Sherman The Paradox of William T. Sherman

frontrank2

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Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman always will be best remembered for his infamous March to the Sea in 1864.
"I can make Georgia howl!" he said. "War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." With studied patience, Sherman led his army of 62,000 seasoned veterans on a monthlong orgy of destruction through Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean, and then presented Savannah to President Lincoln as a "Christmas present."
Vilified by Southerners, viewed with indifference and even open hostility by many in the North, Sherman remains today an enigma.
Was he an unbalanced, untreated victim of recurrent depression, or was he a misunderstood military genius who invented modern warfare?
"He was the most remarkable combination of virtues and deficiencies produced in the high direction of the Union armies," historian Allan Nevins writes.
continue: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2002/dec/14/20021214-105200-8197r/

6a00e553a80e10883401b8d05f8d44970c-800wi.png
 

Quaama

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Port Macquarie, Australia
I see little of a paradox in Sherman although, as the article states at the end, "Sherman endures as both champion and villain." That assessment would depend on how you view his words and actions.

Personally, I side with these sentiments from the article:
"He [Sherman] went to enormous pains to justify his actions, even when they were clearly in violation of all formal and informal rules of warfare.
Biographer Lee Kennett refers to critic John C. Ropes, saying, "Sherman went beyond the attainment of purely military ends, applying devastation as a 'punishment for political conduct.'"Sherman was making war on the Southern mind. Clearly, revenge was part of Sherman's strategy."
Sherman knew what he was doing in fighting people rather than armies and took pride in it as evidenced in a Dec. 24 letter to Halleck where he said "we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect."
 
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He was General who shortened the War considerably, and in so doing reduced the number of killed and wounded on both sides. War is not a nice thing for all who are involved. If you happen to be on the loosing side it is basically hell. He may be looked down on due to his tactics that included burning crops and in some cases farms. Any military target is fair game in War. Crops equal funds, ergo a military target. If he bypassed these it would only keep things churning away. An Army without supplies soon ceases to be an Army. When a battle is fought, anything around it is destroyed. Yet that is considered a battle and is accepted as collateral damage and not cruelty. Not a good thing for whoever lived and farmed there. Most of the geographical area involved was farm land with a few small mills or other business. Was it cruel? No more then shipping crops to troops to sustain their campaign or in funding munition purchases. They may not have been in uniform, but were still a part of the Army. I'm sure things occurred that could be considered cruelty. Those are the occurrences that get talked about and remembered. Cruelty happened on every battlefield.
 

Quaama

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Sep 13, 2020
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Port Macquarie, Australia
He was General who shortened the War considerably, and in so doing reduced the number of killed and wounded on both sides. War is not a nice thing for all who are involved. If you happen to be on the loosing side it is basically hell. He may be looked down on due to his tactics that included burning crops and in some cases farms. Any military target is fair game in War. Crops equal funds, ergo a military target. If he bypassed these it would only keep things churning away. An Army without supplies soon ceases to be an Army. When a battle is fought, anything around it is destroyed. Yet that is considered a battle and is accepted as collateral damage and not cruelty. Not a good thing for whoever lived and farmed there. Most of the geographical area involved was farm land with a few small mills or other business. Was it cruel? No more then shipping crops to troops to sustain their campaign or in funding munition purchases. I'm sure things occurred that could be considered cruelty. Those are the occurrences that get talked about and remembered. Cruelty happened on every battlefield.

As the article says:

"According to Maj. Robisch, "Soldiers serving in the U.S. Army today would be criminally liable for larceny or destruction of property for similar conduct." It was hardly the kind of action that would engender international support.
What was the impact on the war, and on Georgia itself? Did Sherman's efforts at destruction of war materiel, industry, railroads and foodstuffs result in a tangible shortage for major Confederate armies in the field (such as Lee's), or did they merely result in short-term hardship for local citizens and militia?
The fact, mostly ignored for more than 137 years, is that Lee's army was defeated by Grant's tactical maneuvers, and not a lack of materiel. When the war closed, vast quantities of ammunition, clothing and food were still in warehouses in western North Carolina, and isolated parts of Virginia. Sherman's march did not destroy a fraction of the total goods manufactured in Richmond, for example.
As for Georgia, the local effect was more devastating. The march set the Georgia economy back for almost 100 years, and left deep psychological scars."
 
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Upstate N.Y.
As the article says:

"According to Maj. Robisch, "Soldiers serving in the U.S. Army today would be criminally liable for larceny or destruction of property for similar conduct." It was hardly the kind of action that would engender international support.
What was the impact on the war, and on Georgia itself? Did Sherman's efforts at destruction of war materiel, industry, railroads and foodstuffs result in a tangible shortage for major Confederate armies in the field (such as Lee's), or did they merely result in short-term hardship for local citizens and militia?
The fact, mostly ignored for more than 137 years, is that Lee's army was defeated by Grant's tactical maneuvers, and not a lack of materiel. When the war closed, vast quantities of ammunition, clothing and food were still in warehouses in western North Carolina, and isolated parts of Virginia. Sherman's march did not destroy a fraction of the total goods manufactured in Richmond, for example.
As for Georgia, the local effect was more devastating. The march set the Georgia economy back for almost 100 years, and left deep psychological scars."
Veiled international support was being given to the South. Georgia was part of the contested area involved in the war and no different then Virginia or from the other side Gettysburg. His actions of course would not effect the overall war effort. Hardship on the home front is intended to breakdown the fighting spirit. His actions were part of Grants overall war efforts. No different then the Anaconda Plan restricted goods from getting in or out. Supplies left in warehouses is a direct result of disrupting the means of distribution. In this case the railroads. Georgia was not the only area that was set back . All families on both side suffered psychological scars. You can't lose a father, brother or any other family member and not be touched by wars horrors. The economy of the whole South was a shamble. The North also suffered.
 

leftyhunter

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Location
los angeles ca
I see little of a paradox in Sherman although, as the article states at the end, "Sherman endures as both champion and villain." That assessment would depend on how you view his words and actions.

Personally, I side with these sentiments from the article:
"He [Sherman] went to enormous pains to justify his actions, even when they were clearly in violation of all formal and informal rules of warfare.
Biographer Lee Kennett refers to critic John C. Ropes, saying, "Sherman went beyond the attainment of purely military ends, applying devastation as a 'punishment for political conduct.'"Sherman was making war on the Southern mind. Clearly, revenge was part of Sherman's strategy."
Sherman knew what he was doing in fighting people rather than armies and took pride in it as evidenced in a Dec. 24 letter to Halleck where he said "we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect."
Being that the March through Georgia was in 1864 what exact contemporary laws either international or domestic did Sherman violate?
The US Supreme Court decision Dow v.Johnson basically stated generals on either side are given very wide lattidute to do what ever they want in regards to destruction of property.
The US Congress did pass a law establishing the Southern Claims Commission and those who supported the Union but suffered property damage from the Union could file a claim against the federal government. Those who were not of proven loyalty oh well.
Therefore what actual statutory or case law did Sherman violate?
Leftyhunter
 

DanSBHawk

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Location
Wisconsin
The author of the article is a sociology professor in Virginia. It's certainly a melodramatic article on Sherman, but Sherman seems to inspire that in many people.

The article claims that Sherman's March "devastated" the local Georgia economy for a hundred years. That is one of the most ridiculous things ever written about the March.

In fact Georgia, like other southern states, experienced food shortages and inflation before Sherman ever set foot in Georgia. A big part of the problem was that wealthy planters continued to plant the money crop, cotton, instead of planting food crops to sustain the southern population while husbands and fathers were off fighting the war.

A fact you never hear repeated from the Sherman-haters, is that when he arrived in Savannah and saw the civilians were short of food, Sherman expedited a relief shipment from northern aid societies.
 

Quaama

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Location
Port Macquarie, Australia
Being that the March through Georgia was in 1864 what exact contemporary laws either international or domestic did Sherman violate?
The US Supreme Court decision Dow v.Johnson basically stated generals on either side are given very wide lattidute to do what ever they want in regards to destruction of property.
The US Congress did pass a law establishing the Southern Claims Commission and those who supported the Union but suffered property damage from the Union could file a claim against the federal government. Those who were not of proven loyalty oh well.
Therefore what actual statutory or case law did Sherman violate?
Leftyhunter

Hard to say, the article did not elaborate nor provide references. I was commenting on an apparent lack of paradox and merely sided with the sentiments of the quote.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
As the article says:

"According to Maj. Robisch, "Soldiers serving in the U.S. Army today would be criminally liable for larceny or destruction of property for similar conduct." It was hardly the kind of action that would engender international support.
What was the impact on the war, and on Georgia itself? Did Sherman's efforts at destruction of war materiel, industry, railroads and foodstuffs result in a tangible shortage for major Confederate armies in the field (such as Lee's), or did they merely result in short-term hardship for local citizens and militia?
The fact, mostly ignored for more than 137 years, is that Lee's army was defeated by Grant's tactical maneuvers, and not a lack of materiel. When the war closed, vast quantities of ammunition, clothing and food were still in warehouses in western North Carolina, and isolated parts of Virginia. Sherman's march did not destroy a fraction of the total goods manufactured in Richmond, for example.
As for Georgia, the local effect was more devastating. The march set the Georgia economy back for almost 100 years, and left deep psychological scars."
No evidence in the aforementioned article that Sherman violated any contemporary law in regards to the March on Georgia and certainly no US law.
That Georgia was set back one hundred years is a bit of hyperbole. Anything burnt can be rebuilt.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Hard to say, the article did not elaborate nor provide references. I was commenting on an apparent lack of paradox and merely sided with the sentiments of the quote.
We know Sherman did not violate any contemporary laws as none have been cited and the US Supreme Court decision Dow v.Johnson address those issues.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Veiled international support was being given to the South. Georgia was part of the contested area involved in the war and no different then Virginia or from the other side Gettysburg. His actions of course would not effect the overall war effort. Hardship on the home front is intended to breakdown the fighting spirit. His actions were part of Grants overall war efforts. No different then the Anaconda Plan restricted goods from getting in or out. Supplies left in warehouses is a direct result of disrupting the means of distribution. In this case the railroads. Georgia was not the only area that was set back . All families on both side suffered psychological scars. You can't lose a father, brother or any other family member and not be touched by wars horrors. The economy of the whole South was a shamble. The North also suffered.
Not sure about veiled international support being given to the Confedracy. Yes Western European arms firms sold weapons to the Confedracy but they also eagerly sold weapons to the Union has well.
Yes Confedrate naval ships docked in European ports but so did Union ships. Yes the Confedracy sold cotton to Western Europe but so did the Union from the port of New Orleans and the Seaward Island's of South Carolina.
The Confedracy only could conduct cash and carry sales they didn't get the benefit of foreign aid such Lend Lease eighty years later.
Leftyhunter
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman always will be best remembered for his infamous March to the Sea in 1864.
"I can make Georgia howl!" he said. "War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." With studied patience, Sherman led his army of 62,000 seasoned veterans on a monthlong orgy of destruction through Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean, and then presented Savannah to President Lincoln as a "Christmas present."
Vilified by Southerners, viewed with indifference and even open hostility by many in the North, Sherman remains today an enigma.
Was he an unbalanced, untreated victim of recurrent depression, or was he a misunderstood military genius who invented modern warfare?
"He was the most remarkable combination of virtues and deficiencies produced in the high direction of the Union armies," historian Allan Nevins writes.
continue: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2002/dec/14/20021214-105200-8197r/

View attachment 378650
For better or worse, people alive today see themselves as Americans with or without a hyphen for their race or language or ancestral origins. They never see themselves first as citizens of Ohio or Arkansas. The simplest proof of this is the difference in the battle flags. The "Confederate Flag" is, of course, not the Confederate flag; units in both armies flew the banners of their states. Robert E. Lee's answer to Scott's offer was not hypocritical or evasive; it was how almost everyone saw themselves and their loyalties. Grant avoided any direct criticism of Lee's actions because he understood them; at the same time, he thought Lee owed a duty that superseded his state loyalty - the one to the Constitution. No one who had sworn to that oath could pretend that Article I Section 10 allowed state loyalty to come first. Sherman shared that opinion.
This one fact explains why Sherman chose the side that he did in the War Between the States; it also explains why he thought the only object for the Union was complete defeat of every State that had rebelled. Grant shared the same view; he was just more careful about how he expressed it. (It always bemuses me how Sherman, who had the worst press of any figure in American history, was always advising Grant about the hazards of being around newsmen.) They were both relentless - towards their own men as well as the enemy; and they thought the law of war was ridiculous. Taking prisoners made sense; killing men who had offered surrender was stupid because it gave people no other choice but to keep fighting. Destroying crops and livestock was an easier and safer way to defeat an opposing army than fighting it. Issuing paroles was an effective tactic when the units of the enemy were already demoralized (Vicksburg) but not when they were the enemy's best soldiers and would return to the fight (almost the entire campaign against the Army of Northern Virginia). What is so difficult to accept is that Grant and Sherman were untroubled in their consciences by what the tactics of war required; Grant thought his fellow Americans deserved no different treatment than the soldiers of the Mexican Army he had fought against. His "Quaker" policy towards the Indian tribes was equally unsentimental; destroying their independent resources while assuring that the old men, women and children would be fed and supplied was the path to victory. Cavalry charges were folly.
 

Deadbeat

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Joined
Oct 23, 2019
Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman always will be best remembered for his infamous March to the Sea in 1864.
"I can make Georgia howl!" he said. "War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." With studied patience, Sherman led his army of 62,000 seasoned veterans on a monthlong orgy of destruction through Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean, and then presented Savannah to President Lincoln as a "Christmas present."
Vilified by Southerners, viewed with indifference and even open hostility by many in the North, Sherman remains today an enigma.
Was he an unbalanced, untreated victim of recurrent depression, or was he a misunderstood military genius who invented modern warfare?
"He was the most remarkable combination of virtues and deficiencies produced in the high direction of the Union armies," historian Allan Nevins writes.
continue: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2002/dec/14/20021214-105200-8197r/

View attachment 378650
Sherman was different from most Union commanders in 1862 and evolved with the politicians as the war wore on. His approach of waging war on civilians was condemned by many at the time and he lives in history for his approach. General Don Carlos Buell, a friend who helped Sherman get his job as the first superintendent of Louisiana Seminary and Military Academy (later renamed LSU) had been pushed out of his command in 1862 for treating southern civilians with regard and being too cautious. Later, when offered a post by Grant reporting to his friend Sherman, he refused. There were different opinions on how the war should be fought.
 

Joshism

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Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Was he an unbalanced, untreated victim of recurrent depression, or was he a misunderstood military genius who invented modern warfare?

Both statements contain some truth, yet neither is really accurate.

Sherman knew what he was doing in fighting people rather than armies and took pride in it as evidenced in a Dec. 24 letter to Halleck where he said "we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect."

Sherman was a brutal realist and what he says here is absolutely true.

The fact, mostly ignored for more than 137 years, is that Lee's army was defeated by Grant's tactical maneuvers, and not a lack of materiel.

Lee's army left Petersburg half of what it was when it went in. That weaked state was in part due to Sherman's actions.

Keep in mind that when Sherman matched from Atlanta to Savannah, and again through the Carolinas, he had no idea the war was about to end. The Confederacy was falling apart sure, but the Confederates were stubbornly resisting and showed no inclination to quit.

Sherman had no way of knowing Hood's Tennessee campaign would nearly destroy the second largest Confederate army until he was already in Savannah. When he headed into SC he didn't know that Lee would be driven out of Petersburg in less than three months. There was no gurantee Grant would catch Lee, or that news of Lee's surrender would motive other Confederates to surrender despite Davis insisting they should fight on.
 

RochesterBill

Corporal
Joined
Oct 11, 2016
I think too that people need to differentiate between wars between nation states and civil wars.

Unlike wars which are fought for the purpose of conquest, the ACW, like any other civil war, is fought with the sole aim of subjugation.

And subjugation is by definition cruel and harsh. You don't win simply by defeating an army in the field and dictating peace terms. You win a civil war by defeating the mentality which started it in the first place.

Sherman proved to the South that they were defeated as a nation, that there was literally nothing they could do to stop the Union army (Sherman's arm specifically) from doing whatever it wanted. It was obvious that, if he so chose, Sherman could have turned back around and rampaged anyplace in the south he decided to go. The south was literally prostrate before him.

The Confederacy put all their faith and hopes on Lee's army in Virginia, but even if they held on for another two or three or five years, the rest of the south would have been a big pile of ashes, chimneys and Sherman neckties.

Sherman made it obvious to even the hardest of hard core secessionists that the war was hopelessly, irretrievable lost. Lee couldn't save them, no one could save them. And it was that psychological blow which was, I think, Sherman's great accomplishment.
 

jackt62

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Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Sherman was quite consistent in his behavior, beliefs, and actions throughout his lifetime. His strong support for the Union and his abhorrence of secession was based on his fear of "chaos" and "anarchy" that disrupted governing institutions and public order. At the same time, his regressive views on slavery and the rights of African Americans and non-white populations was based on his belief in the racial inferiority of Blacks and Native Americans. As far as his military views are concerned, Sherman believed in using the maximum power necessary to vanquish opponents, whether or not that resulted in suffering for an enemy civilian population. But Sherman's innate affinity with white Southerners also meant that he could and did offer his hand in friendship and assistance to those same people once peace was declared.
 

uaskme

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Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
He was General who shortened the War considerably, and in so doing reduced the number of killed and wounded on both sides. War is not a nice thing for all who are involved. If you happen to be on the loosing side it is basically hell. He may be looked down on due to his tactics that included burning crops and in some cases farms. Any military target is fair game in War. Crops equal funds, ergo a military target. If he bypassed these it would only keep things churning away. An Army without supplies soon ceases to be an Army. When a battle is fought, anything around it is destroyed. Yet that is considered a battle and is accepted as collateral damage and not cruelty. Not a good thing for whoever lived and farmed there. Most of the geographical area involved was farm land with a few small mills or other business. Was it cruel? No more then shipping crops to troops to sustain their campaign or in funding munition purchases. They may not have been in uniform, but were still a part of the Army. I'm sure things occurred that could be considered cruelty. Those are the occurrences that get talked about and remembered. Cruelty happened on every battlefield.

Federals could of shortened the War by not Trading Cotton for food and arms. That extended the War
.

Sherman could of turned North to crush Hood or went East to assault Ft Fisher and to cut off ANV’s supply routes. Military objectives. No, he wanted to Punish Citizens, play God and repopulated the South. What he did to the Textile Ladies was a War Crime in itself. He also captured 28K bales of Cotton in Savannah alone. So their were Economic reasons for the March. Poor people and Blacks caught Hell.

Sherman married his Stepsister and had bouts of depression. Some of those other challenges of Sherman. Never really Happy? Falling in love with your Stepsister would open one up to Failure?
 
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