Sherman Dec. 10, 1864 - Sherman's March to the Sea Completed

frontrank2

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December 10, 1864
Sherman arrives in front of Savannah

Union General William T. Sherman completes his March to the Sea when he arrives in front of Savannah, Georgia.

Since mid-November of that year, Sherman’s army had been sweeping from Atlanta across the state to the south and east towards Savannah, one of the last Confederate seaports still unoccupied by Union forces. Along the way, Sherman destroyed farms and railroads, burned storehouses, and fed his army off the land. In his own words, Sherman intended to “make Georgia howl,” a plan that was approved by President Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of the Union armies.

The city of Savannah was fortified and defended by some 10,000 Confederates under the command of General William Hardee. The Rebels flooded the rice fields around Savannah, so only a few narrow causeways provided access to the city. Sherman’s army was running low on supplies and he had not made contact with supply ships off the coast. His army had been completely cut off from the North, and only the reports of destruction provided any evidence of its whereabouts. Sherman directed General Oliver O. Howard to the coast to locate friendly ships. Howard dispatched Captain William Duncan and two comrades to contact the Union fleet, but nothing was heard of the trio for several days. Duncan located a Union gunboat that carried him to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Supply ships were sent to Savannah, and Duncan continued on to Washington, D.C.,to deliver news of the successful March to the Sea to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

For ten days, Hardee held out as Sherman prepared for an attack. Realizing the futility of the situation, Hardee fled the city on December 20 and slipped northward to fight another day.
Posted on Facebook by The Historical Series of the Civil War 1861-1865

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KeyserSoze

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"It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think that Hood's movements indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma & Talledega road, at Blue Mountain, about 60 miles southwest of Rome, where he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, and Decatur,Alabama, I propose that we break up the railroad from Chattanooga forward, and that we strike out with our wagons for Midgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people, will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads, we will lose a thousand men each month, and we will gain no result. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl! We have on hand over 8 thousand head of cattle and three million rations of bread, but no corn. We can find plenty of forage in the interior of the state." -- William T. Sherman, October 1864.
 

Dave DuBrucq

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Tennessee
December 1864 was a very bad month for the Confederacy. Hood was busy squandering the once proud Army of Tennessee at Franklin and Nashville. Lee was essentially penned up at Petersburg and there was no significant force left to oppose Sherman's Army in Georgia. The outcome was no longer in doubt, the Federals would prevail.
 

jackt62

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Although it didn't come to pass, there was some hope among the National team that Georgia, under Governor Brown, might sue for a separate peace with the Union once Sherman began his March. Brown did however, start to pull back the Georgia militia and advocated an end to the war. In that sense, one of Sherman's major objectives, bringing the reality of warfare to the people and resources of Georgia, was accomplished.
 

jvarnell

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NC
How the looting and destruction carried out on a civilian population is considered a great military feat reaks of Yankeeism.
 

danny

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Hattiesburg
"It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think that Hood's movements indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma & Talledega road, at Blue Mountain, about 60 miles southwest of Rome, where he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, and Decatur,Alabama, I propose that we break up the railroad from Chattanooga forward, and that we strike out with our wagons for Midgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people, will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads, we will lose a thousand men each month, and we will gain no result. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl! We have on hand over 8 thousand head of cattle and three million rations of bread, but no corn. We can find plenty of forage in the interior of the state." -- William T. Sherman, October 1864.
So much for all the rationalizing and humanity of Sherman's march.
 

Rhea Cole

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How the looting and destruction carried out on a civilian population is considered a great military feat reaks of Yankeeism.
You miss the point, the failure of CSA forces to protect their civilian population was one of the goals of the March to the Sea. It was intended to strike a death blow to Southern morale & it succeeded.
 

jackt62

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How the looting and destruction carried out on a civilian population can be considered a great military feat reaks of Yankeeism.

Using the terms "looting and destruction" infers that the March was an undisciplined, mob rampage that was bereft of any military objective, which is particularly ironic given Sherman's abhorrence of any action that evoked anarchy. In fact, Sherman, acting under the higher authority of Grant and the civilian government, relied on specific means and methods to inflict as much damage on civilian resources that were critical in supporting the military efforts of the Confederacy. To that end, infrastructure including railroads, depots, corncribs, smokehouses, mills, sheds, springhouses, etc. were targeted in a successful campaign to derange infrastructure and weaken southern willpower.
 
Yeah, like that's really an equivalent

Many Southerners fail to criticize the acts of the Confederate commanders based on the excuse that Confederate reprisals were minor compared to the enormity of federal depredations or based on their lack of accomplishing success in their Northern incursions. Lee, Early, Semmes and others did what they believed was cardinal to winning the war for the South, likewise so did Sherman and other Union commanders for the North. The failure of the Confederates to render destruction on Northern targets is attestation to their lack of opportunity and where those few opportunities were present, the incompetence of the individuals involved -- not to their intentions or any difference in attitudes or morals between the Union and the Confederacy's military leaders.
 

lurid

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You miss the point, the failure of CSA forces to protect their civilian population was one of the goals of the March to the Sea. It was intended to strike a death blow to Southern morale & it succeeded.

Exactly. People in their ignorance fail to understand Sherman and his objective. I wrote this in some other thread: Sherman is misunderstood by just about everyone, that's because he didn't follow the Marquess of Queensbury rules of boxing, he threw off the gloves. He demolished the heartland of the Southern aristocrats: their land and slaves—and left them impotent and discredited before their helpless women and children. Facing little opposition once they left Atlanta, Sherman’s men destroyed the very infrastructure that supported slavery and upheld the slaveholding elites—plantations, communications, factories, and government facilities. Southern military officers put great capital in the idea of the sanctity of the Southern homeland. They deemed themselves great raiders and marauders, who harassed fixed garrisons and terrorized timid populations. Sherman, however, gave the Confederacy the raid of its life. The central objective could be summed up quite simply: Freeing the unfree and humiliating the arrogant. Sherman knew the southern aristocracy cared about their patrimony more than the average Confederate soldier, so he knew where to wage war, and it worked.

Furthermore, people in their ignorance fail to understand that civilians are part of the war effort, so they are open game. Nevertheless, like I said in the above-mentioned paragraph that Sherman knew how to win the war, to eviscerate the southern elite. It worked...
 

rbasin

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Tampa, Fl
No need to rationalize or make excuses for it. It was an impressive and effective movement. It demonstrated the weakness of the confederacy.
It was effective. But not very impressive considering he took the best troops with him, and left the hard work to Thomas.
 

jackt62

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Jul 28, 2015
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New York City
There are those who assert that the goal of the March to the Sea was simply wanton destruction. If that were the case, Savannah would have been utterly devastated by Sherman's forces after its capture, an action that did not occur as the city was peaceably occupied.
 

Dave DuBrucq

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Oct 28, 2020
Location
Tennessee
Sherman's March had an important objective and that objective was to bring the realities of war to the people of the Confederacy who supported, supplied and funded it. Sherman himself made that very clear: " I will make Georgia howl." In addition, it demonstrated just how vulnerable the Confederacy was. The object lesson in my opinion was to show the civilian population it was no longer going to be able to sit back and let someone else do the bleeding and dying while they sat at home supplying the war effort, impervious to any affront by the Federal Army. Sherman introduced them to the concept of total war. There is no doubt in my mind that Sherman's March also shortened the war, thereby saving lives on both sides.
 
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