Friday, November 29, 2013

William Tecumsah Sherman

Civil War General William Tecumsah Sherman was an interesting man.  After the Civil War he was vilified by the South and adored by the North.  Whatever else can be said about him, it is that he did what he thought needed to be done to end the war.  He is most famously quoted as saying "War is hell."  The actual quote given in 1880 at a Grand Army Reunion, cited in Time Magazine Secrets of the Civil War "Sherman's Trail of Tears" is "There is man a boy here today who looks on war as all glory but, boys, it's all hell."  Sherman and Ulysses Grant were closely tied.  They both were from Ohio, and Sherman always insisted on serving under Grant.  He knew what their roles should be.  When Grant was summoned to take control over all the U.S. Army, and then stationed himself with George Meade in the East, Sherman took command of the forces in the West.  Sherman set his eyes on Atlanta.  It was Atlanta's fall that provided enough spark for President Lincoln to win reelection against George McClellan.  Sherman did not stay in Atlanta, but executed his infamous march to the sea to Savannah, Georgia.  He left supply lines behind, subsisting on the wealth of the land.  After reaching the coast, he took his army North to punish the South Carolinians for their role in starting the war.  In this march collateral damage caused by his troops truly got out of hand, inflicting retribution.  Many were left hungry and suffered greatly.  Sherman's goal of making the South howl, and to show them their government was hollow and could not protect them were accomplished.  The war was won probably before he entered South Carolina, but he went north anyway.
Sherman new what it would take to in the war.  Although he was a man who disliked war, he was willing to extract and pay the price.
A summary of the total cost of war shows its devastating effect on the South.   66 percent of the wealth in the South was lost, a quarter of the white fighting age men were killed.  About that many more were left permanently injured.  In 1866 20 percent of the Mississippi state revenue was earmarked for artificial limbs.  500,000 plantations and farms in the South were destroyed.  Most of the railroads in the South were unworkable, and most of the railroad companies bankrupt.

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