Monday, January 27, 2014

Sherman Would Spare Nothing


Though fighting against his countrymen who only sought a more perfect political union, and with the blessing of Lincoln and Grant, Sherman's devastation would literally spare nothing. Of note regarding his march through Georgia and the Carolina's was a young Spanish military observer, Valeriano Weyler, who would later become known as "the Butcher" by Cuban's fighting for independence. Weyler herded women and children into concentration camps while devastating the countryside, having learned much from his master.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

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Sherman Would Spare Nothing

"Fort Sumter was fired upon, and now the sulking Achilles came out to fight; and with him blood and iron would play a part from the very beginning.  In May [1861] he declared: "the greatest difficulty in the problem now before the country is not to conquer, but so conquer to impress upon the real men of the South a respect for their conquerors."  As the war got under way Sherman became hypnotized by it . . . and refused to be diverted by those who would minimize the task or mollify it by soft considerations of the claims of humanity or too close adherence to the rule book.

As condemnation of his prodigality in the use of men began to come in, he replied that the war could not be fought with breath, but that hundreds of thousands of lives must perish, and he added, "Indeed do I wish I had been killed long since."   [He] began "to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash – and it may be well that we become so hardened."

[In 1862 he wrote] the Secretary of the Treasury, "The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all the South are enemies of all in the North."

As to the large number of people who were being arrested [for disloyalty] in Kentucky, he would send them "to the Dry Tortugas, or Brazil, every one of those men, women and children, and encourage a new breed."

"To secure the navigation of the Mississippi River [to Northern shipping] I would slay millions.  On that point I am not only insane, but mad."  For every shot fired at a [Northern] river steamer he would return "a thousand 30-pound Parrotts into every helpless town on Red, Ouchita, Yazoo, or wherever a boat can float or a soldier march."

But for no reason beyond the fact that the South was opposing the North, he would set stark starvation loose upon the land.  Before beginning his Meridian campaign early in 1864, he wrote his wife, "We will take all provisions, and God help the starving families."

[In 1863 he insisted] on war, pure and simple, with no admixture of civil compromises . . . [and] considered it unwise at that time "or for years to come" to give the southern people "any civil government in which the local people have much to say . . . All the Southern States will need a pure military Government for years after resistance has ceased."

By the summer of 1864 . . . [Sherman] offered this advice to General Sheridan, who might find it useful in the Shenandoah Valley:  "I am satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory . . . Therefore I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results."

He wrote Grant his well-known article of faith, "Unless we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it; but the utter destruction of roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources . . . After he had reached Savannah he wrote to Halleck, " We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and we must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies."

When he found himself on one of Howell Cobb's plantations in Georgia, he instructed his army "to spare nothing," and on the march through South Carolina, one chilly night he consumed in the blazing fireplace the furniture of "one of those splendid South Carolina estates where the proprietors had formerly dispensed hospitality that distinguished the regime of that proud State."

His first disagreement with the Radical reconstructionists grew out of his long-standing attitude toward the Negro. He had spurned abolitionism in 1861, and during the war he had shown his contempt for Negro soldiers.  He wrote in May, 1865, ". . . I do not favor the scheme of declaring the Negroes of the South, now free, to be loyal voters, whereby politicians may manufacture just so much more pliable electioneering material . . . they are no friends of the Negro who seek to complicate him with new prejudices."

(Sherman and the South, E. Merton Coulter, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, January 1931, excerpts, pp. 46-53)