What is known as General Sherman’s March to the Sea, occurred directly after the Fall of Atlanta.

It was a campaign conducted through Georgia by 44 year old General William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army.

It began with Sherman’s troops, after two months of occupation, leaving the captured and utterly destroyed city of Atlanta on 15th November 1864 and headed south eastward toward Milledgeville, the State capital,

After a wildly destructive rampage through Georgia, the heart of Dixie, destroying farms, railroads and inferstructure, the Union troops ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on 21st December, just 37 days later.

 

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Map of Sherman's March to the Sea

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During this total war, this scorched earth action, his forces destroyed military targets as well as industry, infrastructure, and civilian property and disrupted the South’s economy and its transportation networks.

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"I can make Georgia howl!" General Sherman

“I can make Georgia howl!” General Sherman

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This was psychological warfare at its best and it was designed to ensure that the South could not have the resources to continue the war that had been raging for three long years, killing nearly a million men. It was expected to break Confederate moral and shock the South into surrender. By also targeting civilians and breaking their will to fight, Sherman single-handedly made the Civil War a Total War. Consider it as the Nineteenth Century’s version of the American bombing or Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if you like.

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Total war

Total war

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On November 15, 1864, General Sherman cut out the back of Atlanta with 68,000 hard worn Yankees, he drove ’em down through Georgia to the sea. With hate in their hearts, they moved in a line, cutting a scar through God’s Blessed country 50 miles wide. Burning, looting and gutting our land like vultures! They tore up the rail-road tracks, they burnt the cotton and the gins, Lord, they made everybody suffer!

It engendered a hate for the North, the “Yankees”, by the South that certainly existed at the time of our show and even exists today.

Like demons they rush in – to my smokehouse, my dairy and cellar. Breaking locks and whatever was in their way! What they couldn’t take, they destroyed. We begged them to leave us something!

… and …

A sea rolls between them and us – a sea of blood. Smoking houses, outraged women, murdered fathers, brothers, and husbands forbid such a union. Reunion! Great Heavens! How we hate them with the whole strength and depth of our souls!

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"War is Hell" General Sherman

“War is Hell” General Sherman

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Sherman’s March is succinctly described from the Southern point of view in this song from the album “White Mansions”:

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They laid waste to our land, they took it from our hand;
from Atlanta to Savannah, they scorched our earth.
They stole our corn and wheat, they left no food to eat,
they slaughtered all the cattle, took the things of worth.
Well, we got women and children too
just the same as you,
ain’t it enough just to know that you got us beat?

The hatred will never cease, even now that there’s peace.
The feelings will run as deep as the scars we bear.
This ain’t cloth we wear it’s a rag, we’re at the mercy of the carpetbag.
What you call justice is plain unfair.
How the hell can you ever claim,
it’s bin worth all of the pain,
just to have us live together under one flag?

They Laid Waste to Our Land – Waylon Jennings
“White Mansions – A tale from the American Civil War”

 

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This action caused SO much hatred for the North by Southerners which is still visible. Indeed, the name “Sherman” is still an anathema in the South today.

In the film Gone With The Wind, which is based during this period, he is described as “The Great Destroyer”.

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