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Sherman's March

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  • Sherman's March


    Any recommendations on the best books to read up on Sherman's marches? McPherson describes it as "hard" war but not total war and states that the destruction it brought was for the most part quite discriminate, and I'd love to explore this more. I'd also like to read more about the logistics of moving through SC - building the corduroy roads through the swamps was considered by Johnston to be a nearly impossible feat.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  • #2
    I don't know if I can recommend it or not (yet), but I have just started reading "Sherman: A Soldier's Life", by Lee Kennett; he does have a chapter entitled "The Great March", that might be a good starting point for further reading on this subject (I haven't gotten that far into the book yet).
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge


    • #3
      Thanks. I'm definitely going to read the following, The Hard Hand of War (9780521599412): Mark Grimsley: Books, since it deals specifically what I'm looking at, but I also want to read something that covers more than just the specific topic. Let me know what you think of the book once you finish it.
      "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3


      • #4
        Burke Davis' Sherman's March is excellent. I read this while OC-ing the 48th Brigade GA ARNG back in 1988...they didn't appreciate the irony!
 Sherman's March: The First Full-Length Narrative of General William T. Sherman's Devastating March through Georgia and the Carolinas (9780394757636): Burke Davis: Books

        Andy Trudeau's Southern Storm is also excellent Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea (9780060598686): Noah Andre Trudeau: Books

        Mark Grimsley's book is on my to do list.

        I am reading Rev War and mysteries for a bit of a mental vacation!
        “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
        Mark Twain


        • #5
          Here's a post on Grimsley's book:

          “The Mythology of Hard War”

          The Mythology of Hard War”
          NOVEMBER 17, 2009

          This is the final week of my survey course on the American Civil War. One of the subjects we’ve been looking at is the introduction of what Mark Grimsley describes as “Hard War” policy by the United States in 1864. The class was assigned a section of Grimsley’s book, Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), which allowed us to take a much closer look at Sherman’s “March to the Sea”. Rather than see the campaign as a foreshadowing of warfare in the twentieth century, Grimsley provides a framework that situates it within the history of warfare stretching back to the Middle Ages. [It's always nice to be able to read and discuss the best in Civil War scholarship with my high school students.] He also speculates that this may account for why Grant, Sherman and the rest of the Union army did not regard the campaign as inaugurating a new kind of warfare. I’m not sure I agree with that, but nevertheless, Grimsley’s analysis does provide students of the war with a framework with which to analyze as opposed to our popular memory of Sherman and the campaign that is bogged down in strong emotions that tell us very little about the scale of violence and overall strategy.

          Grimsley suggests that our tendency to view the campaign as “indiscriminate and all annihilating” fulfills “a vareity of agendas.” Here is a short list:

          1. Going back to the war itself, “Confederate nationalists portrayed the enemy as demons and blackguards in a bid to create an unbridgeable chasm to reunion.”

          2. After the war white Southern Redeemers used the campaign to suggest that a “terrible wrong” had been done to them. This was paricularly effective throughout the era of military Reconstruction.

          3. The campaign also fed into the argument that Confederate defeat was simply the result of the North’s overwhelming resources rather than internal divisions within the Confederate South or mistakes made in Richmond and/or on the battlefield.

          4. Sherman’s depredations also made it easier to look beyond the Confederate government’s own policies such as tax-in-kind, impressment as well as “scorched earth” practices carried out by the Confederate army.

          5. [I think this one is the most interesting.] “Sherman’s March” also helps to explain the economic disaster that befell much of the former Confederacy after the war. While images of the campaign suggest complete destruction, this was anything but the case; much of the damage had been repaired within a few years. The most serious economic losses were the result of the emancipation of slaves, “which wiped out billions of dollars in Southern wealth, and the worthlessness of Confederate scrip, bonds, and promissory notes into which many Southerners had sunk most of their savings.” Grimsley argues that these economic losses can be traced to the states’ decisions to secede in 1861 rather than Sherman’s men and may point to the extent to which white Southerners resisted blaming themselves for their losses.
          "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3


          • #6

            Glad you found Kevin Levin's blog. I have sent him some of the discussion vis-a-vis black confederates...he should enjoy those.

            And to see a similar destruction with an operational objective read about Sheridan's burning of the Shenandoah Valley after the Battle of Fisher's Hill. It destroyed the capability of Virginia to supply Lee's Army in 64-65. The crop was gone and nothing available to provide to the Army.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain