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November 12, 1864: The Destruction of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea

On November 12, 1864, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman ordered the destruction of the business district in Atlanta and the Union Army started their March to the Sea which ended just before Christmas in Savannah, Georgia. The march, also known as the Savannah Campaign, bolstered the Union Army and helped lead to the surrender of the Confederacy and the end of the Civil War five months later.

Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

During the Civil War, Atlanta served as a hub for the Confederacy and a major transportation link for supplies and troops between the eastern seaboard and the west. After a five-month successful campaign from Tennessee through northwest Georgia, Union troops made their way to the doorstep of Atlanta in mid-July. Gen. John B. Hood decided to surrender the city and evacuate his Confederate troops on September 1, 1864. Before leaving, Hood ordered the depots destroyed to prevent them from falling into Union hands.

On September 2nd, Sherman captured the city, but with a tenuous supply line, he knew he couldn’t hold it for long. Sherman divided his army into two, sending half towards Nashville while some 60,000 remaining troops would join him on a march across Georgia.

Ruins of the depot, blown up on Sherman’s departure

Relying on a scorched-earth policy, Sherman ordered that all railroads, factories, and commercial buildings be destroyed before leaving the city. He wanted to obliterate anything that might be of use to the Confederate Army. Sherman also ordered civilians out of their homes and businesses and destroyed them if they contained anything that might aid the Confederates. Before it was over, 40% of the city (an estimated 3,000 buildings) lie in ruins. Much of the destruction was in the business district around Peachtree Street. Pvt. James H. Peterson from the 13th New Jersey Infantry recorded his observations in a pocket diary. “On Sunday November 15 we left Atlanta in going through the city we passed large buildings on fire…”

Sherman and his army, now cut off from any supply lines, headed towards the coast. They lived off the land, taking supplies from fields and farms as they beat a pathway of destruction towards Savannah. Along the way, they encountered pockets of Confederate resistance and destroyed railroad tracks and cut telegraph lines. Pvt. Peterson recorded that on November 26, “while we was skirmishing with the Rebels at Sandersville I was wounded in the leg by a ball.” Peterson ended up in a hospital outside of Savannah where on December 10th he wrote about the approaching Union Army, “The troops burnt the Charleston and Savanna Railroad we lay about 6 miles from Savannah in the Field Hospital we can hear the cannon the savanna River and the broadsides from the big guns very plain.”

Telegram to President Lincoln presenting the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift

On December 21st, after a march of 37 days and some 250 miles, Union troops entered Savannah. Just days before Christmas, Sherman sent a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred fifty guns and plenty of ammunition. Also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

The destruction of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea demoralized the Confederacy and contributed to the end of the Civil War in April 1865. To learn more about the destruction of Atlanta and the March to the Sea, search our Civil War records collection on Fold3 today!

192 Comments

  1. They were citizens before succeeding and after the war were given full citizenship again. Robert E. Lee applied for citizenship after the war and it conveniently was misplaced and lost for 100+ yrs, til found. Lee was then granted citizenship posthumously

    • Lucky to ever again be considered citizens after trying to destroy our country.

    • Odd statement. Have a great day

    • Bill Walker you need to learn your history. Sherman was a war criminal and Lincoln started the War against the newly formed Confederate States of America. Try reading the constitution before posting something so ludicrous. .

  2. Enter voluntarily but cant leave voluntarily. We are free unless its not in the interest of the US govt.

    • Never thought of that but you are right. As Davy Crocket found out when he opposed the killing of Indian women and children under the command of Andrew Jackson. He was threatened with death if he and his Tenn Volunteers left.

    • NotJohn – Your “opinion” is in the interest of “freedumb”. Our Supreme Court has ruled that secession is illegal … too bad they haven’t done the same for libertarianism.

  3. I am not a large student of history. Much of our recorded history is based on an individuals point of view or personal objective. Some is reliable much is not.
    I am a southern boy from Tennessee and I have a love of the south but having also had a good number of ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary war to rid our country of British oppression I have a love of the intent of that war and their dream of freedom. There were others who wanted to keep the status quo, an age old complication.
    Having benefited from being born in America I have a love of this entire country. Our country, like most countries, has people with many different viewpoints. Like today’s world, much of what we hear is lies. It can be very difficult to separate the truth from all of the lies. It was much the same during the Civil War.
    Many families in my ancestry had sons on both sides of the war. Some lost all of their sons to that conflict. It was a bloody war costing many young men their lives and others a productive future. There was much suffering physical, mental and emotional.
    There is no justification for war except to combat evil. However it can be difficult to identify who is the worst evil because it sometimes seems that everyone is most interested in their ‘own’ agenda.
    An entire race of people were subjected to slavery, brutality and discrimination during and for many years after it ended. That was the worst evil. It was brought about by those who will always find a way to use others to fatten their pockets and there were some of those on both sides of the issues. This was in a country that was founded on the principal that ‘all men are created equal’
    Maybe it is time for us to stop finding fault and concern ourselves with the dream of our forefathers and not just our on personal dreams.
    To me it seems that Sherman’s campaign was very similar to the bombings of Japan. In that the question might be did it cost more lives and horror or did it same more lives and horror?

    • You’re more a student of history than you might think. In the absence of written journals, of which there are few, we will never know the nature of each and every black/white relationship. I wish there were a record, I suspect we would be surprised. As grave a sin as slavery was, I would be grateful if we could remember it was a practice dating as far as written history; the 19th century was the thankful end of some slavery. Perhaps if less effort were spent characterizing slavery as a Confederate sin, we would have more time to devote to the end of modern child slavery and sex trafficking.

    • Thank you, well said.

    • In Japan during WWII, the usage of the nuclear bomb saved considerably more lives than if America had to take Japan by land. That is not subjective. That is a fact. America wanted to stop the bloodshed and end the war. Not kill millions of people senselessly like the other rulers were doing. America takes a lot of undue flack for using the nuclear bomb, but unless we didn’t care how many more lives were lost, and we did, the method with the least impact on loss of life was the nuclear bomb. Japan gave us no other choice. Emperor Hirohito said that Japan would continue fighting until the last man! He was so bloodthirsty and power hungry. Hirohito was emperor of Japan from 1926 until his death in 1989. He took over at a time of rising democratic sentiment, but his country soon turned toward ultra-nationalism and militarism. During World War II, Japan attacked nearly all of its Asian neighbors, allied itself with Nazi Germany and launched a surprise assault on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Though Hirohito later portrayed himself as a virtually powerless constitutional monarch, many scholars have come to believe he played an active role in the war effort. After Japan’s surrender in 1945, he became a figurehead with no political power. Roosevelt told America for years that we would not get involved in the war already raging in other parts of the world. World War II began in Europe on September 1, 1939. For more than two years the United States remained officially neutral in the conflict to maintain peace for themselves, and Americans debated whether to stay out of the war or to join the Allied forces fighting Nazi Germany. On September 4, 1941, a German U-boat submarine fired upon an American destroyer, the USS Greer, off the coast of Iceland. The Greer evaded the attack. President Roosevelt authorized US ships to shoot German vessels on sight. In November, 2941, Diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States were tense. American newspapers informed readers that war between the two countries seemed imminent. Then, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, led President Franklin Roosevelt to declare war on Japan. A few days later, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, and America entered World War II against the Axis powers. The United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, with the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. After the first bomb was dropped, America was shocked when Emperor Hirohito’s remark was relentless. Japan would fight to the last man. America thought otherwise. Only after the bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan finally surrendered.

    • Well said!

  4. The one truth that has emerged from this exercise is that as human beings we will always be drawn to, fascinated, confounded, and horrified by the wars we wage. From the Greek philosophers through countless historians to those who study and teach strategies and tactics in our present day war rooms – the discussion never reaches a point of true consensus and absolute justification for actions taken – although many may try.
    Didn’t our president recently stop a military operation because of the fear of “collateral damage”. Then turn around and give the green light to an operation to take out a feared terrorist after weighing all the facts and the best opinions of a host of advisors.
    Throughout history decisions have been made based on the facts and goals that were relevant at that moment. Because we can also create records of our decisions and actions, we have the ability to review and critique those decisions and actions. This thread illustrates that human need to understand our history with the hopes of not repeating our worse behaviors. The thread also exposes our need to judge based on our gift of hindsight.
    The fact that we see and interpret this history through our own personal lenses just confirms the challenges that we face.
    The contributions that I found most enlightening in this thread were those that offered historical facts and first hand accounts of those that were actually there. Thank you for sharing those accounts.
    As a descendent of ancestors who served in both the North and the South, as well as at least one who served on both sides, I wonder what drove their decisions to align with one side or the other. I have to believe geography and maybe some idealistic interpretation of the news of the day had to influence their actions. (What was their news source? Think about it.) Sadly – I have no oral or written self revelations from these ancestors to enlighten me.
    All I can do is keep reading and listening and refining my views as objectively as possible.
    Appreciate the dialogue.

    • Well thought out and well written. Made me stop and think a little deeper. I especially like your point that we are no different today than they were in 1864. Lots of loud talk but not all true. But be sure, all the talk talk is influenced by personal experience and point of view. Ability to influence others through talk and good writing is something schools today cannot seem to impress on modern students. Thank You for your input.

    • Very well stated. I have copies of my great, great, great Uncle’s letters home. He was with the 13th Iowa Volunteers. It was interesting to read he admired Sherman, “he was the picture of an officer”, and thought Grant was “dirty and not what he would expect West Point to produce.”
      Sherman understood, as did Patton, and other great military men, war is hell, it only has one purpose to bring the other side to their knees so they surrender. War should never be humane because if it is, more countries would enter into it as a way to settle differences versus diplomacy.
      If Sherman had not burned Atlanta or marched to the sea, the war would have gone on longer, more people would have died, and the south would have been in worse shape then it was.
      On an interesting sidenote, after returning from war, George Rogers Robinson named one of his sons William Sherman. 19 years after the war, his nephew would marry the second cousin of Grant’s wife.

  5. Sherman’s march to the sea was a dastardly thing hurt many people. It also reduced the ability of the Confederacy to wage war at the level that it had been. Probably impacted some shortening of the war. Saving, possibly, many American lives on both sides, and impacted freeing the slaves. Saved more lives.

    • My gr gr grandfather was with Shermand and his step father was killed in the Battle of Utoy outside of Atlanta and is buried int Marietta National Cemetery. There are no winners in war, just losers all around.

    • He was sick of the confederacy not surrendering despite it being obvious at this point that they would lose. There is also evidence that the confederacy burned down there own towns, this was a normal part if their retreat strategy.

  6. My 2nd Great Grandfather was in the NJ 33rd. He participated in the Atlanta campaign after escaping from Libby Prison in Richmond.

  7. This is an example of a larger, more powerful nation illegally invading a smaller, weaker nation and forcing the invaded nation into a union it had legally left via secession. When it was over, the Constitution was destroyed—the North destroying itself when it destroyed the South. Forever more, “the consent of the governed” no longer existed. Deo Vindice!

    • Gee, who fired on whom first ??? !!!! The rest is to quote Gnl Norman Schwarzkopf Jr….Bovine Scatology.

    • Bill,

      The Constitution did not have a provision for legally leaving the union.
      Secession was rebellion against the union, and that rebellion was defeated. The Constitution survived and is still alive.

    • It was somewhat ambiguous whether or not succession was constitutionally allowed. The New England states organized the Hartford Convention in 1811-1812 to formalize their succession from the Union due to the impending economic crush of the looming armed conflict with England; South Carolina, under the leadership of John C Calhoun, threatened succession from the mid-1830’s through the 1840’s; even New York City, feeling its unrivaled economic leverage threatened succession in the 1850’s. None of these instances was considered by the US Supreme Court. In January 1861, the state of South Carolina formally succeeded, soon followed by 6 other states. Upon his ascending to the Presidency, Abe Lincoln could have, and probably should have, commenced this legal action, instead of sending an armed naval armada to force the resupply and reinforcement of Fort Sumter…in direct contravention of the Lincoln Administration’s firm commitment. It was this action which brought on the armed conflict. The legality of succession was not arbitrated in the Federal Courts until 1868-1869, at which time SCOTUS formally declared succession unconstitutional…it is doubtful that the Supreme Court as comprised in 1860-1861 would have had this same interpretation. Succession was proven wrong by force of arms…the industrialized North with a population of about 23M overpowered and destroyed the agricultural based South with a free population of about 9M. The outcome was predetermined before the first shells broke over Charleston Harbor.

    • For the love of all that’s grammatically holy, the word “secession,” and “seceded” are entirely different from “succeeded” and “succession.” I truly mean no offense, but you can present the most elaborately thought out argument in the world, but consistently using the wrong word makes the reader doubt that you have the attention to detail required to carry out a logical train of thought.

  8. One of my g-grandfathers served the South from beginning-to-end in the 17th Texas Cavalry (Deshler’s Brigade) and was in practically all the major fights around Atlanta. For almost two years he was also one of Cleburne’s Whitworth Sharpshooters. He was reluctant to discuss his experiences with family, but finally opened up a little after retirement … and one of the things he emphasized was that he would NEVER admit to killing anyone. He lost all six of his brothers in the war.

  9. “War doesn’t determine who is right……………….only who is left” Attributed to Bertrand Russell

  10. 2 sets of grandparents lost everything in the Civil War and Sherman’s March to the Sea. They left with a wagon, gold coins sewn into the hem of the women’s skirts and family members. They traveled through Alabama and then settled North Texas. We have letters and stories of their travels. They went from affluence to near poverty over night.

  11. Over 150 years later and we are still not a unified country. So much for “indivisible”.

    • The majority of Americans are unified … and the majority rules … until the Electoral College kicks in.

  12. We must not have the same congressional members…

    • I agree with you, a do-nothing Congress needs to be changed

    • as for the guy who wrote ‘succession’, give him a break…my computer changes words all the time, ‘secession’ being one of them. for the person who thinks majority rules, let’s hope that’t not always the case. In a popular vote, that would be akin to mob rule, exactly the thing the electoral college is supposed to combat, along with giving equity to smaller states. A majority of electoral votes, yes.
      Some of my Southern ancestors had slaves, some did not. Some were Quakers who had slaves but were opposed to the practice. They were in a dilemma as to what to do with turning out uneducated and often, unskilled, persons into a land with no way to protect or support themselves. All fought for the Confederacy but none fought to continue slavery. To say that slavery was the only cause of the Civil War is simplistic.

  13. One of my great, great grandfathers fought for the Union. He had no slaves & didn’t believe in it. Another great, great grandfather fought for the confederacy. He had no slaves & didn’t believe in slavery. He believed in states rights. The first man’s daughter married the second man’s son (as his third wife since the other two died of TB). These beliefs & their statements have been handed down through each generation to me through my grandmother to me. She had been told this by both her parents. And had known the first man (the Union man) a long time before he died. She didn’t get to meet her other grandfather since he died before her birth. But her father often related the reasons his father fought for the Confederacy.

    • I had relatives on both sides and the war was about states rights especially in Texas. We had no slaves only adventurous And independent spirits. It is a travesty that young people are not more versed on that war and think it was only about slavery. Civilizations have historically enslaved people of their conquests and tribes in Africa did the same as well as Indian tribes in our country. It is a shame we cannot learn from and move on from the history of slavery. I once naively believed that intermarriage of the races would lead to more harmony but sadly there are those who still want to be separate and who deride persons in mixed marriages. It’s not about who was wrong or whose distant relatives suffered the most; it’s time to quit concentrating on differences and to learn to appreciate one another and to be respectful and compassionate. I do not believe in reparations; too many of our ancestors suffered and lost much and nothing monetary will change anything.

  14. These comments are fascinating, interesting and insightful but, à propos de rien, I’d just add it’s always the victor who writes the history. Probably the ‘best’ example of that is the Roman propaganda machine – but it applies all the way up to the present day…

  15. I was told of the suffering in the South by my grandparents, whose parents and grandparents witnessed the destruction during the Civil War.

    The younger men served in the Confederacy, leaving the women, children and older men at home. They had little to defend themselves when the Northern soldiers came calling. Their cotton was burned, the cattle, hogs, chickens and other livestock were slaughtered or taken away to be fed to the Union army. The mules and horses were also taken, leaving nothing to pull the plows with.

    One of my ancestors, an old man, was hung up by his thumbs. And yes, by his thumbs! The Union soldiers were trying to make him tell where the family valuables were hidden.

    In other households, the houses were pilfered. Union soldiers took anything they wanted such as jewelry, silver serving dishes, and anything of value they could carry off.

    My great , great grandmother’s feather beds were ripped open to see if anything had been hidden in them. Entire homes were burned. Even women and children were left with just the clothes they were wearing.

    These actions hurt not only the white people but also the slaves that depended on them for food and care. And remember than only a small percentage owned slaves, but they all suffered.

    What happened, happened and it can not be changed. What can be done is for us to love, defend and keep America the best place on earth to live.

    • I agree with you whole heartedly. This war ended 154 years ago. It is time to put it behind us and stop trying to fight it today. What happened happened. We can’t change that and we can’t and shouldn’t try to sweep it under the rug. We should face it and move on. Let’s bring this country back together and let by-gones be by-gones. Let’s learn from it and work together to settle our countries differences in an effort to work toward world peace.

  16. We are very fortunate to have many letters written home by my g-g-grandfather who served for the Confederacy in General Lee’s army of Northern VA. He fought because he firmly believed in state’ rights but as the war went on, he increasingly shared his feelings of the futility of men killing men over what was first a war over state’s right but then by Northern propaganda became about slavery. Strangely enough, a family slave named Providence fought by my g-g-grandfather’s side throughout the war. There is currently a bill in front of the house requesting that all federal support for Confederate parks and monuments be stopped. These brave men who fought for their country be it Confederate or Union deserve just as much respect as any soldier who fought as a Patriot in the Revolutionary War or in WWII. Is that federal support for those monuments and battlefields to be taken away as well? I think not!

  17. My great great grandfather fought in the civil war He was a Capt. in the 76th Cherry Valley (New York) Volunteers He was mortally wounded on July 1 1863 the first day of the battle of Gettysburg He ultimately died in August of the same year . The next year his wife who had been tending the farm in his absence died leaving five orphans who were scattered to the winds The farm was sold for taxes. So you can see it was not only southerners whose lives were devastated by the war. The principal issue of the war was slavery not states rights. We must as a country forget and forgive.

    • Kenneth, please study the historical documentation before stating the Confederacy suceeded only because of slavery and not state’s rights. An excellent source is Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an esteemed professor of African American history at Harvard University. Dr. Gates published a book about President Lincoln and to his own surprise he learned the real reasons behind the Confederate succession as well as the true reasons for the Emancipation Proclamation. The federal government wanted to tax Southern slave owners on the slaves as “property” but did not want the Southern states to have adequate representation based on population in Congress or the Senate. The Southern states rebelled against this just the same as the American Colonies did against Britain for levying taxes against the Colonies without representation. By 1863, the war was pretty much at a stalemate and Union support was dwindling. After many months of debate and against most of Lincoln’s advisors, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing only the slaves in the Confederate states but no where else including those slaves still held in Northern states. Lincoln believed the freed slaves would rise up against the Confederacy and help the Union win the war. Lincoln then believed the freed slaves should be given passage to the Sierra Leone area on the coast of Africa, now known as Liberia as he thought they were not capable of being taxpaying citizens. Again, please study the historical facts and actual documentation before you make such a sweeping statement about a very complex and complicated issue….

    • The notion that the Civil War was about “states rights,” not slavery, is pure sophistry. Just read the Confederate states’ declarations of secession, collected at https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states. The “state right” they wanted to protect was the right to own slaves. Period.

      South Carolina
      “But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations [to apprehend and return escaped slaves to their owners]. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. …. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.”

      Texas
      “[The Republic of Texas] was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. ….
      In all the non-slave-holding States… the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.”

    • I agree. Thank you.

  18. Slavery was the political anchor used by Lincoln to centralize the federal government over States rights. The South was taxed on raw goods while the Northern Industrialists made their money. The Confedaracy was compromised of Planters that had carved their Plantations out of the wilderness, many were descended from the founding families. Lost but not beaten! God Bless Robert E Lee!

  19. Sbyrd’s focus on facts is appreciated.

    Lincoln was not open about his abolitionist beliefs for political purposes. He tried to straddle the fence on the slavery issue. He did not believe in integration. Lincoln only pushed the emancipation for the North’s strategic war advantages. The North had slaves. Owning another person is not right but slavery was a reflection of cultural practices. By some slaves and masters it was accepted as a way of life. In some families slaves and owners had been together for generations and had an emotional bond. David Johnson’s slaves begged not to be turned away after the proclamation. Slaves reported he had been good to them and they had no place to go. In family history, southern neighbors purchased a home for an elderly ex-slave and helped her with her needs. Not all black/white relationships were hostile. Where hostility existed it seemed to be more open in the south and covert in the north. When Lincoln passed the draft, whites did not want to fight on the behalf of black people. That and the wealthy being able to pay their way out of the draft resulted in the NY riot where white northerners hung 19 black people from city light poles and burned an orphanage for black children. Whites burned other black owned property.

    The confederate flag represented the call to freedom for the South. It was not associated with black oppression.

    Lee forbade his troop from molesting northern citizens and their property. Sherman did the opposite. He made war on women, children and the elderly. Many died from starvation and disease. Family history told of northerners setting a church on fire that contained citizens who fled to it for refuge. I have difficulty with the military and adminstrative acceptance of such behavior.

    The majority of my ancestors are from the north. A few lived around the Mason/Dixon line.
    History is written by those who win the war and have the advantage of their bias.

    • Carolyn, I appreciate your discussion of slave/master family relationships. I’ve done extensive research on my family lineage and was pleased to discover that various branches of the family had mostly loving and caring relationships between slaves and masters. Although I appreciate the dichotomy of the issue, the relationships between the two have been proven to exist. In my Confederate g-g-grandfather’s letters written home during the war, he displayed just as much concern about the wellbeing of his family and the “blacks” and made the statement that they were “just as much my family” as anyone else. When he and the slave Providence returned from the war after fighting together from 1861 through early 1865, the family’s finances were destroyed. He sold most all of the family land before losing to taxes but he was careful to legally deed 100 acres to Prov before selling the land. Prov’s family prospered on this land, he took the family name and both the black and white families worked together until my grandmother’s death in 1994. My father left money in trust to provide a monthly income to the last remaining member of Prov’s family until her death in 1999. I realize this close bond was not always the case everywhere but I can never begin to express how my life and my family’s lives were enriched by this relationship.

  20. Slavery was an economic engine that was culturally accepted, not merely a cultural practice.

    While hearing from family that some people treated the people that they owned with more generosity than others the fact remains that these were men, women and children who lived their lives as another human’s property—much like a shovel, a broom or a plow.

    The confederate flag could not have represented the call to freedom for those to whom it Meant further enslavement in a country whose sole economic engine would be based on the continued enslavement of themselves and their descendants.

    • Black slaves and indentured slaves were considered property at that time and did not enjoy equal rights as a free man at that time. The Southern States remained predominantly controlled by their own State governments with most men being part of their local militias. This all occurred prior to the industrial revolution as an economic necessity, agreed. However, if you think the Federalists and Old Glory represented freedom please explain why slavery existed 100 years under it prior to the four years that the Stars and Bars flew? If the Federalists cared about “human rights” at that time in our history, please tell me why Sherman, Crook, Custer and a slew of other post war Unionist under President Ulysses S. Grant moved westward and waged a war of mass extermination, killing men, women and children upon the Indians?
      Slavery was inevitably on its way out regardless of the war, as machines and steam engines came to light, manual labor was reduced. It was what it is always about, men fighting for their way of life, their neighbor and the politicians fighting for power and money.

    • This is the A#1 BEST POST of this series! Thank you Sir

  21. My great grandfather John Tembrook Clinton was one of Sherman’s troops out of Illinois who marched on Atlanta. He was injured by a musket ball to the hip. My uncle ‘Clint’, an avid geneaologist back in the 60’s, was able to obtain the actual surgeons notes on my great-grandfather’s treatment. How exciting it would have been for him to have all the resources we have today to discover our ancestors and our family heritages.

  22. On the point of secession:

    1. In essence, the South didn’t leave the Union so much as it kicked the other states out. The secessionist states did not change from the way things were in 1789 in the Union they joined, however, the other states did.

    2. There was no “traitorous” action as they did not attempt to usurp the Federal government, just leave. The prevailing philosophy of our early government was powerful state governments with a small Federal government. Those that argue otherwise are either uninformed, naive, biased or all three.

    3. Fort Sumpter was South Carolina’s. Union forces did not occupy the fort until after South Carolina seceded. South Carolina made it very clear that sending additional troops to occupy the fort would be seen as aggression, however, that’s exactly what Lincoln did thus triggering the military action by the State of South Carolina.

    4. Much is made about the letters declaring their intent to secede. The claim that these letters somehow meant the several states seceded in order to be able to continue slavery is wrong. Slavery was legal in the United States. The letters, such as South Carolina’s, state that the other states were not enforcing Federal law regarding runaway slaves, thus, South Carolina had the right to secede from a union of states that weren’t keeping the agreements made in 1789.

    5. There are no one-sentence easy answers as to why states seceded or why the war was fought. Union soldiers did not fight to end slavery and Southern soldiers did not fight to perpetuate slavery. Slavery was the primary root cause of the war, but, the war was not fought over slavery. The nuance of this notion, if not understood, makes any discussion of the war pointless.

  23. I was born and brought up in the north, and of course taught that the north was right in the civil war because of slavery. However, it was never explained that if a state voluntarily agreed to join the union, why could they not likewise secede? There was no attempt on the part of the north, to justify their position. The slavery excuse was used later on, long after the war’s inception. I believe that Lincoln was the greatest war criminal in our history, 850,000 men were slaughtered, More than all the foreign wars that we have been involved in combined. Slavery would have died a natural death, with far less loss of life, than what was caused by the civil war. Truman and Johnson were two other presidents who got us into illegal wars also great killers of American men, but the slaughter of our men in those wars,was a pittance, compared to Lincoln”s war. Think of all the good that John Booth would have created, had he committed his act only 4 years earlier. 850,000 men saved by the same bullet, but fired at a different time in history

    • Posts like this will “trigger” Robert, but I believe that you are right on (except for your final solution; the opposition should have coordinated the 3 separate general election candidates that cumulatively won by a landslide)

  24. Years ago I read about the ‘bummers’, Union soldiers who were detailed the task of finding and gathering livestock, produce, anything that could be used to feed Sherman’s forces ‘living off the land’ in the infamous march to the sea. I often wondered how these men were chosen. Were they better suited to bumming than to fighting? Years later, in his retirement years, Sherman would respond to knocks on his front door, there to face down-and-out men who claimed to have been bummers in his service. It was stated that he always treated them kindly, giving each some cash.

  25. I wonder if the Fold3 editors envisioned this focused and elaborate discussion of the Civil War – in particular, the variety and depth of feelings regarding Sherman’s march through the South.
    I believe this exercise proves that the Civil War is one of the most deeply studied and even after 150 plus years one of the most impactful episodes in American history.
    My question remains – what have we learned? Would a modern day General Sherman be glorified or reviled? We, as a country, are involved in any number of conflicts around the world as we speak. Our military is asked to accomplish missions that are often unclear. Leaders and soldiers on the ground are making decisions daily that reflect the values of this country. These are well trained professionals and I find it hard to believe that “bummers” would be anywhere in the mix.
    What have we learned? Could we, would we, ever wage such a war again?
    I apologize – I think I have drifted off the original intent of the posted article.

    • P. Kovac,

      Indeed, what have we learned? I am no expert in history, and I only know a little of my own ancestors that fought in it. The question you pose should give us pause to consider a related event occuring at this very moment….the removal of civil war monuments and statues. I can not help but believe that the animosity towards these said monuments has grown from lack of factual knowledge of the events of so long ago. Like them or not, they should serve as a constant reminder of a time in which our very republic was on the brink of destruction. The events that transpired then, to this day, still bear deep division among many.
      If we cannot learn from the past, factually, then we may again find ourselves in the throws of a civil conflict. I already hear rumors and threats of some states threatening to leave the union today, though for different reasons. You would think the civil war of 1861-64 would have taught these people how foolish of a notion succession is today and the result would likely be catastrophic. Those of us who know should all be SCREAMING “LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP!!”

      “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana-1905)

      Thank you for the discussion! 🙂

  26. To Pippie, Thank you for your comments! The soldiers who fought for the Confederacy did so because they fervently believed in the “cause” however it was interpreted. These monuments were erected to honor their sacrifice, just as other monuments have been erected to those soldiers who fought and died in the Revolutionary War, WWI, WWII, Viet Nam, et al. There are currently bills in front of Congress; one to withdraw federal support for Confederate battlefields and monuments and another rather tired bill being presented again asking for “reparation” for the descendants of slaves. Are they kidding?!?!?!? I do sincerely hope Congress will thoroughly study our history before making any decisions but once again, I’m afraid the usual stupidity and lack of common sense will prevail. The iron crosses, one from my Revolutionary War ancestor and one for a Confederate ancestor were stolen from thier graves. I contacted the US Veterans administration who happily replaced my Revolutionary War ancestor’s marker but refused to replace the marker for my Confederate ancestor. Why? Confederate soldiers were finally given a veteran’s pension in 1919. Why are they not also eligible for a military marker? Sorry to get off track but this is a hot button issue for me.

  27. Read Article 3, Section 3 of the United States Constitution. See “levying War against them”?

    Lincoln invaded “them” (the States). Who were the traitors?

    • I live near Charleston, SC and the Civil War around here is still referred to “The War of Northern Aggression”

  28. No doubt Pippie & et al civil war looms because of the Socialist Demorat Party people should not stand to the side & watch America be ruled or hornswaggled by these leftist as Crazy Bernie endorsed by the Squad of morons what a friggin joke they are & Poncohontis also. Morons just morons. They need to be eliminated so far the demorats are doing nada for America other than trying to over throw a duly elected POTUS like him or not. The country is going down the crapper rapidly as division of people. The demorats are doing nothing to further America just destroying it.

  29. “On November 12, 1864, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman ordered the destruction of the business district in Atlanta and the Union Army started their March to the Sea which ended just before Christmas in Savannah, Georgia. The march, also known as the Savannah Campaign, bolstered the Union Army and helped lead to the surrender of the Confederacy and the end of the Civil War five months later.”

    McClellen’s losing movement toward Manassas in Jun 1862 also helped lead to the surrender of the Confederacy…every troop movement south helped to siphon off the very limited resources of the Confederacy, but most did not entail the committing of wholesale violence and destruction against a civilian population. Burnside, who succeeded McClellen initiated the destruction of civilian property by the shelling and burning of Fredricksburg in Dec 1862. Grant prettty much bombed and destroyed Vicksburg; Sherman burned Jackson to the ground. Sheridan’s destruction of property in the Shenandoah Valley led the Confederate General Early to hold Chambersburg hostage and demand restitution for damages done in the Valley; when the payment wasn’t tendered, he burned the town in retribution. But none of these actions reached the level of Sherman’s actions…his destruction of Columbia was probably the most horrific “war-crime” committed during the war.

  30. Kudos to those of you who used your real names.
    I enjoyed the discussion but noticed that there are no remarks from those whose ancestors were slaves.
    Our history is grim.
    It takes courage to acknowledge the truth of it.
    It is corny, I know, but we are in this together.
    Who do we want to be?
    Together?

    • Are you certain that none of our ancestors were slaves? I will tell you I witnessed ….. an African American docent At a Southern plantation was challenged by a UCLA student on that she had been taught that only white people had slaves. The docent quickly corrected her by letting her know that her great grandfather had slaves and that black slave owners usually were the worst and most brutal.

  31. Kindly READ WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN.
    Gen. Grant treated Lee with the greatest of kindness , as he knew that would be Lincoln’ s wish, and also because Grant was always the soul of kindness.Lincoln played “Dixie” in the White House. Grant ended the War on Palm Sunday; Abraham Lincoln was killed on Good Friday.

    Lincoln only met Grant in March of 1864. Had the great American citizen, Grant, been put in charge earlier, I believe the the Civil War wound have ended 18 months earlier.

    I know a man whose great-grandfather was in Sherman’s forward infantry. He said that the city was burning before the Union arrived. The Confederates themselves set fire to their own cotton warehouses, as had been done before in Memphis and Savannah.
    Lee would never tolerate any criticisms of Grant or Lincoln in his presence. The only reason Grant stayed in DC, as head of the army was to protect the South, and especially the Freedmen, former slaves. Sherman had told Grant to stay away from DC because it was nothing but a nest of thieves! Sounds about right to me.
    His top officers escorted this great men to the polls. He could no let Pres. Andrew Johnson, from the South, wanted all of the top members of the former Confederacy, hanged, because he felt that they had ruined his South.
    It was only Grant who stayed this massacre from happening.It was the Democrats who eventually controlled the South and had poll taxes, sharecroppers, the Jim Crow horrors.and bad schools. The Republican Party was founded for one reason: the abolition of slavery.Lincoln was their first candidate.
    I wish that real history would be taught to students.
    Now we are being divided by race and yes, by envy, which will lead to a crushing socialism. We have 80% who have no knowledge of what socialism and Communism really mean–pitting people against each other.
    We have, to my horror, LOST our freedom of speech.
    Thomas Jefferson said that he never found that a difference between politics or religion was the cause to harm a friendship.
    Now we have lost civility and logical thinking. We live in the Era of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    Rational thought has been replaced by screaming and by physical threats. If we are such a terrible country, why do so many want to live here ?
    We must act and pray so that another war does not happen.
    If you know those who parrot socialism and Communism, they must be blind about what is occurring in Hong Kong as I write this. Horror and killing of those who long for freedom. Add Venezuela, Cuba, China, Russia, Cambodia.

  32. Some good points were made in this discussion. Perhaps one reason for the war was a basic one – money. I read sometime ago that someone (I cannot remember who) said that some people on the Union side were alarmed about the loss of revenue flowing from the southern states into the United States treasury. This loss of revenue would slow down the growth of the Union, and neither side thought any possible war that may start would be as long, bloody, and costly as it turned out to be.

    • Southern cotton was a huge and extremely profitable commodity so long as the slave labor was there to grow it, harvest and gin it. The North wanted all that cotton to come to their textile mills as cheaply as possible so with Union majority in the House and Senate, an export tax was levied against Southern plantation owners selling cotton overseas. No such tax was levied for selling cotton to the North. That’s when the South began complaing of state’s rights as once again, this was just like the British taxing the American Colonies without representation. The more I study this time period, the more I see our country refusing to study and learn from our own history, thus we continue to make the same mistakes!

  33. Go back to 1839 and the Road to Disunion. It is simple. Slavery and not state’s rights. We all know the truth about the Civil War. Pontificate if you must. There is only one answer.

    • In your opinion and you are entitled to it.

    • there is rarely only one variable in any given problem. The probability is that slavery, economics (much but not all of which was built on slavery), duty to defend one’s homeland (defined by the North when they declared the South to be the outliers), family (many of whom were divided on the subject of slavery), fear of an enemy dedicated to the destruction of a way of life and a headstrong independent streak of people opposed to centralized authority were all intertwined, in varying degrees. There had to be other issues than slavery…otherwise, why would Lincoln still allow slaves in the Northern states while freeing those in the South? If the abolition of slavery were the end all and be all of the reasons for the War, that wouldn’t have happened.

    • Most people are ignorant to the fact that the north had slaves as well. And the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t until 1963 , the war began in 61.Also , The South at that time was a separate nation, states succeeded as allowed in the constitution of the time. Lincoln had no authority in.what was a foreign country. And before everyone jumps on , this is not a defense of slavery, just statement of facts.

    • The Civil War resulted from Southern adherence to uncompensated labor, “Slavery”, but there wouldn’t have been a war if the sole question was complete abolition of slavery. The country as a whole was not yet motivated to take on this issue; the Northern states would not have supported an armed conflict over freeing the slaves of the South. As with all consequential questions of world history, this war was about many sectional conflicts but deep reading of 19th century writing will tell you that those primary issues were 1. the expansion of slavery into the territories; 2. the imposition of high tariffs on the South’s primary agricultural export, while freeing the North’s industrial exports; 3. the enforcement of the “Fugitive Slave Act” in the Northern free-states as written into Federal law.

      The South was woefully wrong in holding to these issues…the vast majority of the land area of the new western territories were not appropriate in soils character or of climatic conditions for large labor-intensive “plantation” agriculture; the tariff issue would have been eventually settled by a compromise as it already had been several times; and run-away slaves were never of a sizable enough proportion of slaves held to be more than a minor financial loss (the threat of an abolitionist inspired insurrection should have been their issue). Therefore, “Slavery” was the crux of the issue, but not the abolition of the Southern system of slavery.

      This original blog was about Sherman’s destruction of the civilian areas of Atlanta, forcing a mass exodus of non-combatants. Although this action was very successful on a strategic basis, it was not an acceptable practice under 19th century ethics. Today, it is settled that “War is Hell” and there are very few viable constraints, and of course, we are all in moral agreement that any form of human bondage is abhorant. Both of these issues…”Total War” and “Slavery” must be looked at historically through the prism of 1860, not 2020.

  34. Very well said, I think you have a good grasp of the situation during this period. People get too emotional and lose reasoning. But then we are emotional animals.

  35. History is an amazing subject. I once owned a signed autograph letter written by Sherman, then a young lieutenant who didn’t like his billet, writing to his commanding officer, Monterrey, California, 1847. I sold it long since, but basically it said “Get me out of here, or I will leave the Army,” or words to that effect. He doesn’t mention this dissatisfaction in his memoirs, although he covers that period well.

    I own the only known copy of a small broadside printed on a field press in Atlanta,November 12, 1864, in which commanding officer General Henry Warner Slocum offers a “500 Reward…paid to any person who will furnish such evidence, as will lead to the conviction of the person or persons engaged in setting fire to buildings within this city last evening. The same Reward will be paid for Evidence leading to the Conviction of any person of any offence [sic] of a similar nature that may hereafter be perpetrated within this city. H. W. Slocum, Major General. Atlanta, November 12, 1864.” The fires broke out on the night of the 11th, set by Union soldiers, and although Slocum knew the city as doomed, according to his just notion of things it should be done officially. No soldier or officer had a right to fire it without orders.

    • Fascinating documents

    • On 21 Mar 1865, a series of articles commenced publication as written by WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS, one of the pre-eminent journalists in the US. He was a first-hand witness to the events that he wrote about; these works were published less than one month after the city of Columbia, SC was sacked by the Union General Sherman. The title of the articles as published was:
      “THE CAPTURE, SACK, AND DESTRUCTION OF THE CITY OF COLUMBIA”
      The title of the book w/supporting documentation is: “A CITY LAID WASTE”
      No open-minded reader of American history can read these words without feeling terrible guilt that our armies were able to dispense such horrible justice upon other Americans.

  36. My ancestors were Irish and German immigrants who arrived in mid-19th Century and settled in northern states. My ancestors who fought in the Civil War fought for the North because that’s where they lived. Our destiny is often shaped by where we happen to live. Furthermore, as a former soldier, I cannot help but admire the soldiers on both sides of this horrible conflict. For those interested in this perspective I recommend reading ‘Fighting for the Confederacy’. It is the story of Lee’s senior artillery officer who once wore blue and then wore grey. It is a very readable story told thoroughly and sincerely from a soldier’s perspective.

  37. I have read, and recommend George Worthington Adams, “Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Civil War” (1952), available in paperback today, and H. H. Cunningham, “Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service” (1958), also available in paperback. Both are extraordinary histories about why most men died, or were wounded.