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Shek
26 Jul 10,, 02:52
Just finished reading Mark Grimsley's The Hard Hand of War (http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Hand-War-Mark-Grimsley/dp/0521599415) this past week (Google books link (http://books.google.com/books?id=qEQLQLNBCBUC&dq=the+hard+hand+of+war&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=oORMTPCkI4H88AbTgNUy&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false)). The book was an outstanding treatment of the evolution of Union military policy towards Southern civilians from 1861-65, and dispels numerous myths surrounding the final "hard war" policy that the Union settled upon.

Grimsley clearly draws a distinction between the the "hard war" policy that inflicted "directed severity" upon the economy of the South, and the total war that the world would see in World War 2 with carpet bombing. While both sought to bring the war to the enemy's economic home front, and while the rhetoric of LeMay and Sherman would be comparable, LeMay would find Sherman a pansy. Anything but total war, the Union's "hard war" policy clearly "exempted" poor Southerners, neutrals, and Unionists from economic devestation, instead only directing severe damage against public property or that of the "Secesh" plantation class (this isn't to say that destruction outside of these boundaries didn't occur, but when it did happen, it did so without sanction and under the threat of punishment if caught).

The evolution of policy towards "hard war" found its roots in the Union military reversals of 1862, stemming both from a feeling that Confederacy wouldn't simply fade away, as well as from the fact that the territorial gains in early 1862 were made against largely Unionist sections of the South. The original "conciliation" policy would find itself at home with COIN theory in its prescription to do no harm in order to bring neutrals off the fence (the book was originally written in 1995, so the COIN like similarities is coincidental). During this period, Sherman wrote often about the depravity of the actions of some of his soldiers, who would conduct behavior that would later be within the bounds of "hard war" policy. With the failure of McClellan's Richmond campaign in the summer of 1862 and his fading star, conciliation gave way to pragmatism, which allowed for reprisals in response to guerilla attacks. Soon, in order to cut ties to supply lines and reduce the number of occupation troops to swell the fighting ranks, "hard war" policy emerged, which encouraged supplementing supplies from rich "Secesh." Grant's Vicksburg campaign highlighted the potential in moving to a "hard war" policy.

However, even with a "hard war" policy in place, the evidence regarding directed severity is clear. While South Carolina burned in large part, the way that the destruction wrought by Sherman's column ramped up from GA to SC and then ramped down from SC to NC is a testament to the fact that the destruction was calibrated. He ranges over several other examples, making compelling the case that the Lost Cause description of burning everything is a falsehood, and providing the evidence to reject any claim that Sherman was the first person to resort to "total war."

I'd recommend the book to anyone who is either has an interest in the Civil War or the ethics/morality of war (Grimsley also explores how the "hard war" policy was in keeping with the law of land warfare of the day). For more on the book, you can look at Grimsley's outline of the book (probably lecture notes), a series of blog posts reflecting on his book, or another book review:

http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/grimsley1/milhis/acw4.htm

Civil Warriors Hard Warrior – Pt 1 (http://civilwarriors.net/wordpress/?p=330)

Thoughts on The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 by Mark Grimsley | TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog (http://www.brettschulte.net/CWBlog/2008/03/31/thoughts-on-the-hard-hand-of-war-union-military-policy-toward-southern-civilians-1861-1865-by-mark-grimsley/)

Bigfella
26 Jul 10,, 10:23
I suspect this won't be popular in some quarters Shek. Challenges beliefs nurtured over generations. Damned facts. ;)

Mihais
26 Jul 10,, 16:10
I don't know how much is about facts and how much about perceptions.Fact is that the CW wasn't special wrt brutality compared with other 19th century wars.I have yet to read the book recommended by Shek,but I'm curious how deep it goes to research acts of brutality commited by undisciplined troops.Even if it does try to,I doubt that enough hard data can be gathered to allow a conclusion to be drawn.Also,the CW armies suffered from desertions,these chaps being prone to crime by default(thanks to isolation,hunger etc...).
Last and the most important aspect is that the South was the only part of US that suffered the effects of occupation.Most of Europe endured several during the last 200 years.It is a unique experience and as such there is no comparison.

Shek
27 Jul 10,, 01:48
I have yet to read the book recommended by Shek,but I'm curious how deep it goes to research acts of brutality commited by undisciplined troops.Even if it does try to,I doubt that enough hard data can be gathered to allow a conclusion to be drawn.Also,the CW armies suffered from desertions,these chaps being prone to crime by default(thanks to isolation,hunger etc...).

Grimsley focuses on Union policy, but he provides enough evidence to indicate that the acts of indiscipline were far less (and in fact, some of the destruction attributed to Union soldiers was actually a scorched earth light policy enacted by fleeing Confederate commanders) than has been habitually attributed/stated.

JAD_333
27 Jul 10,, 04:40
I am reading Sherman's autobiography, which is the most honest, forthright autobiography I've ever read. I've just passed the point where he occupies Nashville. The contrast between his approach in that city and the destruction of his later March to the Sea is surprising. When he arrives with his forces in Nashville all the shops are closed. He orders them reopened. He hunts up the mayor and directs him to resume local government; tells the city council the city must provide its own police force and levy taxes to pay for it; writes the newspaper editor that any Union soldier caught destroying private property will be arrested and punished; compels all men subject to CSA conscription to leave town; pays rent for any privately owned buildings occupied by Union authorities, etc, etc.

This may be considered benign generosity, but in fact it was wise policy. Had he taken a harder line, he would have had his hands full keeping the populace in line. How this makes Sherman a pansy in contrast to WWII-style total war beats me. He was one hell of a pragmatist.

Officer of Engineers
27 Jul 10,, 04:43
I always thought of Sherman as an Engineer's General. When to use the soft approach, avoid the resistance, and when to use the hard approach, build that freaking bridge.

Shek
27 Jul 10,, 11:12
This may be considered benign generosity, but in fact it was wise policy. Had he taken a harder line, he would have had his hands full keeping the populace in line. How this makes Sherman a pansy in contrast to WWII-style total war beats me. He was one hell of a pragmatist.

John,
My pansy remark was simply in comparing Sherman's "hard war" to the total war, not remarking about the man himself. It was not meant as a pejorative description of Sherman.