Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”

Gen. William T. Sherman

William T. Sherman

The closest thing to a prophet to be found among the major leaders of the war, Sherman is still controversial after almost a century and a half. He is often credited (or blamed) as the father of modern, all-out warfare that targets a belligerent’s homeland and population as military targets.

A restless, energetic thinker, Sherman suffered what today might be called a nervous breakdown at the beginning of the war. He was viewed as a “hysteric” by his superiors and was demoted and consigned to obscurity. His collapse was brought about by the stress of trying to convince those farther up the chain of command that fighting the South would require far greater manpower and resources than their complacent approach admitted. Disastrously proven right, he was one of a very few Union officers to distinguish themselves during the Union catastrophe at Bull Run.

Though junior to Grant, the outspoken Sherman functioned in many ways as both partner and advisor to his more taciturn superior. While they lacked the romanticized glamour of the Confederate team of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, for sheer results and the ability to stay focused on strategic objectives, it could be argued that Sherman and Grant formed the most effective military partnership in modern warfare.

Read Sherman’s letter to the citizens of Atlanta

The March to the Sea

“Three years ago, by a little reflection and patience, they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late. All the powers of earth cannot return to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken; and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives.”

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