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.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.