Was the war effectively over during Sherman's assault on SC?

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#1
I ask this as a result of another thread.

The destruction of property and land during Sherman's assault through the "seat of secession" if the answer to the question is yes; was destruction of what would be United States property and part of the future economy of the country.

If the answer is no then I would presume all bets are off and his intention to make the destruction complete was to a degree understandable.

Thoughts?
 

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unionblue

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#3
I ask this as a result of another thread.

The destruction of property and land during Sherman's assault through the "seat of secession" if the answer to the question is yes; was destruction of what would be United States property and part of the future economy of the country.

If the answer is no then I would presume all bets are off and his intention to make the destruction complete was to a degree understandable.

Thoughts?
UKMarkw,

The Confederates certainly did not think so, not until AFTER Sherman's march to the sea.

IMO.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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#4
Considering Jefferson Davis ordered his generals to continue the fight after the fall of Richmond (and Johnston even after Lee had surrendered), I don't think you can argue that the CSA government believed the war was over until Davis was captured in May 1865. If the enemy doesn't think the war is over, the war isn't over.

Claiming Sherman should have acted like he was in friendly territory while marching through SC because the war was already won is like claiming Lee should have surrendered after Gettysburg because the war was already lost. Neither could know when or how the war was going to end until it ended.
 

brass napoleon

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#5
I ask this as a result of another thread.

The destruction of property and land during Sherman's assault through the "seat of secession" if the answer to the question is yes; was destruction of what would be United States property and part of the future economy of the country.

If the answer is no then I would presume all bets are off and his intention to make the destruction complete was to a degree understandable.

Thoughts?
I think one of the things that had to be taken into consideration in both the marches through Georgia and South Carolina is that these states were still part of the Union. And so it was a difficult balancing act to wage war hard enough to win it, while at the same time not so hard that you'll damage prospects for a successful reconstruction.

I think Sherman got it pretty much right in Georgia, but I think he went over the line in South Carolina. The bitterness of Union troops towards South Carolinians was understandable, but it was the commanding general's job to keep that in check. It appears Sherman didn't do that, and probably didn't even want to.

Here's an excerpt from a letter written by Colonel Giles W. Shurtleff, commander of the 5th USCT, describing to his wife his regiment's participation in the march through South Carolina:

"I confess I have been disappointed in the action of our army while marching through the enemy's country. The plundering and pillaging have been fearful - it seems to me disgraceful. The army of course has lived on the country as far as possible. This is right. Contributions would be demanded from the civil authorities and in case they failed to make them then there should be a system of foraging organized.

But the people should in no case be stripped of the means of subsistence. I fear Sherman's army has impoverished the whole country which he has traversed. For thirty miles in rear of Sherman's army, the country is full of "foragers". They have stripped everything from the people. I do not see how the people can live during the summer. Now I am not at all sure but the people merit this and it is perhaps the just retribution of the Almighty. Still, I believe it is cruel and wicked on the part of our army.

I have prevented this sort of action in my own regiment and have gained the ill will of many officers and men in doing so. While on the march the men in the regiments next to ours would break from the ranks and rush into houses and strip them of every particle of provisions. Of course it seemed surprise to my men that they should be made an exception, while rations were short and they were worn out with hard marching. I detailed men - placed them under an officer and sent them to plantations away from the road with instructions to leave all that was necessary for the subsistence of families. In this way I obtained all that was necessary for my men and injured no one - while I maintained discipline of my regiment. In many cases hundreds of country cured hams would be found buried on plantations."


- Colonel Giles Shurtleff, March 29, 1865

Source: Catherine Durhant Vorhees, The Colors of Dignity, pp. 186-188 (Nookbook version)​
 

Specster

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#6
Lee's ANV fought like hellions right up to the end, even after they had been battered by Grant, had loads of defection, and were basically starving, they still had loads of fight left in them. I think Lee saw the writing on the wall and that was why he surrendered. Plus, Shermans action probably did plenty to end the war. The action foretold what would happen if the South continued to fight in the mountains, as Lee claimed, "for 20 years"....the civilians would have paid, as they often did for bushwacker actions. The Battle of Sailor Creek was hard fought, all things considered, and that was the same week Lee surrendered.
 

Patrick H

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#8
It's a very interesting question, but I think Unionblue and Mark have answered it well. I'll add a slightly different take on it: The war might have been effectively over, but the south wasn't convinced of that. Johnston needed to be deprived of any remaining hope. Of course, it's unfortunate that he and Davis didn't accept the hopelessness of their situation sooner.
 

Carronade

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#9
The war was effectively over when Lincoln was reelected. There was no point in the Confederacy carrying on after that. Their leadership should have had the moral courage to acknowledge it, as for example Lee and Forrest did in their farewell addresses to their troops.
 

OpnCoronet

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#10
The operative word id 'effectively' as in as long as the policies and actions of the North in operation at the4 time of Sherman's march across SC on his way to join with Grant in Va., were maintained, those policies and actions would lead to victory.
So Yes! the War was effectively over, But, Sherman's march through the seat of secession and rebellion was still necessary,. That SC suffered for her part in starting the war, was mainly the decision of the men in the ranks of Sherman's army. Ga. was burned under orders, SC burned in spite of orders, i.e., that SC suffered for its historical part in initiating secession and war, had little part in the effectiveness of Union war policies.
 

War Horse

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#12
The operative word id 'effectively' as in as long as the policies and actions of the North in operation at the4 time of Sherman's march across SC on his way to join with Grant in Va., were maintained, those policies and actions would lead to victory.
So Yes! the War was effectively over, But, Sherman's march through the seat of secession and rebellion was still necessary,. That SC suffered for her part in starting the war, was mainly the decision of the men in the ranks of Sherman's army. Ga. was burned under orders, SC burned in spite of orders, i.e., that SC suffered for its historical part in initiating secession and war, had little part in the effectiveness of Union war policies.
Sherman had made a promise that he would not burn Columbia, SC when he retired for the night he saw the glow of the fires started by his men. Sherman was not happy with their actions. He even helped the fire fighters throughtout the night fight the fires. I don't believe the war was over at this point. Lee was still hoping to merg his men with Johnston and believed if he could slip away to the Blue Ridge Mountains he could continue the cause indefinitely.

Sherman's march destroyed supply lines and demonstraighted to the people of the south the cruel price of war.
 

OpnCoronet

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#13
Sherman had made a promise that he would not burn Columbia, SC when he retired for the night he saw the glow of the fires started by his men. Sherman was not happy with their actions. He even helped the fire fighters throughtout the night fight the fires. I don't believe the war was over at this point. Lee was still hoping to merg his men with Johnston and believed if he could slip away to the Blue Ridge Mountains he could continue the cause indefinitely.
Sherman's march destroyed supply lines and demonstraighted to the people of the south the cruel price of war.


Depends on how one defines 'effectively'. I believe the war was 'effectively' over after Gettysburg. But, that does not mean the war was actually over. If the North did not maintain its determination to follow those policies and actions, it believed was leading to 'ultimate' victory, then, of course the war would never be won. By late 1864, it was obvious to all but the most willfully blind on both sides, that the war was on the downhill slide.
The War's successful conclusion awaited only for Sherman to link up with Grant and SC was between them, so invasion was necessary, that the Union soldiery, of all ranks, had it in for SC' was relevant only to Union soldiers and people of SC.
 

Lost Cause

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#15
As Coronet said, the war was effectively over at Gettysburg. There were other turning points that also put the Confederate army on the road to defeat. The Confederate fall of Vicksburg and the losses of Chattanooga and Atlanta. Sherman's march through Georgia and the Carolina's were insult to injury considering the Confederacy could not mount a substantial force to oppose him.
 

diane

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#16
Wade Hampton didn’t think so until April 26, 1865 at Bennett Place just outside Durham, North Carolina.
Wade Hampton was going down with the ship and I don't blame him. He was fighting for everything he and his had or ever would have literally on his front porch.

Sherman had made a promise that he would not burn Columbia, SC when he retired for the night he saw the glow of the fires started by his men. Sherman was not happy with their actions. He even helped the fire fighters throughtout the night fight the fires. I don't believe the war was over at this point. Lee was still hoping to merg his men with Johnston and believed if he could slip away to the Blue Ridge Mountains he could continue the cause indefinitely.

Sherman's march destroyed supply lines and demonstraighted to the people of the south the cruel price of war.
There's still a controversy over what happened to Columbia and who was really responsible, but the investigation into it to clear up British property damage claims indicated - couldn't really tell who dun it! Sherman blamed Wade Hampton who may have helped do it inadvertently. Everybody seems to have burned Columbia.

Lee didn't want to hide out in the mountains and wage a guerrilla war. He would have been very good at it, too - his daddy was! But he also knew it would keep the South in ruins and poverty and warfare for years, maybe generations. Not a good solution. When his aides suggested it he said that's fine for you young men but I'm too old to go bushwhacking! Earlier, at the beginning of the war, when McClellan was way too close to Richmond he told Davis he would do that push come to shove - by the end of the war, no way would he do it.
 

Georgia Sixth

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#17
I think the answer may lie with U.S. Grant rather than with W.T. Sherman. Grant, whose instinct was always to take the most direct solution, wanted Sherman to ship his troops from Savannah to Petersburg so they could finish off Lee's army. Grant clearly did not think inflicting destruction on the Carolinas was essential to victory. He just wanted to mass troops to crush Lee, which, I think is quite sound. Gary Gallagher has pretty convincingly argued that as long as Lee's army remained intact and defiant, the southern whites were willing to fight on, pretty much regardless of what happened elsewhere.

Sherman was motivated to a considerable degree by a desire to inflict punishment on the original secessionist state. The accepted wisdom these days is that Sherman's march destroyed the food supplies Lee needed and hence starved his army into desertion, then surrender. That's plausible but not definitive as I see it; the way southern governors hoarded things for their own states, I'm not sure the supplies would have made it to Lee anyway.
 

Lost Cause

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#18
I think the answer may lie with U.S. Grant rather than with W.T. Sherman. Grant, whose instinct was always to take the most direct solution, wanted Sherman to ship his troops from Savannah to Petersburg so they could finish off Lee's army. Grant clearly did not think inflicting destruction on the Carolinas was essential to victory. He just wanted to mass troops to crush Lee, which, I think is quite sound. Gary Gallagher has pretty convincingly argued that as long as Lee's army remained intact and defiant, the southern whites were willing to fight on, pretty much regardless of what happened elsewhere.

Sherman was motivated to a considerable degree by a desire to inflict punishment on the original secessionist state. The accepted wisdom these days is that Sherman's march destroyed the food supplies Lee needed and hence starved his army into desertion, then surrender. That's plausible but not definitive as I see it; the way southern governors hoarded things for their own states, I'm not sure the supplies would have made it to Lee anyway.
Also, Sherman also previously demonstrated the devastating effects of "total war" in Meridian.
 

E_just_E

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#19
Sherman was motivated to a considerable degree by a desire to inflict punishment on the original secessionist state. The accepted wisdom these days is that Sherman's march destroyed the food supplies Lee needed and hence starved his army into desertion, then surrender. That's plausible but not definitive as I see it; the way southern governors hoarded things for their own states, I'm not sure the supplies would have made it to Lee anyway.
From what I've read that is a valid position. There is a lot of documentation that supports this, including this one from Sherman himself (Letter of William T. Sherman to Henry Halleck, December 24, 1864)

The smoking gun in on the bottom of the second page, which I am attaching:

Expired Image Removed
 

CW3O

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#20
I ask this as a result of another thread.

The destruction of property and land during Sherman's assault through the "seat of secession" if the answer to the question is yes; was destruction of what would be United States property and part of the future economy of the country.

If the answer is no then I would presume all bets are off and his intention to make the destruction complete was to a degree understandable.

Thoughts?

War is over when one side surrenders, until then Generals fight it with the intent on assisting their enemies in making the decision to surrender. Generals should not entertain thoughts of future economies, etc.. until the shooting is actually over, not when it is "effectively" over, whatever that means. Politicians do the kind of thinking you mention, was there any effort on the part of the Union government to suppress Sherman or any other General based upon your proposed concept?
 



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