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Rehabbing Sherman

“The amount of plundering, burning, and stealing done by our own army makes me ashamed of it. I would quit the service if I could for I fear we are drifting towards vandalism. Thus you and I and every commander must go through the war justly chargeable for our crimes.” – General William T. Sherman, 1863

“I have felt a human sympathy with him [Ulysses S. Grant, dying of cancer] in his suffering, the more so because I think him so much better than the pillaging, house-burning, women-persecuting Sherman & Sheridan.” – President Jefferson Davis, 1885

By James Rutledge Roesch | 18 November 2014

THE ABBEVILLE BLOG — There is a concerted effort from historians to “rehabilitate” General William T. Sherman, probably because his campaigns were so evil and shameful that they cannot be reconciled with the popular fable about the righteous, holy “Civil War.” The cognitive dissonance is simply overwhelming. Rather than face the truth, historians have decided to put as much spin on it as possible. Most of the truth about secession and war has already been “revised” away, so why not Northern war crimes, too?

Today, historians – some of whom, like Victor D. Hanson, are court historians of the War Party peddling an interventionist agenda – insist that Sherman only targeted military infrastructure. Of course, to Sherman, who believed in “total warfare,” everything was military infrastructure!

Regardless, the idea that Sherman showed any sort of restraint flatly contradicts the historical record and is pure fantasy. Sherman’s troops sacked and razed entire cities and communities. Sherman’s troops exhumed graves to loot the corpses. Sherman’s troops tore up little girls’ dolls and nailed family pets to doors. Sherman’s troops left countless civilians – including the slaves they were supposedly liberating – without food or shelter. Sherman ransomed civilians to armies in the area, threatening to execute them or burn their homes if they did not comply. Sherman had a few contemplative moments and was always careful to maintain plausible deniability, but he knew what was happening and let it happen. By contrast, Confederate generals, despite hearing news of death and destruction from home, strictly enforced orders protecting the person and property of Northern civilians.

“I cannot hope that heaven will prosper our cause when we are violating its laws,” declared Lee upon entering Pennsylvania. “I shall, therefore, carry on the war in Pennsylvania without offending the sanctions of high civilization and Christianity.”

Sherman, however, whined that “war is hell” and turned his troops loose on the people. […]

2 Comments on Rehabbing Sherman

  1. A little military context: by November of 1864, when Sherman’s army started the March through Georgia, his men had been deep in enemy territory fighting for their lives for a long, bloody year; in many battles they could well have been cut off from supplies and then cut up, wiped out and captured by Confederate forces. Even winning all those battles, the Union men were always at risk of being picked off by local rebel counter attacks, and by guerilla style raids where they – SHERMAN’S UNION SOLDIERS – COULD EXPECT NO QUARTER if captured – for example, see Confed Calvary Gen Nathan Bedford Forest and the MASSACRE of captured Union soldiers at the Battle of Fort Pillow April 1864
    While that battle was in Tennessee, yet Sherman’s men were undoubtedly aware of the murderous atrocity, and were well aware that if THEY were captured by local men, whether uniformed CSA soldiers or otherwise, they could expect the same fate.
    In DETACHING FROM HIS SUPPLY LINES, Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas DEMANDED LIVING OFF THE LAND. Now all the armies – BOTH Union AND Confederate – did the same thing anyways – “REQUISITIONED” local supplies, especially food, including Lee’s armies at the Battle of Gettysburg (who also SEIZED BLACKS who were then sent to the south as SLAVES) – but with Sherman’s army so far behind enemy lines, there was obviously a desperation to their foraging that could turn brutal, what with men of a small foraging party knowing that at any moment they could be surrounded by a larger enemy troop that WOULD KILL THEM. So there is a fine line between “lawful” military “requisitioning” and outright plunder….

    Now put yourself in the footsteps of Sherman's men.

    DID THEY WANT to be in Georgia and Carolinas?
    This was no army of imperial conquest, it was the final acts of a long bloody war to preserve the Union, END SLAVERY, and keep America from being DIVIDED IN TWO with a HOSTILE GOVT south of the border (Mason-Dixon line).
    Even with the WAR ALREADY DECIDED, the Union men knew that every day, every battle could be their last. And THEY WERE FIGHTING PEOPLE – Southern SLAVE OWNER CULTURE – that had NO PROBLEM BEATING, WHIPPING, TERRORIZING, TORTURING and MURDERING SLAVES.
    Not for a moment do I condone Sherman’s troops raping local women, but IF YOU WERE IN THEIR SHOES, and had seen HUNDREDS of your soldier friends and comrades KILLED & HORRIBLY WOUNDED in YEARS of bloody fighting, and you JUST WANTED TO GO HOME, but these damn SLAVE OWNING REBELS were CONTINUING TO KILL YOUR MEN deep in enemy territory when the war was all but lost…. well, GETTING THE WAR OVER, by BURNING THE ENEMY’S SUPPLIES was the quickest way to end the misery.

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