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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. […]

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