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.


  1. Could the Union have won without General Sherman?

    David McGuire Good question! Who are the other Union generals who might have stepped in after Missionary Ridge to assume the strategic offense in the West?

    Jack Lawrence Thomas.

  2. Billy: I heard that Sherman wanted to quit at one point and general Grant had to bolster him up.

    Jeffrey Fidler: Grant and Sherman supported each other at different times. Sherman was very depressed in late 1861 in Kentucky. He hated what the press was saying about him. He also was depressed when McLernand was briefly In command over him when they took Arkansas Post.. Sherman was indispensible to Grant in the West , both as a commander , and sounding board and friend. They understood each other, and always stood by each other. I'm not sure Union doesn’t win out west without Sherman. But nobody else would have worked with Grant like he did. So makes it
    More difficult to subdue the south. Rosecrans and Thomas were both very good generals, but not working with Grant, especially Rosie.

  3. Jack Lawrence Sherman.
    "Grant stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk".
    Explains it all.

  4. Matt Diestel In regards to the close friendship between U.S. Grant and W. T. Sherman, the latter once quipped: "Grant stood by me when I was 'crazy and I stood by Grant when he was "drunk.'" It was one dripping in sarcasm over press reports at the time regarding Sherman's mental health and Grant's drinking. They remained close throughout Grant's life but that did not stop Sherman when he succeeded Grant as commanding general -- in 1869 when Grant became president -- from moving army headquarters to St. Louis, Mo. -- as far away from Washington, D.C. as practically possible.

    Jack Lawrence He and his family are buried there and the only war was the indian War. Makes sense to me. Think he could do this if Grant did not want to do this it would not have happened?

  5. Matt Diestel If W.T. Sherman had not been available to take over command in the West when U.S. Grant went East in March 1864 the only choice would have been George H. Thomas, who was not only the senior army commander in the Western Theater but also senior in volunteer as well as Regular Army rank with a proven record of being a winner and after the fall of 1863 "The Rock of Chickamauga" was a national hero. "Old Pap" Thomas campaign in Georgia would likely have been somewhat different than Sherman's but in the end in all probability no less victorious.

  6. James Gasparo The critical issue is the election of 1864. As northern war weariness peaked in the summer of 1864, could another commander have delivered Atlanta and boosted union morale so that Lincoln would win re-election. The only other union commander I would have complete faith in would be Thomas, but he was very deliberate... and I am not sure he would have moved fast enough...