Was Sherman a war criminal?

diane

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The Meridian campaign and the West Tennessee policy is why I often point out why the howl over Georgia? That's why Forrest was riding all over Mississippi and Alabama, and he did succeed in sabotaging this campaign. Hurlbut and his colleagues weren't acting on their own, it was part of the 'hard war' strategy adopted by Grant and Lincoln. (This is also why Grant and Lincoln were kept in the dark about what Sherman was doing - he wanted them to have an 'out' if any blame fell to them. We had a rogue general, what could we do? Something like that...) We may also add the Burnt District of Missouri and various other devastating disruptions aimed at guerrillas. A lot of the anger toward Sherman is because the South was not able to inflict more Chambersburgs.
 

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Podad

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I think many of us are influenced by tales (true or not) told and handed down through generations regarding the war. Many Georgians and especially a few generations back considered Sherman to be akin to Satan.

Was Sherman a war criminal is the debate pursued by the gentlemen in the OP. I will offer the example below for any Pa. residents to comment on.

This could be the subject for a "What if" thread but for arguments sake ......... What if the Pennsylvania Campaign had gone differently. During the actions General Jubal Early burned a factory in York Pa and took several hundred women and children hostage. He then put them on a train and sent them to say Tallahassee Florida and abandons them. Would Pa residents consider Early a war criminal for doing that ?
 
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I think many of us are influenced by tales (true or not) told and handed down through generations regarding the war. Many Georgians and especially a few generations back considered Sherman to be akin to Satan.

Was Sherman a war criminal is the debate pursued by the gentlemen in the OP. I will offer the example below for any Pa. residents to comment on.

This could be the subject for a "What if" thread but for arguments sake ......... What if the Pennsylvania Campaign had gone differently. During the actions General Jubal Early burned a factory in York Pa and took several hundred women and children hostage. He then put them on a train and sent them to say Tallahassee Florida and abandons them. Would Pa residents consider Early a war criminal for doing that ?
I think many of us are influenced by tales (true or not) told and handed down through generations regarding the war. Many Georgians and especially a few generations back considered Sherman to be akin to Satan.

Was Sherman a war criminal is the debate pursued by the gentlemen in the OP. I will offer the example below for any Pa. residents to comment on.

This could be the subject for a "What if" thread but for arguments sake ......... What if the Pennsylvania Campaign had gone differently. During the actions General Jubal Early burned a factory in York Pa and took several hundred women and children hostage. He then put them on a train and sent them to say Tallahassee Florida and abandons them. Would Pa residents consider Early a war criminal for doing that ?
A free train ride to Florida? Sign me up.
 

matthew mckeon

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I think many of us are influenced by tales (true or not) told and handed down through generations regarding the war. Many Georgians and especially a few generations back considered Sherman to be akin to Satan.

Was Sherman a war criminal is the debate pursued by the gentlemen in the OP. I will offer the example below for any Pa. residents to comment on.

This could be the subject for a "What if" thread but for arguments sake ......... What if the Pennsylvania Campaign had gone differently. During the actions General Jubal Early burned a factory in York Pa and took several hundred women and children hostage. He then put them on a train and sent them to say Tallahassee Florida and abandons them. Would Pa residents consider Early a war criminal for doing that ?
Well, the Confederate army did seize several hundred men, women and children during the Gettysburg campaign, and they did send them South to become slaves. Was Gen. Lee a 'war criminal'? Is that how he is ever described by anyone?
 
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Actually, retaliation such as the burning of Chambersburg, was a completely legal and accepted contemporary practice, as was the burning of Southern towns that held military depots, troops, facilities that supplied the Confederacy, or shielded guerrillas that attacked Federal forces.
Yep. And simple retaliation was also common involving the burning of civilian property.

The house where John Winn's sisters lived after the war (in West Virginia) was one of several ordered burned by General David Hunter in retaliation for the burning of Maryland governor Augustus Bradford's house (which was itself in retaliation for Hunter's burning of Virginia governor John Letcher's house). The owner was, at the time, in the Confederate army. However, the owner's wife was able to use some pre-war political connections to appeal to Lincoln who wrote an order specifically exempting her house from burning (and, I presume, letting the others be burned). The owner of the house had nothing to do with the burning of the governor's house and I doubt neither did the owners of the houses that were burned in retaliation.
 
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A lot of people on this site insist the CS was another country and the US was attempting victory through conquest. Hence why the Brits in China or the French in Spain is an apt comparison.
Regardless of whether the CS was another country, the premise of the war was preserving the Union, and the Union was one geographically cohesive physical piece of land that included the 'country' of the CS. As a result, the Union had to treat the post-war South differently than Britain would have to treat a colony that wasn't physically part of the island of England.

I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of communicating my thoughts on this subject.
 
Yep. And simple retaliation was also common involving the burning of civilian property.

The house where John Winn's sisters lived after the war (in West Virginia) was one of several ordered burned by General David Hunter in retaliation for the burning of Maryland governor Augustus Bradford's house (which was itself in retaliation for Hunter's burning of Virginia governor John Letcher's house). The owner was, at the time, in the Confederate army. However, the owner's wife was able to use some pre-war political connections to appeal to Lincoln who wrote an order specifically exempting her house from burning (and, I presume, letting the others be burned). The owner of the house had nothing to do with the burning of the governor's house and I doubt neither did the owners of the houses that were burned in retaliation.
General Henry Halleck wrote an article in 1864 titled "Retaliation in War," where the act of retaliation against others than the actual person or persons that had committed the original act, is addressed in the following excerpt:

1. That retaliation is a well settled principle of the modern law of war, and is resorted to by the most civilized and Christian people.

2. It must not be applied in a spirit of revenge nor, unnecessarily as a punishment; the object of its use being to prevent a repetitionof the offence or crime which is retaliated on the enemy.

3. Retaliation may be, as the word indicates, literally in kind, that is, " an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," or in a more general sense, other countervailing measures being adopted by way of retaliation.

4. The law of retaliation in war has its limits, as well as criminal law in time of peace, the object of both being, not revenge, but prevention; not primarily the punishment of the individual offender, but to deter others from a like crime.

5. As in time of peace we generally punish only the guilty party, so in time of war we generally retaliate only on the individual offender. But there are exceptions in both cases. Thus, all the members of a town or corporation are held responsible in damages for the neglect or carelessness of their agents; so, in war, a city, an army, or an entire community, is sometimes punished for the illegal acts of its rulers or individual members.
 
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I would rather have some general burn down my house, than kill my son or father. I know Sherman and Forrest have been blamed for what some people call atrocities but compared to the brutality of combat they don't seem so atrocious. I think the real crime during the Civil War was the treatment of Prisoners of War. Andersonville may have been the worse but Point Lookout was no picnic.
 

Lost Cause

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You mean the Etowah Iron Works that produced cannon for the confederacy?

It's my understanding the town of Etowah was still around after the Civil War at least until the Allatoona Dam was built.
I believe the foundations of the buildings of the town destroyed during the march were flooded after the building of the dam. I have pictures lost somewhere from stone foundations during low river levels, taken in 2000. Barrycdog would have more info on the history if he is still around.
 
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Rio Bravo

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It was because Sherman was frustrated on the battlefield by brilliant tacticians like Forrest that he turned his attention to waging war on noncombatants. This was a desperate move & quite unforgivable. In Savannah,Georgia he bragged that 80% of the devastation he had caused was " simple waste and destruction." And Sherman had the gall to call Forrest the "Devil", yet Sherman was the General without any Conscience because of his violent loathing of the South!
 

Lost Cause

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It was because Sherman was frustrated on the battlefield by brilliant tacticians like Forrest that he turned his attention to waging war on noncombatants. This was a desperate move & quite unforgivable. In Savannah,Georgia he bragged that 80% of the devastation he had caused was " simple waste and destruction." And Sherman had the gall to call Forrest the "Devil", yet Sherman was the General without any Conscience because of his violent loathing of the South!
Many of Sherman's troops loved him for the march for going after the local civilian population VS a Confederate Army. South Carolinians fared even worse.
 

civilken

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It's not all-black or all-white. Sometimes you give in an area that's easy to control and gives good payback (evidently, for 150+ years) such as not executing leaders, and don't give as much in areas that are somewhat out of your control anyway, such as 'bootheeling' the civilian survivors of the opposing side. While the bootheel might not have been applied officially as much as it could have been, looking the other way was a way to give some of the post-war punishment that the North thought the South deserved. People also forget that while the American Civil War might have seemed like it was fought completely over ideals, there was a decently-defined geographic boundary as well, and the inhabitants of one side of that boundary couldn't simply be wiped off the face of the earth if 'preserving the Union' was still somewhat of the aim - thus the bootheel not being applied completely.

But I still lean heavily toward your logic regarding Sherman's status as a war criminal ('he was not one'). I share a last name with Sherman's arch-enemy, so we grew up thinking Sherman wasn't so great. As an aside, the 'war criminal' thing is currently always levied against any leader who was involved in an unpopular war, field officer or otherwise.
I thank you for a intelligent and honest feedback. Which is sometimes hard to get and I will agree with you he was no saint..
 

Bee

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It was because Sherman was frustrated on the battlefield by brilliant tacticians like Forrest that he turned his attention to waging war on noncombatants. This was a desperate move & quite unforgivable. In Savannah,Georgia he bragged that 80% of the devastation he had caused was " simple waste and destruction." And Sherman had the gall to call Forrest the "Devil", yet Sherman was the General without any Conscience because of his violent loathing of the South!
It seems that a review of Sherman's motivations is in order -- here ya go:


The general had spent much time in the South as a U.S. Army officer and as superintendent of what later became Louisiana State University. He had many Southern friends and thus had an attachment to the South and its people. Sherman sought, therefore, a way to end the war with as little bloodshed as possible. His entire war experience, particularly as Ulysses S. Grant’s subordinate, provided him with battlefield savvy and tactics to do just that...http://www.historynet.com/general-william-tecumseh-sherman
 



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