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General Sherman's strategy--On the Ken Burns’ Civil War show last night,

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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:09 AM
Original message
General Sherman's strategy--On the Ken Burns’ Civil War show last night,
when the show was covering the Atlanta campaign, it sounded to me like Sherman was more careful with the lives of his soldiers than most other generals in that war, because he lay siege to Atlanta instead of the usual frontal assault with soldiers getting mowed down.

Any history/Civil War buffs care to offer their thoughts?

PS--I grew up in SC, so, not surprisingly, I never heard great things about Sherman. In fact I had a relative born in 1911 who still bitterly resented Sherman.

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RT Atlanta Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:14 AM
Response to Original message
1. Perhaps he learned
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 09:16 AM by RT Atlanta
from battles he encountered as Johnny Yank marched down from Chattanooga, with the last one being pretty significant carnage at Kennesaw Mtn. Once Billy Reb fell back from Kennsaw Mtn, there wasnt much between there and ATL (about 30 miles away).

Of course, this says nothing about the swath of destruction that Sherman's troops left in their wake. I have deep family roots in the SC midlands and my two great grandmothers, both of whom were born in the 1890s, had a deep hatred for Sherman because they were only a generation removed from the war and the memories were still "fresh" in the minds of their parents.
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Adsos Letter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:57 PM
Response to Reply #1
15. My understanding is that Kennesaw Mtn. was a real game changer for Sherman.
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Tommy_Carcetti Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:22 AM
Response to Original message
2. On the other hand, he advocated the concept of total war...
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 09:26 AM by Tommy_Carcetti
...meaning war not only on the opposing army, but also on the civilian populace. His famous "March to Atlanta" was comprised of burning towns and destroying personal property.

Sherman may have been careful with the lives of his own men, but he advocated scortched earth tactics that wrecked havoc on ordinary civilian lives. Hence, his famous phrase, "War is hell", which is accurate, but war shouldn't be needlessly foist upon those not actively engaged in battle. (See Hiroshima, Nagasaki).

I'm not a big Sherman fan on that basis alone.

Sherman also advocated for the "extermination" of Native Americans. (His words, not mine.)
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hedgehog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:28 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. On the other hand - would the Civil War have been fought if there hadn't
been so many in the South taken with the glamor of the warrior cult? A lot of white Southerners had been eager for war. Maybe it was a good thing that Sherman brought home to them the meaning of war.
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Tommy_Carcetti Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:32 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. But I can't advocate declaring war on the civilian populace in any occasion.
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 09:34 AM by Tommy_Carcetti
Not in the Civil War nor in World War II, nor anywhere else. Civilians should not be the target of warfare, even when the cause may be justified.

And after the Civil War, Sherman took that same mindset in fighting Native Americans. He famously said to President Grant, "We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children."
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ewagner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:29 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. I was raised in Florida
and was taught American History from a distinctly "southern" point of view...e.g. the "Civil War" was referred to as "the War of Northern Aggression". In that context, Sherman was widely despised by the teachers and that was passed onto the classes. There wasn't anything balanced about it.

Sherman's "March to the Sea" is widely hated in those circles and there was special rancor for his note to Lincoln, giving him Savannah as a Christmas Present ....

I can't recall hearing anything endearing about Sherman at all...
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hedgehog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:52 AM
Response to Reply #5
12. There are some who suggest that if the seceding states had taken their
case to the Supreme Court - the Court would have rule in their favor. So it's at least possible that the South could have seceded peacefully if hot heads hadn't been eager for war.

Would we be at war now if more Americans felt the pain?

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elocs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:27 AM
Response to Original message
3. General Sherman is my only famous ancestor through our mothers.
In fact I have a family history which gives the account of when General Sherman appeared at the family reunion and gave a speech.

I did watch last night but did not pay close enough attention to remember the name of the battle where Sherman sent his soldiers up the mountain and they were slaughtered, that he never admitted his mistake, but never made the same one again. Maybe this had a lot to do with his being more careful with the lives of his soldiers at Atlanta.

A personal irony: my mother is from NY state, as I am, but my father was from Mississippi.
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Larkspur Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:31 AM
Response to Original message
6. When you are deep in enemy territory with no one else coming to help if you get in trouble
a general better be careful with the lives of his soldiers. They are all that stand between him and being captured by a revenge minded enemy.

Laying siege isn't a picnic either. Sherman bombarded the city for weeks before the Confederate troops defending it had to leave due to Sherman's men finally cutting off all Confederate supply routes to the city. Sherman's troops were better equipped and outnumbered the Confederate forces defending Atlanta, so the city was doomed, but due to the ingenuity and courage of some Confederate commanders, it took a few months for Sherman's men to finally cut off all the cities supply lines and seal the city's fate.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:39 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. Good points.

"Sherman bombarded the city for weeks before the Confederate troops defending it had to leave due to Sherman's men finally cutting off all Confederate supply routes to the city. "

I just had a duh moment. That's why the Union soldiers tore up the railroads around Atlanta. I just never thought about it enough to make the connection.

Well, I didn't major in military history. :silly:



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Wounded Bear Donating Member (665 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:35 AM
Response to Original message
8. You might be reading more into his strategy than was true....
At the time, he was far from his base, and needed to pause anyway for his supplies to catch up to him. A high cost assault, both in men and ammo, might have seemed too risky at the time. Plus, he was probably already looking ahead to his March to the Sea, which would be made without conventional supply lines and communications (he wouldn't get a message out to Washington until after he captured Savannah, by boat), and felt that his men needed the break in the action that a siege versus an assault would provide.

Sherman was a ruthless commander. I don't think that humanitarian concerns for the Rebs was high on his list of priorities.
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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:42 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. I was thinking maybe he had humanitarian concerns for his own soldiers, but
but some of the posts here have convinced me that he didn't.




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Rage for Order Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:43 AM
Response to Original message
11. General Sherman was a war criminal, no doubt n/t
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Kber Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:54 AM
Response to Original message
13. Ken Burn's documentary on the Civil War is riveting
I recently read a book (Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August") in which the author argues that if the European observers to the American Civil War had done a better job communicating the changed nature of warfare, that World War I might never have been fought, or at least would have been planned and implemented totally differently.

I'm not sure I totally buy it, though. The European peasants always suffered during war, so the idea that Sherman invented "total war" doesn't ring 100% true to me. I think he was just blunter about describing his tactics.

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raccoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 10:02 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. It's appalling that generals in the Civil War, and WWI, didn't seem to "get it"
that frontal assaults resulted in massive losses due to improvements in firearms.


Maybe it's a case of hindsight being 20/20. :shrug:



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