Sherman and Grant's war

MikeyB

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2018
Sherman's destruction, Sheridan's in the valley and Grant's overall strategy of destroying Confederate war materials to impair their ability and will to fight.

Looking back, is there an argument that this was the wrong strategy?

Premise as follows:
1) Even if Sherman fully respected Southern property rights, Hood and Johnston wouldn't have been able to properly harvest these undestroyed materials and even if they had, they were unlikely to make a difference in stopping Sherman or the Union's Western armies. Union superiority was too much by this point in the war. As such, Sherman ends up at the coast anyway and marching North to meet Grant.
2) Without this wake of destruction, spares some civilian suffering, and maybe Southern sentiment towards the USA is a little better as the country heads into Reconstruction. Maybe not

Asked another way - if Grant's orders were to fully respect Southern property rights to Sherman, does the war pretty much end the same way?
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
To answer this important question, the larger scope of the war's trajectory needs to be understood. At its inception, both sides believed the war would be short and limited to a few decisive field engagements, with few if any impacts to civilian populations. McClellan was the poster child for this type of "soft war" which held that reconciliation between north and south would occur quickly once hostilities were over, and that basic institutions including slavery be untouched. But the bloodletting at Shiloh, the recognition that neither side would easily roll over after a few battles, and the rising tide of radical Republicanism in the north, and a passionate increase in nationalistic fervor in the south hardened the stakes involved. In the north, a definite shift in war aims became apparent after Antietam with the promulgation of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and the replacement of "soft war" generals such as McClellan and Buell with "hard war" commanders such as Pope, Butler, and Hunter. Under the concept of "hard war," civilian infrastructure became a prime target, and that included not only targets like railroads, munitions factories, etc., but also sources of food and forage. This type of warfare became the norm by the year 1863 and was practiced to a high level by Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. Given the strongly entrenched interests of north and south, this type of warfare was inevitable. Could the southland been vanquished otherwise? Doubtful.​
 

danny

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Hattiesburg
Not throwing stones, but I believe it is pretty well acknowledged that the South had all it could do to just hold on when those guys began to shine [and burn, etc.]

The Southern armies had been gutted
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I don’t understand the premise of this question. The Emancipation Proclamation wrote off hundreds of millions of Southern investment. It was, without a doubt, the largest single destruction of personal wealth in US history. In 1860, the slaves in Tennessee were worth more than the state. With the passage of the 13th Amendment, all of that wealth disappeared.

Exactly what, as a war aim, would have been gained by leaving all that vast wealth intact? I am sure the slaveholding members of my family would have been gratified, but not sure what that would have accomplished.

It was Sherman’s March that deprived Lee of the supplies he needed to continue fighting. This was accomplished without the bloodshed of a single major battle. Without The March, how many more pitched battles with tens of thousands of casualties would have been fought. As those of us who have studied Sherman’s operations are well aware, the actual destruction of was targeted at economic assets, not the civilian population. All you have to do is examine the millions of civilians slaughtered in the Chinese Civil War to understand just how restrained Sherman was.

So, to directly answer the question, Grant & Sherman had not been tasked with making nice to the people who were supplying the rations to Southern armies. That delusional kid glove policy had run its course in 1862. They had been tasked with ending the war as quickly as they could. That they did.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The war escalated as a burned district was created in Missouri. That was a counter insurgency measure and Ewing wasn't fooling around. Sheridan's destruction in the Shenandoah Valley took or destroyed everything close enough to a road to be useful to the Confederacy. There was a proximate link to causing hunger in Richmond and in the Army of Northern Virginia.
But the biggest destruction of civilian property occurred after Lincoln won re-election. Regardless of Sherman or Grant, a US army deep in the south, not bothered by major opposition, was going to inflict serious suffering on a people that were prolonging the war and keeping the soldiers away from the families and fiances. After the burning of Chambersberg, PA, retaliation was going to happen.
When the Confederacy was bound to Jefferson Davis' refusal to admit he had been wrong, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Richmond/Petersburg were going to suffer. Sherman and Grant and Sheridan had little to do with it. The soldiers and troopers were thinking like warriors by then, and anything undefended was going to taken and burned. In addition, pure lawlessness was settling on the Confederacy and Confederate partisans also took what the wanted from whomever had it.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Grant intended to destroy everything that could support a war effort. The intent was to eliminate any chance for an 1865 summer campaign, and the thought of a Waterloo type battle was a strong motivation in what happened in 1865.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
As for the south's recovery, Nashville did just fine. Missouri became a Midwestern state. And Texas became the railroad state in the 1870s. St. Louis, Louisville, Baltimore all passed through the Civil War with prosperity. New Orleans was undamaged during the Civil War. The Confederate countryside declined because it could not extract involuntary labor from the slaves on 24/7 basis.
Two more factors: the livestock loses in the Confederacy were enormous during the Civil War. And by 1867 the world found out that the demand for British and French textiles was not growing as fast as American production was increasing.
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
As for the south's recovery, Nashville did just fine. Missouri became a Midwestern state. And Texas became the railroad state in the 1870s. St. Louis, Louisville, Baltimore all passed through the Civil War with prosperity. New Orleans was undamaged during the Civil War. The Confederate countryside declined because it could not extract involuntary labor from the slaves on 24/7 basis.
Two more factors: the livestock loses in the Confederacy were enormous during the Civil War. And by 1867 the world found out that the demand for British and French textiles was not growing as fast as American production was increasing.
You think slaves worked 24/7? got some proof of that?
 
Last edited:

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”
The valuations placed on slaves as chattel property are not to be trusted. There was regular trading in the sugar and cotton that slaves produced, with futures contracts and debt securitizations that reached across the Atlantic. The shares and bonds of Southern railroads traded in New York, Philadelphia and London. Southern plantation land could be mortgaged and sold. But, for the asset that was supposedly worth more than everything else in the United States of America, there were no futures contracts, no debt securitizations and no central financial markets here or abroad.
The premise that the slaves by themselves were an immense store of wealth is based largely on the records generated from the buyout by Parliament of the English owners of slaves throughout the empire in 1837. In the U.S. a quarter century later we have only the records of a few local slave brokerages; for Britain we have the full accounts of 40,000 claims and the price paid for each. The total payments were 40% of the Empire's official budget for that year.
https://archive.org/details/ukslaveownercompensation/page/n1/mode/2up
What slaves produced was worth a great deal of money and that gave real value to plantation real estate. What slaves themselves were worth as chattel property, independent of the plantations that they worked on, was a question no serious speculator wanted to bet on.
The conduct of the slave owners themselves is the tell. The promising cotton and sugar lands opened up in the 1820s and 1830s by the removal of the Cherokees and others were not settled by producers who bought the land and then imported slaves; they were pioneered by growers who moved their entire operations, including their slave families with them.
The threat of ending slavery in the territories was a real economic threat precisely because new lands gained their value from settlement by slave owners. The slaves alone could not be sold at any profit. The lands, once established as plantations, would have immense value that could be mortgaged and sold.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”
The valuations placed on slaves as chattel property are not to be trusted. There was regular trading in the sugar and cotton that slaves produced, with futures contracts and debt securitizations that reached across the Atlantic. The shares and bonds of Southern railroads traded in New York, Philadelphia and London. Southern plantation land could be mortgaged and sold. But, for the asset that was supposedly worth more than everything else in the United States of America, there were no futures contracts, no debt securitizations and no central financial markets here or abroad.
The premise that the slaves by themselves were an immense store of wealth is based largely on the records generated from the buyout by Parliament of the English owners of slaves throughout the empire in 1837. In the U.S. a quarter century later we have only the records of a few local slave brokerages; for Britain we have the full accounts of 40,000 claims and the price paid for each. The total payments were 40% of the Empire's official budget for that year.
https://archive.org/details/ukslaveownercompensation/page/n1/mode/2up
What slaves produced was worth a great deal of money and that gave real value to plantation real estate. What slaves themselves were worth as chattel property, independent of the plantations that they worked on, was a question no serious speculator wanted to bet on.
The conduct of the slave owners themselves is the tell. The promising cotton and sugar lands opened up in the 1820s and 1830s by the removal of the Cherokees and others were not settled by producers who bought the land and then imported slaves; they were pioneered by growers who moved their entire operations, including their slave families with them.
The threat of ending slavery in the territories was a real economic threat precisely because new lands gained their value from settlement by slave owners. The slaves alone could not be sold at any profit. The lands, once established as plantations, would have immense value that could be mortgaged and sold.
I don’t understand what you mean by the value of the slaves was unknowable. It was the sale of “extras” that provided the cash flow that kept border state plantations solvent. It was that trade that made Nathan Bedford Forrest a wealthy man.

Monthly market reports were subscribed to that listed the value of slaves beginning with children 4’ tall. There were farms that blatantly advertised that they raised human being for sale. Whether they acknowledged it or not, it was the raiding & selling of humans that the Virginia that Lee was so loyal to that was their major cash crop.

Isack Franklin & John Armfield were the ones who mastered the transport of “extras” from Maryland, Delaware & Virginia to Mississippi for resale. You can easily Google them for the details. Fair warning, their records are on the National Archive & the details would gag a buzzard.

Adelisha Atkins, Franklin’s widow’s married name, was the richest woman in the US after the Civil War. During the CW she managed to get cotton from what had been Franklin’s Deep South plantations to London. Baron Rothschild held her profit in gold until the end of hostilities.

Her summer mansion, Belmont, is at the southern end of Nashville’s famous Music Row. It is fully restored & should be on anybody’s list of must see’s. Google her for a good read.

The members of the Reverse Underground Rail Road knew exactly what slaves were worth. Right up until the final emancipation, organized gangs kidnapped black & only vaguely black individuals from free states & smuggled them southward for sale. Goggle Revers Underground RR for a sobering look at an often unknown aspect of the slave economy.

A great deal of money was made renting out slaves. Contracts ran from January to January when the corn crop was put away. Slave families dreaded January because that was when loved ones were packed off for labor in unknown parts. The civil suits resulting from the mistreatment of rented slaves is a stark dollars & cents example of what slaves were worth. Court records from Tennessee & other states are online.

Of course, probate is where the dollar value of slaves is set down in legal documents. The notion that the exact value of slaves of all ages was not knowable is in no way supported by the vast documentation to the contrary.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”
The valuations placed on slaves as chattel property are not to be trusted. There was regular trading in the sugar and cotton that slaves produced, with futures contracts and debt securitizations that reached across the Atlantic. The shares and bonds of Southern railroads traded in New York, Philadelphia and London. Southern plantation land could be mortgaged and sold. But, for the asset that was supposedly worth more than everything else in the United States of America, there were no futures contracts, no debt securitizations and no central financial markets here or abroad.
The premise that the slaves by themselves were an immense store of wealth is based largely on the records generated from the buyout by Parliament of the English owners of slaves throughout the empire in 1837. In the U.S. a quarter century later we have only the records of a few local slave brokerages; for Britain we have the full accounts of 40,000 claims and the price paid for each. The total payments were 40% of the Empire's official budget for that year.
https://archive.org/details/ukslaveownercompensation/page/n1/mode/2up
What slaves produced was worth a great deal of money and that gave real value to plantation real estate. What slaves themselves were worth as chattel property, independent of the plantations that they worked on, was a question no serious speculator wanted to bet on.
The conduct of the slave owners themselves is the tell. The promising cotton and sugar lands opened up in the 1820s and 1830s by the removal of the Cherokees and others were not settled by producers who bought the land and then imported slaves; they were pioneered by growers who moved their entire operations, including their slave families with them.
The threat of ending slavery in the territories was a real economic threat precisely because new lands gained their value from settlement by slave owners. The slaves alone could not be sold at any profit. The lands, once established as plantations, would have immense value that could be mortgaged and sold.
Even when the slaves were counted as personal property, not owned by themselves, like paid laborers, the value of personal property did not equal the value of real estate in the US in 1860.
1627907963732.png

p.294
1627907989107.png
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”
The valuations placed on slaves as chattel property are not to be trusted. There was regular trading in the sugar and cotton that slaves produced, with futures contracts and debt securitizations that reached across the Atlantic. The shares and bonds of Southern railroads traded in New York, Philadelphia and London. Southern plantation land could be mortgaged and sold. But, for the asset that was supposedly worth more than everything else in the United States of America, there were no futures contracts, no debt securitizations and no central financial markets here or abroad.
The premise that the slaves by themselves were an immense store of wealth is based largely on the records generated from the buyout by Parliament of the English owners of slaves throughout the empire in 1837. In the U.S. a quarter century later we have only the records of a few local slave brokerages; for Britain we have the full accounts of 40,000 claims and the price paid for each. The total payments were 40% of the Empire's official budget for that year.
https://archive.org/details/ukslaveownercompensation/page/n1/mode/2up
What slaves produced was worth a great deal of money and that gave real value to plantation real estate. What slaves themselves were worth as chattel property, independent of the plantations that they worked on, was a question no serious speculator wanted to bet on.
The conduct of the slave owners themselves is the tell. The promising cotton and sugar lands opened up in the 1820s and 1830s by the removal of the Cherokees and others were not settled by producers who bought the land and then imported slaves; they were pioneered by growers who moved their entire operations, including their slave families with them.
The threat of ending slavery in the territories was a real economic threat precisely because new lands gained their value from settlement by slave owners. The slaves alone could not be sold at any profit. The lands, once established as plantations, would have immense value that could be mortgaged and sold.
The railroads were worth much more than what the stockholders and bond investors had put into them, because they too were going to generate lifetime revenue, which would only increase as the population and standard of living increased. But most of the companies were closely held and the values were not public. But more and more were improved and added, which is a telling sign they were making money.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”
The valuations placed on slaves as chattel property are not to be trusted. There was regular trading in the sugar and cotton that slaves produced, with futures contracts and debt securitizations that reached across the Atlantic. The shares and bonds of Southern railroads traded in New York, Philadelphia and London. Southern plantation land could be mortgaged and sold. But, for the asset that was supposedly worth more than everything else in the United States of America, there were no futures contracts, no debt securitizations and no central financial markets here or abroad.
The premise that the slaves by themselves were an immense store of wealth is based largely on the records generated from the buyout by Parliament of the English owners of slaves throughout the empire in 1837. In the U.S. a quarter century later we have only the records of a few local slave brokerages; for Britain we have the full accounts of 40,000 claims and the price paid for each. The total payments were 40% of the Empire's official budget for that year.
https://archive.org/details/ukslaveownercompensation/page/n1/mode/2up
What slaves produced was worth a great deal of money and that gave real value to plantation real estate. What slaves themselves were worth as chattel property, independent of the plantations that they worked on, was a question no serious speculator wanted to bet on.
The conduct of the slave owners themselves is the tell. The promising cotton and sugar lands opened up in the 1820s and 1830s by the removal of the Cherokees and others were not settled by producers who bought the land and then imported slaves; they were pioneered by growers who moved their entire operations, including their slave families with them.
The threat of ending slavery in the territories was a real economic threat precisely because new lands gained their value from settlement by slave owners. The slaves alone could not be sold at any profit. The lands, once established as plantations, would have immense value that could be mortgaged and sold.
How much were any of the slaves worth once the US occupied New Orleans and the concept of paid labor was introduced into sugar production? Without access to the ranch land, mines and forests of the west, and without access to New Orleans and St. Louis, the slave economy had no realistic growth potential. But the railroads were just getting started.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
You think slaves worked 24/7? got some proof of that?
Apparently you have not read about harvesting during the full moons. If you will refer to plantation ledgers, you will discover that during harvests slave drivers would keep gangs in the field until the crop was secure. As any farmer will tell you, when a crop is ready for harvest, a delay of even a few hours can be the difference between profit & loss.

Sweet potatoes were a staple of plantation diets. What modern folk often find surprising is that sweet potatoes were smoked to preserve them. Tons of them had to be dug, cleaned, smoked & stored properly. Even without slave labor, that was a major time sensitive process. The Shakers at Pleasant Hill KY documented the thousands of pounds they prepared for shipment southward at their landing.

One of the most time critical harvests was that of rice. Migrating birds, thunderstorms & even high wind can wreak havoc on a rice harvest. That is as true today as it was then.

Hog killing time was another period of sustained labor. All the meat for an entire year was processed during an intense can to can’t effort. Once started, there was no stoping until the last & side of bacon was hung in the smokehouse. Making & preserving sausage, head cheese, etc. was laborious & a race against time.

As Gilpin Faust & other authors have documented, hog killing & meat preservation was the responsibility of the owner’s wife & daughters. It was too important to be left to anyone else.

Visitors wrote in their journals about hearing the voice of the cultured lady of the plantation long before dawn as she supervised the all important brining of the meat. At the elegant table she set for supper he noted how red & raw her hands were. On very large plantations 3,000 hogs would be processed in a frenzy of activity.

Once started, the all important rendering of fat into lard went on until it was done. No delay was possible because of how quickly the fat will go rancid.

I suggest reading any of the large number of books that document what 19th Century farmlife was really like.
 
Last edited:

Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
The war escalated as a burned district was created in Missouri. That was a counter insurgency measure and Ewing wasn't fooling around. Sheridan's destruction in the Shenandoah Valley took or destroyed everything close enough to a road to be useful to the Confederacy. There was a proximate link to causing hunger in Richmond and in the Army of Northern Virginia.
But the biggest destruction of civilian property occurred after Lincoln won re-election. Regardless of Sherman or Grant, a US army deep in the south, not bothered by major opposition, was going to inflict serious suffering on a people that were prolonging the war and keeping the soldiers away from the families and fiances. After the burning of Chambersberg, PA, retaliation was going to happen.
When the Confederacy was bound to Jefferson Davis' refusal to admit he had been wrong, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Richmond/Petersburg were going to suffer. Sherman and Grant and Sheridan had little to do with it. The soldiers and troopers were thinking like warriors by then, and anything undefended was going to taken and burned. In addition, pure lawlessness was settling on the Confederacy and Confederate partisans also took what the wanted from whomever had it.
Ewing’s General Order 11 arguably did more harm than good. Designed as a counter insurgency measure, it became controversial, escalating criminal acts against the civilian population that often did not distinguish friend from foe, further fanning the flames of hatred along the Ks, Mo border.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This old country boy would like to give a shout out for the good old sweet potato.
After learning about the tons of smoked sweet potatoes at Pleasant Hill, I put some in my smoker. Once dehydrated, they could be kept for years, apparently. I baked them with a pork shoulder well sealed to rehydrate in the juices. It was mighty fine eating.
 
When the Confederacy was bound to Jefferson Davis' refusal to admit he had been wrong, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Richmond/Petersburg were going to suffer.
I've always found it fascinating that the Confederate armies didn't just melt away in 1864, and that there wasn't a coup in Richmond. A critical mass of people hung on long after hope should have been lost.
 

danny

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Hattiesburg
It helps to recall what Grant's specific orders were: "You will, no doubt, clean the country where you go of railroad tracks and supplies. I would also move every wagon, horse, mule, and hoof of stock, as well as the negroes.”


"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 & Talladega 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 Milledgeville, 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.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Ewing’s General Order 11 arguably did more harm than good. Designed as a counter insurgency measure, it became controversial, escalating criminal acts against the civilian population that often did not distinguish friend from foe, further fanning the flames of hatred along the Ks, Mo border.
Could be. But I think taking the women as hostages and not parsing them out to private homes was an enormous mistake and led to the jail collapsing and several deaths. That was over the line and was avoidable. If some of the women escape and make it back to the resistance, no big deal. The jail wasn't built for a crowd, most likely.
 
Top