Skip to comments.THE BATTLE OF ATLANTA: Civilians were Sherman's targets
Posted on 07/18/2004 8:40:59 PM PDT by canalabamian
Not only was William Tecumseh Sherman guilty of many of the crimes that some apologists portray as "tall tales," but also his specter seems to haunt the scandal-ridden halls of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Sherman had a relatively poor record battling armies. His lack of preparation nearly destroyed Union forces at Shiloh. He was repulsed at Chickasaw Bluffs, losing an early opportunity to capture Vicksburg, Miss. The result was a bloody campaign that dragged on for months. He was blocked by Gen. Pat Cleburne at the Battle of Chattanooga and needed to be bailed out by Gen. George Thomas' Army of the Cumberland. His troops were crushed by rebel forces in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
But Sherman knew how to make war against civilians. After the capture of Atlanta, he engaged in policies similar to ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia by expelling citizens from their homes. "You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war," he told the fleeing population. Today, Slobodan Milosevic is on trial for similar actions in Kosovo.
An article on Sherman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last spring asserted that Sherman attacked acceptable military targets "by the standards of war at the time." This seems to assume that human rights were invented with the creation of the United Nations. But Gen. Grant did not burn Virginia to the ground. Gen. Lee did not burn Maryland or Pennsylvania when he invaded. Both sought to destroy each other's armies instead of making war against women and children, as Sherman did.
After promising to "make Georgia . . . howl," Sherman continued such policies in the Carolinas. Not only did he preside over the burning of Columbia, but he also executed several prisoners of war in retaliation for the ambush of one of his notorious foraging parties. While Andersonville's camp commander, Henry Wirz, was found guilty of conspiracy to impair the health and destroy the life of prisoners and executed, nothing like that happened to Sherman.
According to an article by Maj. William W. Bennett, Special Forces, U.S. Army, Sherman turned his attention to a new soft target after the Civil War: Native Americans. Rather than engage Indian fighters, Sherman again preferred a strategy of killing noncombatants. After an ambush of a military detachment by Red Cloud's tribe, Sherman said, "We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children."
Bennett notes that Sherman carried out his campaign with brutal efficiency. On the banks of the Washita River, Gen. George Armstrong Custer massacred a village of the friendly Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, who had located to a reservation. Sherman was quoted as saying, "The more we can kill this year, the less will have to be killed the next war, for the more I see of these Indians, the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or maintained as a species of paupers. Their attempts at civilization are simply ridiculous."
Such slaughter was backed by the extermination of the buffalo as a means of depriving the men, women and children with a source of food. Many Native Americans not killed by Sherman's troopers were forced onto reservations or exiled to Florida to face swamps and disease.
Now we have learned about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq. Such events may seem unrelated, were it not for reports that Sherman's policies are still taught to West Point cadets as an example of how to break an enemy's will to fight.
Are we therefore shocked by the acts of barbarity against Iraqi detainees? As long as we honor Sherman, teach his tactics and revise history to excuse his actions, we can expect more examples of torture and savagery against noncombatants we encounter in other countries.
John Tures is an assistant professor of political science at LaGrange College who was born in Wisconsin, opposes the 1956 Georgia flag and still has a low opinion of Sherman.
hmmm very interesting take on Sherman
Did the author attempt to contact General Sherman for comment?
As long as Sherman was killin Southerners he was OK by me.
As long as the US keeps killin Islamofascists, it's OK by me too.
Make em howl.
War is Hell.
well nice knowing you zarf *LOL*
Southerners hate Sherman for fighting ungentlemanly. The man was strategically brilliant, however. They will attack Sherman for as long as the Civil War is in vogue.
As to Shiloh, it was the first serious engagement of the war and a lot of Union generals were still getting their feet wet. Sherman and Grant were surprised--but ultimately the attack was repulsed.
In Chatanooga, Sherman followed Grant's orders to flank the ridge and it turned out the terrain was very difficult to travel and very easily defensible. The unordered charge by Thomas army did save the day.
Finally, at Chickasaw Bluffs, it's not clear that any army could have taken that position.
I'm not gonna argue about the civilian casualties stuff. I think it was every bit as defensible as the mass bombing of Japan and Germany in WWII.
Are cutesy blurbs like this at the end of articles still in style? They make me cringe.
Well....the South still has hard feelings about Gen. Sherman it would seem. However I fail to see the connection between Sherman and Iraq....there is none...excpet for few morons...we've acted with considerable restraint....considering what we CAN do if we were of a mind to.
As long as the US keeps killin Islamofascists, it's OK by me too.
And as long as you compare Southerners with ignorant, insane, hate-filled Islamic radicals, then you're quite ignorant...and an a**hole to boot.
Suck it up pal. You lost.
My memory may have failed me, but I have no recollection of Sherman putting panties on a prisoner's head or making one jerk off. What he did was orders of magnitude more cruel and more serious.
Certainly not on FR. I think the universal consensus here is that the man was a saint.
[Sound of rapidly retreating footsteps as BtD heads for his bunker...]
We need a 21st century Sherman to make 'em howl!
This is a ridiculous article. The strained attempt to draw a link between Sherman and Abu Ghraib is laughable. The whole thing is sophomoric. It (and it's cutesy author tagline) reads like something that would appear on a high school newspaper's editorial page.
Niether Lincoln nor Grant were really up to letting Sherman put his plan into effect. But Sherman knew well that splitting the south in two was the only way to speed the end of that useless and idiotic war.
At wars end during the few days after Lincoln was killed, it was Grant, Lee, Sherman, and a couple other southern leaders that saved the republic from falling even more into an ongoing war. Grant gave the most generous of terms-basically it was "lay down your arms, go home and dont never do that ever again." Sherman dictated the same to those who gave up to him. At that time there were many who wanted to go throughout the south and lay complete and utter waste to the whole area. These men prevented that. Yet I never hear diddly about those fearfull days when the south could have been raped like the Japanese did to Nanking during WW2.
Some people will be forever caught in the civil war. A war that wasted thousands of good men for no good.
Yeah, you're right. At least some Southerners had the decency of lynching their subjects rather than subjecting them to a cruel stoning.
The republic was lost.
The democracy won.
Are you amazed that some people will still argue about what the War of Southern Rebellion was about, and about who started it?
As a matter of fact, General Jubal Early did burn Chambersburg, PA in 1864. He had threatened to burn Frederick, MD also but the local bankers bought him off with a ransom payment. I believe it was over 100 years later that their descendants finally got some kind of reparations from the U.S. government, on the grounds that their heroic sacrifice had saved Washington itself by delaying Early's invasion for a couple of days.
sherman was a war crimal, period
Where do you get off calling the Civil War "useless and idiotic"?
I find it one the most noble contests in human history.
It was an unavoidable necessity in the history of this nation and for adavancing the cause of human freedom.
You're labeling the war as "useless" is idiotic and ignorant.
This is a worthwhile and important strategy, and is taught in almost all major military schools in the world today. After the Civil War, Europe sat up and took notice of the new way of war invented by W.T.Sherman.
The United States achieved total victory in Europe in WWII by wiping out the industrial capacity of Germany, which the victorious allies had failed to do in the Great War.
I'll bump to that!
General Sherman was a national hero!
W.T.Sherman put the question to the South. He ended the pussyfooting, and drove a dagger into the South's soul. He won the civil war. He understood what war is about. We could all learn a lesson from him. Listen, if you don't want the atrocities of war brought to bear upon your heartland, don't make war.
That's a great book isn't it?
I've lived most of my life in the South and from time to time have had to listen to nitwits like the guy who posted this topic.
Hanson's book had it exactly right. Sherman was the most innovative general not only of the Civil War but of the entire 19th century. While Lee and Grant were still chasing chasing each other around the countryside and losing huge numbers of soldiers on both sides, Sherman figured out that if he couldn't kill every confederate soldier, he could kill the South's will to fight and keep his men alive at the same time. Hanson's book gave evidence of this when he recounted that Lee's army was losing hundreds of soldiers to desertion every day.Why? To go home and try to protect their property because they had gotten the news that
Sherman was loose in the South and was "making Georgia howl".
"As long as Sherman was killin Southerners he was OK by me"
Would you like to have a go at this Southerner, girlie man?
Your response made me laugh my * off.
The good professor is from Wisconsin one of the most liberal states anywhere...moreover it ain't a dixie ping because this guy hates a Georgia flag...And by the way you guys lost
As long as he was just killin' Jews, I guess Hitler was alright to you also! You sick a-hole.
""It will be a physical impossibility to protect the roads, now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler, and the whole batch of devils are turned loose without home or habitation. I think that Hood's movements indicate a diversion to the end of the Selma & Talledega road, at Blue Mountain, about 60 miles southwest of Rome, where he will threaten Kingston, Bridgeport, and Decatur,Alabama, I propose that we break up the railroad from Chattanooga forward, and that we strike out with our wagons for Midgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless for us to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people, will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads, we will lose a thousand men each month, and we will gain no result. I can make this march, and make Georgia howl! We have on hand over 8 thousand head of cattle and three million rations of bread, but no corn. We can find plenty of forage in the interior of the state." -- William T. Sherman, October 1864.
A Sherman quote : "Though I never ordered it, and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over the event, because I believe that it hastened what we all fought for, the end of the war."
I thought this war was over...
Great post! Was that Sherman's letter to Grant asking for permission to make his march? I know that, because the idea was so revolutionary, both Grant and Lincoln were dubious of its chances of success. I always loved reading the account of the worrying Grant and Lincoln did between the time Sherman struck out from Atlanta and when he finally emerged a couple of months later on the coast and presented to Lincoln the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift.
Sherman's sacking of Atlanta was one of the two most important Union victories of the war, Gettysburg being the other. Had Sherman not sacked Atlanta before the election of 1864, chances are McClelland would have beaten Lincoln and negotiated a peace that left the Confederacy intact and our country split in half. Were it not for Wm. T. Sherman our nation and the world would look very, very different today.
Yes it was. I wish I knew of a good account of Sherman's march across Georgia. I've got a great book on the Atlanta campaign itself, but a well-researched book on the march would do a lot towards refuting all the southron myths that are spread about that campaign.
James M. Calhoun, Mayor
E. E. Rawson and S. C. Wells, representing City Council of Atlanta
I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of the distress that will be occasioned, and yet shall not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and Constitution that all must respect and obey. To defeat those armies, we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses, provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose. Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, that we may have many years of military operations from this quarter; and, therefore, deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home for families. There will be no manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here, for the maintenance of families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies will renew the scenes of the past month? Of course, I do not apprehend any such thing at this moment, but you do not suppose this army will be here until the war is over. I cannot discuss this subject with you fairly, because I cannot impart to you what we propose to do, but I assert that our military plans make it necessary for the inhabitants to go away, and I can only renew my offer of services to make their exodus in any direction as easy and comfortable as possible.
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices today than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the national Government, and, instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may. I know that a few individuals cannot resist a torrent of error and passion, such as swept the South into rebellion, but you can point out, so that we may know those who desire a government, and those who insist on war and its desolation.
You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.
We don't want your negroes, or your horses, or your houses, or your lands, or any thing you have, but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States. That we will have, and, if it involves the destruction of your improvements, we cannot help it.
You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better. I repeat then that, by the original compact of Government, the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., etc., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or tittle of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands upon thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands, and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success.
But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.
Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them, and build for them, in more quiet places, proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down, and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta. Yours in haste,
W. T. Sherman, Major-General commanding.
As I stated, I don't believe there is any connection to Abu Ghraib. I thought the take on Sherman was interesting. As for the author and style of the article, I can only say that its from the AJC. ;)
He is much worse than that, I hope he don't come to Dixie, and run that by me. I will wind up in Stark, waiting on the needle.
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