November 15, 1864 - The March to the Sea begins

frontrank2

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On this date 11/15/1864, General Sherman starts his campaign through the state of Georgia by setting fire to the industries of Atlanta and then cutting his own supply line ( the railroad from Nashville ).

When Sherman learned of Lincoln's reelection on Nov. 8, the following day he issued Special Orders # 120, designed to be an expedition across Georgia in order to bring the war to the Deep South plantation owners and aristocrats. Uncle Billy also reasoned that the civilian economy and military operations were intertwined. When processed, a pig on a rural Georgia farm became salt pork for Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. His intention was to make "Georgia howl" and help bring about an end to the stalemate at Petersburg and the fighting elsewhere. His plan was for the army to live off the land until reaching Savannah, where the Union Navy could then become their supply line. Also, if they traveled light, they could move faster, the general was calculating it would take four to five weeks to accomplish. Sherman ordered 2,500 wagons be loaded with supplies for the journey which included ten days worth of food. Brigades would form "forage parties" to gather supplies en route. Corps commanders could decide to burn private property if their forces encountered guerrilla attacks.

Sherman then had his medical staff check the troops for illness and injury. The surgeons weeded out the sick, the weak, and even some overweight. This left Uncle Billy with roughly 60,000 men who were lean, mean, hardcore veteran soldiers who could endure the sustained march. The unfit were sent by rail back to Chattanooga asap. The army was then split in two - the right wing which consisted of the 15th & 17th Corps under maj. gen. O.O. Howard, and the left wing which was made up by the 20th & 14th Corps commanded by maj. gen. Henry Slocum.

Upon their departure on the morning of the 15th, first the right wing followed by the left, Union engineers had blown up or set fires to several buildings and factories plus they tore up up the railroads. Unfortunately the fire had also gotten out of control spreading to some civilian areas, as well. The Union engineer commander claimed that the massive fire was an accident. However, Sherman's intention was completely understood by his army- thoroughly destroy every building and every piece of equipment that might be militarily valuable.

Shermans-marsh.jpg
 

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frontrank2

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In his memoirs, Sherman wrote that he consulted the 1860 U.S. Census and "a compilation" made by Georgia's state comptroller "for the purpose of taxation" to target rich counties and countryside.

sherman-atlanta.jpg
 
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For my money, I have never thought the "March to the Sea" served any real military purpose. The war was pretty much settled and all his bummers could do was harm civilians. One story sticks out about his bummers going to the house of an older couple and demanded the man's pocket watch. He answered he never had a pocket watch. They gave him one more chance to produce the watch, but his answer was the same. So they shot him dead. To her dying day the old woman maintained the man never owned a pocket watch. After reaching Savanah he wired Grant that he would join up with him, but Grant refused saying he had no place to put him. I would love to hear different opinions on the subject. But Sherman's actions made him unwelcomed in the south for ever more.

Sorry, I see a better place for these remarks. Mods please delete.
 
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IMO, an over rated action. Left Atlanta resupplied and with 21 days rations if I recall correctly. Faced virtually no opposition other than Wheeler's troopers until the Carolina's. Not like they were starving to death and ragged while being attacked on all sides. Nearly any competent General, probably even Colonel, could have pulled this off, yet it is hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. just my 2 cents.
 
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To the extent that Sherman's "March" dispirited the supporters of the Confederacy, opened up harbors in the South, and prevented Joe Johnston's army joining Lee's entrenched army at Petersburg, the operation was both necessary and valuable. That all this was done with a minimum of casualties only strengthens the argument that it was well conceived and well executed.
As far as the alleged depredations are concerned, "war is all hell" as Sherman accurately stated earlier and there is nothing more effective than supporting a claim with overwhelming evidence.
 

Carronade

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The war was pretty much settled.......
Apparently someone forgot to tell the rebels that.

I agree with you that there was little point in carrying on the war after Lincoln's reelection, but the Confederate leadership remained determined to do so. The army and the people stuck with them despite considerable war-weariness.

What would you suggest that Sherman or the Union do? Sherman had tried to engage Hood's army again, but Hood evaded action, and a Confederate army in its own territory was difficult to pin down. When Hood struck north into Tennessee, the Union deployed sufficient forces to deal with him and still had Sherman's army available for other operations.

No doubt some of our friends will suggest that the Union, after three years of war, tremendous sacrifices, and being on the verge of victory, should have just given up and let the secessionists have their independence; but seriously, folks, the war was going to go on until the Confederates decided to call it quits. Sherman's march was intended to help convince them that it was time to end the war. Again, alternate suggestions are welcome.
 

bdtex

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I've had Southern Storm by Noah Trudeau in my unread stack for quite some time. Won it in a book raffle. I hope to get to it some time next year but that sorta depends on how next year's schedule shakes out.
 
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For my money, I have never thought the "March to the Sea" served any real military purpose. The war was pretty much settled and all his bummers could do was harm civilians. One story sticks out about his bummers going to the house of an older couple and demanded the man's pocket watch. He answered he never had a pocket watch. They gave him one more chance to produce the watch, but his answer was the same. So they shot him dead. To her dying day the old woman maintained the man never owned a pocket watch. After reaching Savanah he wired Grant that he would join up with him, but Grant refused saying he had no place to put him. I would love to hear different opinions on the subject. But Sherman's actions made him unwelcomed in the south for ever more.
Well the issue was while the outcome was settled, the war wasn't yet. People were still dying. And his march to the sea destroyed a LOT of the Confederacy. Their fighting spirits, and their ability to resupply and support their armies still fighting. Look at their generals letters talking about soldier desertion once word of that was coming back over a hundred thousands troops surrendered to him because he made them not want to fight.

And yes it made him unwelcome. There were a LOT of people upset with what he did to lands and animals and buildings. A LOT upset about the massive number of slaves he free'd in his march. But his offensive took over more land with fewer deaths on either side than any offensive in the States of the war. He made the decision he'd rather be hated by his enemy than put them and his own troops in the ground. By the time he reached Savannah, 10,000 men entrenched in favorable fighting positions with a kill box Sherman would have to get through just simply surrendered. Lives spared on both sides.

He made the war something that everyone felt. It wasn't just the poor soldier dying honorably that no one really would miss while the rich plantation owner enjoyed his life with his family. He made people feel the pain of that war, and spared the lives where he could. It made them hate him. Take their slaves and kill their animals. And that somehow ended up being hated more than killing their soldiers.

And Sherman I believe then went up to North Carolina, and again was able to gain the surrender of 90,000 troops without firing a shot and lived up to his reputation as treating those who surrender with the utmost respect.
 



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