother, in order to achieve his objective. When Sherman began his march in Georgia he knew that re-supplying his army would be difficult so they would have to live off the land. However, his men did not mind. In a letter he wrote to Major-General Halleck he said, 'My army prefers to enjoy the fresh sweet potato fields of the Ocmulgee.' That would be just the beginning. For the remainder of the march they would successfully live off the land. He showed strong faith in his soldier's abilities. He himself also had to depend on the food for which they foraged. Sherman saw other reasons for destruction of the South. One in particular would be the slaves in Georgia. Sherman felt it was necessary to free them from their bondage. In the book The Story of the Great March by George Ward Nichols, he wrote a letter telling just how Sherman felt about doing this. General Sherman invites all able bodied Negroes (others could not make the march) to join the column, and he takes especial pleasure on some occasions, when they join in the procession, in telling them they are free; that Massa Lincoln has given them their liberty, and that they can go where they please (Nichols, 61) This quote demonstrates that Sherman saw his reason for burning Georgia as one of a greater good. He wanted to help the slaves gain their freedom. In another writing by Nichols Sherman almost appears nonchalant about the way they are cleaving through the south. Nichols begins by talking about an encounter the army had with two old black's in their sixties. All of a sudden he says, 'It is near this place that several factories were burned.' It is shocking to realize that the army had become so accustomed to the destruction that the meeting of the people was more important than the destroying of the factory. Sherman was happy with the outcome of his march. In a letter to his wife from Savannah he mentions how effective his march was. He goes so far as to say, 'I suppose Jeff Davis will now have to feed the People of Georgia, instead of collecting provisions of them to feed his armies.'(Simpson, 767) Sherman was also boastful in his success. The following letter to Abraham Lincoln illustrates this. His Excellency President Lincoln I beg to present you as a Christmas gift of the City of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25,000 bakes of cotton. W. T. Sherman Major Genl. (Simpson, 772) Sherman's overconfidence could have brought about his downfall, but instead it helped him gut the South. Sherman was also a very good military strategist. He was able to understand that warfare was changing and that one had to make war on civilians who resisted the North. By burning Georgia he made ...

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