Sherman Sherman's Wartime Record

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Jun 27, 2017
Even considering the Atlanta campaign, I would barely adequate at best. Considering only that campaign in which he had great numerical superiority his strategy was to use the broken terrain to threaten his opponent's main defense and flank him to the west. Ideally this move allows him to cut the enemy's route of retreat and trap him between two forces or send him in precipitous flight. Say what you will about Joe Johnston but he always managed to avoid either option.

Having proved to everyone but himself the efficacy of this approach, he abandons it at Kennesaw Mt in fruitless frontal assaults against a dug in enemy. Yep, genius.

I really would have loved to have seen Davis's relief order replacing him with Hood delayed for a week or two to see how the Battle of Peachtree Creek would have played out with a competent Johnston at the helm instead of Hood.

I wonder did Sherman send Hood thank you cards for each of his fruitless frontal attacks against a superior force.

But then one of the great accolades Sherman is given is for his imaginative strategy of marching through Georgia, destroying the enemy's will to resist.

Much is made of spreading his army over much of the width of Ga, confusing the enemy as to what his goal was. The only problem with this conclusion is that it is absolutely false. First Sherman left Atlanta driving a herd of 5000 cattle with him. Even with this moving food factory when his exhausted army reached the outskirts of Savannah they were close to starvation. This was true even though spread out as they were allowed them to forage across the countryside. Second there was no opposition, a few home guards most of whom probably had to think how to load their weapons and had probably never heard a shot fired in anger.

Think about the consequences of Hood not haring off to Tenn. Or realizing what Sherman was doing had turned to harry him. If he continues his 3 column advance, any of the columns may be attacked by his follower. Thus he would have had to inevitably move to consolidate his army. Unfortunately this would have inhibited foraging and much more rapidly depleted his supplies. Suppose Athena, goddess of wisdom personally comes down to slap Hood's head hard enough to get his 2 brain cells to rub together and inspire him to immediately send for Forrest who immediately harries Sherman's flanks incessantly. Who makes him deploy for battle to cross every creek.

In essence he would have been imprisoned in a trap of his own making. He cannot reach the sea for succor. He cannot return to Atlanta. Soon his only option would have been ignominious surrender, possibly without even the need for a pitched battle.
 

Lubliner

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Even considering the Atlanta campaign, I would barely adequate at best. Considering only that campaign in which he had great numerical superiority his strategy was to use the broken terrain to threaten his opponent's main defense and flank him to the west. Ideally this move allows him to cut the enemy's route of retreat and trap him between two forces or send him in precipitous flight. Say what you will about Joe Johnston but he always managed to avoid either option.

Having proved to everyone but himself the efficacy of this approach, he abandons it at Kennesaw Mt in fruitless frontal assaults against a dug in enemy. Yep, genius.

I really would have loved to have seen Davis's relief order replacing him with Hood delayed for a week or two to see how the Battle of Peachtree Creek would have played out with a competent Johnston at the helm instead of Hood.

I wonder did Sherman send Hood thank you cards for each of his fruitless frontal attacks against a superior force.

But then one of the great accolades Sherman is given is for his imaginative strategy of marching through Georgia, destroying the enemy's will to resist.

Much is made of spreading his army over much of the width of Ga, confusing the enemy as to what his goal was. The only problem with this conclusion is that it is absolutely false. First Sherman left Atlanta driving a herd of 5000 cattle with him. Even with this moving food factory when his exhausted army reached the outskirts of Savannah they were close to starvation. This was true even though spread out as they were allowed them to forage across the countryside. Second there was no opposition, a few home guards most of whom probably had to think how to load their weapons and had probably never heard a shot fired in anger.

Think about the consequences of Hood not haring off to Tenn. Or realizing what Sherman was doing had turned to harry him. If he continues his 3 column advance, any of the columns may be attacked by his follower. Thus he would have had to inevitably move to consolidate his army. Unfortunately this would have inhibited foraging and much more rapidly depleted his supplies. Suppose Athena, goddess of wisdom personally comes down to slap Hood's head hard enough to get his 2 brain cells to rub together and inspire him to immediately send for Forrest who immediately harries Sherman's flanks incessantly. Who makes him deploy for battle to cross every creek.

In essence he would have been imprisoned in a trap of his own making. He cannot reach the sea for succor. He cannot return to Atlanta. Soon his only option would have been ignominious surrender, possibly without even the need for a pitched battle.
It is a very good and strong point on having the confederates maintain control near Sherman's army. I believe if/when caught in the trap, central Georgia, he would have turned south toward the gulf.
Lubliner.
 
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Sherman's record as a tactical general was certainly spotty. His strategic record was generally much better. He was one of those guys, like Grant ironically enough, who was best to leave the details to their underlings while focusing on the big picture.
I assume that you mean by strategical your refer to the march through Ga. If so what kind of praise do you give a general for fighting/defeating a nonexistent army. There was nothing between Sherman and the sea and he almost didn't make it. When he turned north there was nothing opposing him until he faced off with Johnston who came close to handing him a tactical defeat at Bentonville with a pitiful excuse for an army.
 

unionblue

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I assume that you mean by strategical your refer to the march through Ga. If so what kind of praise do you give a general for fighting/defeating a nonexistent army. There was nothing between Sherman and the sea and he almost didn't make it. When he turned north there was nothing opposing him until he faced off with Johnston who came close to handing him a tactical defeat at Bentonville with a pitiful excuse for an army.
And yet....
 

Irishtom29

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I assume that you mean by strategical your refer to the march through Ga. If so what kind of praise do you give a general for fighting/defeating a nonexistent army. There was nothing between Sherman and the sea and he almost didn't make it. When he turned north there was nothing opposing him until he faced off with Johnston who came close to handing him a tactical defeat at Bentonville with a pitiful excuse for an army.

But he did make the Sea. And he did defeat Johnston. You're arguing with actual facts and accomplishments.
 

jackt62

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I assume that you mean by strategical your refer to the march through Ga. If so what kind of praise do you give a general for fighting/defeating a nonexistent army. There was nothing between Sherman and the sea and he almost didn't make it. When he turned north there was nothing opposing him until he faced off with Johnston who came close to handing him a tactical defeat at Bentonville with a pitiful excuse for an army.
I don't quite understand why that is a problem. Sherman was quite content to avoid major conflict and strike at the enemy's infrastructure and will to resist. Rather than pursue Hood and the AoT, Sherman's March was simply an expanded version of "hard" war policies that were introduced by Pope in Virginia, were waged by Sherman during the Meridian campaign and Hunter in the Shenandoah, and were accepted as doctrine by Grant, Stanton, and Lincoln. Asserting that the massive destruction to southern resources during the March was inconsequential belies most historical consensus.
 

wausaubob

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Once whole nations are at war, and not just monarchs and the allied noblemen, then every asset of the nation becomes a target of destruction. And starving the enemy, as in Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, becomes normal, not the exception. Per the Lieber code, which as adopted by the US and in various forms by many European nations:
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I don't quite understand why that is a problem. Sherman was quite content to avoid major conflict and strike at the enemy's infrastructure and will to resist. Rather than pursue Hood and the AoT, Sherman's March was simply an expanded version of "hard" war policies that were introduced by Pope in Virginia, were waged by Sherman during the Meridian campaign and Hunter in the Shenandoah, and were accepted as doctrine by Grant, Stanton, and Lincoln. Asserting that the massive destruction to southern resources during the March was inconsequential belies most historical consensus.
But you ignore the basic problem. If Hood does not leave Ga., haring off to Tenn., Sherman cannot leave Atlanta. He cannot march through Ga. Well I guess he could if the good Lord decides to provide him with manna like he did for Moses.

When Sherman reached the coast his army was essentially starving. They had made it that far by spreading across the breadth of Ga foraging. With Hood or anybody else dogging his footsteps he cannot forage because he can't spread out. To do so would be to invite attacks in detail where the south would have had local superiorty. In a nutshell if he spreads his army out he's beaten in detail, if he keeps it concentrated he starves to death.

If he stays in Atlanta, he still has a supply problem. Hood can always cut and threaten his supply line. Essentially Sherman would have to move his entire army back to the railroad tunnels from Chattanooga to get his supplies, but when he returns to Atlanta his opponent can shut it down again.

If you remember one of the prerequisites to Sherman's making the march was to have Forrest put out of the picture. With an intact Southern army near Atlanta, Forrest would have time to reconstitute his depleted forces and cut Sherman's supplies north of Chattanooga.

Simply put without criminal Confederate negligence Sherman could not have made his march. He could not have even considered it.
 

rbasin

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But you ignore the basic problem. If Hood does not leave Ga., haring off to Tenn., Sherman cannot leave Atlanta. He cannot march through Ga. Well I guess he could if the good Lord decides to provide him with manna like he did for Moses.

When Sherman reached the coast his army was essentially starving. They had made it that far by spreading across the breadth of Ga foraging. With Hood or anybody else dogging his footsteps he cannot forage because he can't spread out. To do so would be to invite attacks in detail where the south would have had local superiorty. In a nutshell if he spreads his army out he's beaten in detail, if he keeps it concentrated he starves to death.

If he stays in Atlanta, he still has a supply problem. Hood can always cut and threaten his supply line. Essentially Sherman would have to move his entire army back to the railroad tunnels from Chattanooga to get his supplies, but when he returns to Atlanta his opponent can shut it down again.

If you remember one of the prerequisites to Sherman's making the march was to have Forrest put out of the picture. With an intact Southern army near Atlanta, Forrest would have time to reconstitute his depleted forces and cut Sherman's supplies north of Chattanooga.

Simply put without criminal Confederate negligence Sherman could not have made his march. He could not have even considered it.

But he did. Once Sherman tired of chasing Hood, Sherman left Thomas the two weakest Corps in his army (sherman's words) to thwart whatever hood was going to do.

If Hood had been able to get in front of Sherman in his March, even with a few divisions, Sherman may have been in real trouble. As it was, he was successful marching against nothing.
 
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But he did. Once Sherman tired of chasing Hood, Sherman left Thomas the two weakest Corps in his army (sherman's words) to thwart whatever hood was going to do.

If Hood had been able to get in front of Sherman in his March, even with a few divisions, Sherman may have been in real trouble. As it was, he was successful marching against nothing.
The thing is Hood did not have to get in front of Sherman, all he had to do was to harry his footsteps. To be successful Sherman had to disperse his army across the breadth of Ga. He cannot do that if he has to worry about and defend against attacks by Hood (or whoever his opponent is). Even with no opposition at all, when Sherman reached the cost he was close to starvation. If he could not forage he could never have gotten close to the coast.
 

jackt62

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But you ignore the basic problem. If Hood does not leave Ga., haring off to Tenn., Sherman cannot leave Atlanta. He cannot march through Ga.
No disagreement on that. Hood's gamble was that Sherman would continue to pursue the AoT in a retrograde movement northwards. But after a fruitless pursuit, Sherman chose the bold move of leaving Thomas to deal with the AoT, while he (Sherman), embarked on his march to sow destruction among southern infrastructure and morale. Historically, Hood lost his bet and Sherman won his. Sherman also bet on securing enough food and forage through much of Georgia (he had consulted with demographic and agricultural data beforehand to map out the reliability of obtaining them), and was working on the basis that the US Navy would be prepared to resupply his army by the time it reached the coast.
 
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So you want to determine the outcome of the CW on a coin toss?!!!!!!

Sherman attempts his march to the sea and Hood stays in Ga and eventually accepts the surrender of Sherman's army or as it turned out leaves and allows Sherman to make the history books.
 

jackt62

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So you want to determine the outcome of the CW on a coin toss?!!!!!!

Sherman attempts his march to the sea and Hood stays in Ga and eventually accepts the surrender of Sherman's army or as it turned out leaves and allows Sherman to make the history books.
Sherman's move was risky (Grant and Lincoln were originally skeptical of the March), but a clear headed assessment of the pros and cons indicated that Sherman's gamble had a high chance of success. And that is the true measure of a bold and skillful commander; weighing all sides of the equation and willing to make a move even though success is not 100% guaranteed. Sherman may not have been a particularly brilliant tactical commander but his analytic ability was first rate in planning the logistics of the March while making contingency plans for dealing with the AoT.
 

67th Tigers

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Grant wanted Sherman to march on Mobile. No-one knew which way Sherman was actually going, and so supplies had to be waiting offshore at both Savannah and Mobile.
 

wausaubob

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Sherman's move was risky (Grant and Lincoln were originally skeptical of the March), but a clear headed assessment of the pros and cons indicated that Sherman's gamble had a high chance of success. And that is the true measure of a bold and skillful commander; weighing all sides of the equation and willing to make a move even though success is not 100% guaranteed. Sherman may not have been a particularly brilliant tactical commander but his analytic ability was first rate in planning the logistics of the March while making contingency plans for dealing with the AoT.
And even if by some impossible circumstance Lincoln had lost the election, Sherman's force had four months to strike at Columbia and take Wilmington from the land side. Similarly Sheridan had four months to get west of Lee's position in Virginia. The US may have had to winterize the cavalry, but it had the industrial capacity to do so.
Grant had four months to swing over to Nashville and advise Thomas on extinguishing Hood's Army.
Returning to Sherman, he had options to the south, and to the southeast into Florida. Had he been in a hurry. the best option was Wilmington and every north-south railroad connecting Richmond to the rest of the Confederacy.
 
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