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General Sherman's "March to the Sea" campaign inflicted significant damage to Southern industry, infrastructure, and civilian property.
Assess the objectives, pros, and cons of Sherman's "March to the Sea".
Some estimate that the damage from Sherman's March reached
$100 million, or about 1.378 billion in 2010 dollars.
The Union army wrecked 300 miles of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It also seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, 13,000 head of cattle, 9.5 million pounds of corn, and 10.5 million pounds of fodder.
The campaign was similar to Grant's innovative and successful Vicksburg Campaign in that Sherman's armies reduced their need for traditional supply lines by "living off the land" after consuming their 20 days of rations.
William Tecumseh Sherman (February 8, 1820 – February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65) and received recognition for outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the scorched earth policies he implemented.
Sherman's March to the Sea is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted through Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Major General William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army in the American Civil War. The campaign began with Sherman's troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta on November 16 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. It inflicted significant damage, particularly to industry and infrastructure (per the doctrine of total war), and also to civilian property.
On September 1, 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Atlanta, and the
following day, the city was officially surrendered to Union forces. Over those two days and nights, explosions and fires could be heard
across the city as 81 rail cars filled with ammunition and Confederate military
supplies were destroyed. By September 3, Union forces began moving into the
city and civilians were ordered to leave. Private homes were re-purposed for
federal use, adding to the stress felt across the local population as military
control spread. Union Major
General William Tecumseh Sherman and Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant
believed that the Civil War would end only if the Confederacy's strategic,
economic, and psychological capacity for warfare were decisively broken.
Sherman therefore applied the principles of scorched earth throughout his
successful Atlanta campaign from May to September of 1864; he ordered his
troops to burn crops, kill livestock, and consume supplies. Finally he
destroyed civilian infrastructure along his path of advance. The recent
re-election of President Abraham Lincoln ensured that no short term political
pressure would restrain these tactics. Federal forces occupied Atlanta
until November 15-16 when Sherman’s “March to the Sea” began.
The "March to the Sea"
Sherman's "March to the Sea" is the name commonly given to the Savannah Campaign conducted around Georgia from November 15, 1864 to December 21, 1864 by Major General William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The campaign began with Sherman's troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, on November 16 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. It inflicted significant damage, particularly to industry and infrastructure.
The second objective of the campaign was more traditional. Grant's armies in Virginia remained in a stalemate against Robert E. Lee's army, besieged in Petersburg, Virginia. By moving in Lee's rear and performing a massive turning movement against him, Sherman could possibly increase pressure on Lee, allowing Grant the opportunity to break through, or at least keep Southern reinforcements away from Virginia.
Scorched Earth and the Capture of Savannah
The campaign was similar to Grant's innovative and successful Vicksburg Campaign in that Sherman's armies reduced their need for traditional supply lines by "living off the land" after consuming their 20 days of rations. Foragers, known as "bummers", provided food seized from local farms to soldiers while they destroyed the railroads, manufacturing, and agricultural infrastructure of Georgia. In planning for the march, Sherman used livestock and crop production data from the 1860 census to lead his troops through areas where he believed they would be able to forage most effectively.
Sherman's armies reached the outskirts of Savannah on December 10 but found 10,000 Confederate troops entrenched in good positions. The soldiers had flooded the surrounding rice fields, leaving only narrow causeways available to approach the city. Sherman was blocked from linking up with the U.S. Navy as he had planned, so he dispatched cavalry to Fort McAllister, guarding the Ogeechee River, in hopes of unblocking his route and obtaining the supplies that awaited him on the Navy ships. On December 13, troops stormed the fort in the Battle of Fort McAllister and captured it within 15 minutes. Now that Sherman had connected to the Navy fleet he was able to obtain the supplies and siege artillery he required to invade Savannah.
After capturing Savannah, Sherman telegraphed to President Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton." On December 26, the president replied in a letter: "Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift – the capture of Savannah." From Savannah, Sherman marched north in the spring through the Carolinas, intending to complete his turning movement and combine his armies with Grant's against Lee. After a successful two-month campaign, Sherman accepted the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston and his forces in North Carolina on April 26, 1865.
Sherman's scorched earth policies remain highly controversial, and many Southerners have long reviled Sherman's memory. Many slaves, however, welcomed him as a liberator and left their plantations to follow his armies. The March to the Sea was devastating to Georgia and the Confederacy. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million in damages, or about 1.378 billion in 2010 dollars.
Source: Boundless. “Sherman's March.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 15 Jun. 2016. Retrieved 26 Aug. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/the-civil-war-1861-1865-18/the-end-of-the-civil-war-135/sherman-s-march-726-10388/