Sherman's March to the Sea - A Controversial But Strategic Tactic - Seeker's Thoughts

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Sherman's March to the Sea - A Controversial But Strategic Tactic

After the Union army captured Atlanta, General Sherman decided to march south toward Savannah and seize control of its seaport there - this would require operating deep within enemy territory without access to supplies or supply lines.

Sherman instructed his soldiers to forage, confiscate livestock and demolish property on their march. This would demonstrate to civilians that the Confederate government could no longer protect them.

Destroying the Confederate Army

Sherman's march was heralded as an impressive victory by many Northerners, credited with breaking Confederate resistance and speeding the war's conclusion. To the South however, Sherman's tactics proved fatal to its economy and civilian population alike - earning him contempt on both sides. His ruthlessness earned him contempt on both sides as his reputation as a destroyer rather than fighter led him to be disdained even by those on both sides of the conflict.

On November 15, 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led his troops from Atlanta towards Savannah. This massive force, composed of 62,000 men, left in its wake a trail of torn-up railroads and pillaged farms across Georgia's countryside as they left behind burned homes and destroyed property in their wake. Sherman employed an unconventional strategy known as "scorched earth", targeting not only enemy forces but also infrastructure such as civilian properties and transportation networks for destruction.

Civilians suffered greatly during Sherman's destructive march, which terrorized and appalled them. Sherman hoped his destruction would demonstrate the might of the Union army while breaking Confederate morale and cutting off supplies supporting rebellion; many civilians found themselves without food and means to support themselves while their property was plundered by Union soldiers belonging to Joe Wheeler's cavalry division.

Union troops were given explicit orders to forage liberally; Sherman's troops, however, had more sinister motivations for doing so. Under a special field order issued by Sherman himself, his officers were granted permission to destroy any property they found useful or productive - without invading private residences - making Sherman's troops frequently foraging in towns and villages where there were civilians present; killing livestock even those considered non-utilizable for soldiers' food; as well as taking valuable goods like silver spoons, clocks or paintings as theft.

Sherman's soldiers may not have captured much from the southern cities they devastated, but Keller said their army still managed to damage rail lines and agricultural economies that supported rebel armies throughout Shenandoah Valley - all while shortening the war by allowing Union forces to capture territory directly and by cutting supply routes to rebel armies.

Destroying the Civilian Population

After seizing Atlanta in early 1864, Sherman led his army on an epic march toward enemy territory - taking an unprecedented gamble that involved taking them deep into hostile terrain without access to supplies - living off of what the land provided, with Sherman having to deprive many soldiers of food in order to do it all successfully. It marked one of the earliest major demonstrations of total war tactics - an idea which would become ubiquitous throughout American warfare in subsequent campaigns.

Sherman believed his brutal war policy was necessary to dismantle the Confederacy and disillusion its civilian supporters, so he unleashed destruction upon Georgia and South Carolina with no organized opposition from these states; yet Southern civilians felt fear and anxiety as his soldiers moved through their neighborhoods.

Though few civilians died from Sherman's military tactics, their troops did destroy many houses and burn crops - an unprecedented move toward total war that went beyond simply attacking troops by targeting civilians too. Sherman's march through Georgia remains an iconic reminder of how brutality unleashed by his military tactics had devastated civilian morale and caused widespread damage.

The Meridian operation was similar to the March to the Sea and marked a pivotal turning point in how Union used power to end the Civil War. Sherman employed tactics during this period which had long-lasting ramifications for America; these still influence modern warfare today. For instance, irregular warfare with blurred lines between combatants and noncombatants; use of force against civilians for demoralization purposes; psychological dimensions of conflict and physical destruction were all raised through its March to the Sea predecessor, leaving its legacy unsettled both North and South alike today.

Destroying the Economy

After seizing Atlanta in November 1864, Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman began a relentless assault against Savannah Georgia with a scorched-earth campaign that destroyed plantations, railroad tracks and towns alike in its wake - creating the precursor of what historians refer to as total war; ultimately leading to Confederate States surrender and ultimately ending five months later the Civil War.

Sherman's tactics during the March to the Sea have often been likened to Nazi Germany's strategy of economic warfare and have led to accusations that Sherman committed war crimes by plundering civilian property and looting. Yet the truth is more complex; rather than punish civilians directly, Sherman used these methods in order to cripple Southern economies and break Confederate morale.

Sherman elaborated his philosophy in a letter to General Halleck. He stated his belief that all citizens were bound by both natural and constitutional law to "maintain and defend" the government from all opposers, no matter who or what. Therefore, every citizen had an obligation to contribute towards protecting the Union no matter the personal cost to themselves or their family members.

Sherman's March to the Sea was an experiment. Set against a backdrop of adverse winter conditions, its journey took them through treacherous terrain while without traditional supply lines they must forage for food along the route to ensure survival during their march.

Sherman's force managed despite these difficulties to completely wreck Georgia and its neighboring states' economies, cutting off vital supplies that were vital for cities and towns to survive, leading to millions in damages and leaving millions destitute. Furthermore, this economic devastation of Georgia caused public discontent as perceptions of their government suffered as well.

Though many myths exist surrounding Sherman's March to the Sea, its true purpose was strategic in nature: It accomplished its objective of crippling Confederate economies and undermining Southern morale. Indeed, its impact was so profound that it accelerated Reconstruction efforts in the South--helping bring the war to its conclusion in April 1865 faster. To gain further insight into its devastating impact, explore Civil War records on Fold3 today!

Destroying the Infrastructure

As Sherman advanced toward Savannah, he destroyed its water supply by disabling pumps that kept reservoirs filled and railroad lines that brought supplies directly into town - leaving residents forced to forage for supplies instead of having them delivered - leading to many lives being put at risk as illustrated by this stereograph card.

Destroying infrastructure was part of General Sherman's "total war" approach that began at Atlanta and continued on his march. This approach went beyond direct conflict between soldiers, to encompass disrupting morale and logistics of enemies as a method of warfare that became widely practiced later by American leaders such as General Patton during World War II.

Sherman earned himself a reputation during the march for being a coldly efficient yet ruthless military commander. However, after hostilities ended he showed another side to himself; offering generous surrender terms to Confederate leadership which was quite surprising considering he had been such an aggressive general during battle.

Personality-wise, Billy was an enigma as well. An everyday individual with an everyday rumpled appearance and unique quirks like wandering camp in his long johns at night - earning him the moniker "Uncle Billy." Yet despite incurring numerous casualties on his troops during battles led by him, his conduct as military leader became legendary and was widely revered as someone who understood the human cost of war.

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