Sherman’s March to the Sea

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“When Georgia Howled: Sherman on the March” delves into one of the most controversial and impactful military campaigns of the American Civil War: General William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea. This campaign, conducted from November to December 1864, aimed to demoralize the Confederacy and break its will to fight by targeting the economic infrastructure of Georgia.

Sherman’s March to the Sea was a calculated and ruthless strategy. Beginning in Atlanta, Sherman and his Union forces embarked on a 285-mile march towards the coastal city of Savannah. Along the way, they left a path of destruction, burning crops, destroying railroads, and seizing supplies. The intent was clear: to cripple the South’s ability to wage war by targeting its resources and demoralizing its people.

The impact of Sherman’s campaign was profound. Georgia, once considered the heart of the Confederacy, found itself under siege from an enemy that seemed unstoppable. The psychological toll on the Southern population was immense. They watched as their homes, farms, and livelihoods were destroyed, and their state was brought to its knees. “When Georgia Howled” captures this sense of despair and desperation that gripped the state during those dark days.

However, Sherman’s March was not just about destruction; it was also a strategic masterpiece. By severing the Confederacy’s supply lines and disrupting its communication networks, Sherman effectively isolated the Confederate forces in Georgia from their sources of support. This weakened the Confederate army and hastened the end of the war. In this sense, Sherman’s brutal tactics were successful in achieving their intended military objectives.

Yet, Sherman’s March to the Sea remains controversial to this day. Critics argue that the campaign was unnecessarily harsh and inflicted undue suffering on civilians. The burning of civilian homes and the plundering of private property are often cited as examples of Sherman’s excessive cruelty. Supporters, on the other hand, defend Sherman’s actions as necessary measures to bring a swift end to the war and save lives in the long run.

One of the most compelling aspects of “When Georgia Howled” is its exploration of the human cost of Sherman’s campaign. Through firsthand accounts and personal stories, the book brings to life the experiences of the people who lived through this tumultuous period. We hear from Union soldiers who carried out Sherman’s orders, grappling with their own moral dilemmas as they witnessed the destruction around them. We also hear from Southern civilians who recount the horror and devastation of seeing their world turned upside down.

The book also sheds light on the African American experience during Sherman’s March. As Sherman’s forces advanced, thousands of enslaved people seized the opportunity to escape bondage and seek freedom behind Union lines. Sherman’s decision to offer protection to these fugitive slaves, known as “contrabands,” was a significant step towards emancipation and forever changed the course of American history.

“When Georgia Howled: Sherman on the March” is a captivating exploration of one of the most consequential events of the Civil War. It offers a balanced and nuanced look at Sherman’s campaign, examining both its strategic importance and its human impact. Whether one views Sherman as a ruthless destroyer or a brilliant strategist, there is no denying the lasting impact of his March to the Sea. This book serves as a powerful reminder of the complexities of war and the enduring legacy of one man’s audacious plan to bring an end to America’s bloodiest conflict.

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