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 (1861-1865) Civil War Battles (Western Theater)
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NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 610
Joined: 2021
Atlanta destroyed.
11/12/2022 6:37:35 AM
On November 12, 1864, Union General William T. Sherman orders the business district of Atlanta, Georgia, destroyed before he embarks on his famous March to the Sea.



When Sherman captured Atlanta in early September 1864, he knew that he could not remain there for long. His tenuous supply line ran from Nashville, Tennessee, through Chattanooga, Tennessee, then one hundred miles through mountainous northern Georgia. The army he had just defeated, the Army of Tennessee, was still in the area and its leader, John Bell Hood, swung around Atlanta to try to damage Sherman’s lifeline. Of even greater concern was the Confederate cavalry of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a brilliant commander who could strike quickly against the railroads and river transports on which Sherman relied.

During the fall, Sherman conceived of a plan to split his enormous army. He sent part of it, commanded by General George Thomas, back toward Nashville to deal with Hood while he prepared to take the rest of the troops across Georgia. Through October, Sherman built up a massive cache of supplies in Atlanta. He then ordered a systematic destruction of the city to prevent the Confederates from recovering anything once the Yankees had abandoned it. By one estimate, nearly 40 percent of the city was ruined. Sherman would apply to the same policy of destruction to the rest of Georgia as he marched to Savannah. Before leaving on November 15, Sherman’s forces had burned the industrial district of Atlanta and left little but a smoking shell.


Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 880
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/12/2022 2:35:01 PM
That Sherman "allowed" Hood's three infantry corps to escape from south of Atlanta, and to circle around and get onto Sherman's supply lines was (IMO) inexcusable. And does not get the attention that it deserves.

And even more difficult to understand is why history has not treated Sherman much, much harsher for this major league screw up.

I do find it interesting that essentially the only time in the war that Grant lost his cool, was when Hood was in front of Thomas at Nashville.....cuz if something went wrong at Nashville, allowing Sherman to march to the sea with 60k of the best from Sherman's combined armies, without having first having taken care of Hood, would have been viewed as a major strategic error on Grant's part.

s.c.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5772
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/12/2022 6:01:57 PM
Steve,

There is a lot of scope for revisionism when it comes to that theatre of the war.

One or two historians have given Hood a better press than folklore allows him, and what you’re saying about Sherman demands further attention.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5772
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/12/2022 6:01:58 PM
Steve,

There is a lot of scope for revisionism when it comes to that theatre of the war.

One or two historians have given Hood a better press than folklore allows him, and what you’re saying about Sherman demands further attention.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 177
Joined: 2020
Atlanta destroyed.
11/13/2022 2:12:19 PM

Steve and Phil and Group,

Steve, I don’t know, looks like you are saying Sherman should have done exactly what Davis and Hood were plotting for him to do, playing into their strategy. Generally not a great idea. For a few weeks he did try to pursue Hood but found Hood moved too fast and wouldn’t stand and fight any way. So, Sherman figured best thing was marching through Georgia which was 100% successful, and kept the initiative and found Confederates had no real defense. One measure of an effective strategy is one that the enemy has no defense or response to. March in Georgia and the Carolinas campaigns pretty much fit that description. Johnston started in May 64 with roughly 55k infantry and artillery. By Oct Hood was reduced to about 35k and showing signs of demoralisation after being driven from Tennessee through GA the last year. So, like all ACW commanders Sherman had some faults but looks like he was right about cutting lose and marching south. While Sherman went south Hood destroyed himself, Thomas and his army proved equal to the test.

Thanks, Mike_C
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5772
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/13/2022 3:51:55 PM
Compelling argument, Mike_C. Didn’t Sherman say that if Hood wanted to go right up into Ohio, he’d give him rations to do so ? Certainly bears out the validity of what you’re saying.

I still like the way Steve opens our eyes to another interpretation.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 880
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/14/2022 8:11:50 AM
Mike,

Strongly disagree!

Why did Sherman even have to “chase” Hood?? The day that Atlanta fell, Hood’s three infantry corps were wildly spread out… Sherman should have been able to take at least one of those corps off the board! Sherman declined to even attempt that. Allowing Hood and his army to retreat well south of Atlanta, essentially intact.

Then, Sherman allows Hood to move around Sherman’s combined three armies and get onto Sherman supply lines. Sherman should have been taken out and shot for permitting this. I mean, he spends the entire summer pushing Johnston/Hood down to Atlanta… and then allows Hood to essentially circle around Sherman’s army and head north.

Sherman’s comment about being willing to give supplies to Hood, to allow Hood to move to Ohio, is simply bravado, and an attempt to cover what was, in my opinion, a major, major strategic error. And Grant also “knew” this was a mistake…it was only Sherman leaning heavily on Grant’s friendship that eventually pushed Grant to permit Sherman’s holiday March thru Georgia. This is why Grant freaked out when Hood was at Nashville!!!

What Sherman couldn’t do with 100,000 men (take Hood off the board), he expected Thomas to accomplish with those units that Sherman chose to not take with him on his March to the sea. Sherman got to deal with a smattering of cavalry, plus boys and old men, leaving Thomas and his scattered force, to deal with an Army of Tennessee that Sherman chose not to deal with.

s.c.
morris crumley
Dunwoody GA USA
Posts: 3065
Joined: 2007
Atlanta destroyed.
11/14/2022 9:48:09 AM

The top priority of the assignment Grant gave Sherman in Georgia, was to keep Johnston`s-Hood`s army occupied and prevent re-enforcement's from flowing to Lee from that TO. In my opinion, Sherman had been itching for the opportunity to "break from his line of supply and communication, and cut through Georgia in order to demoralize the South...to make it realize that they could no longer be protected and defended. He had gathered all kinds of census data on the region....crop production, types of crops, populations etc..

He did indeed change tact. The mistakes he made were many. he and Johnston constantly misread each other, some of his best moves were actually suggested by Thomas...and only acted upon late. He stubbornly kept relying upon cavalry to tear up railroads,, ( with little result...one commander actually promising it would be weeks before another train arrived in Atlanta...when an engine chugged in the next day.)

He did allow Hood to escape, but by that time the situation in Virginia was bogging down into static nothingness. Look, Sherman lied about not having ordered the shelling of civilian targets...he absolutely did...and he made numerous errors of command....but his decision to forget about Hood`s army, and concentrate on destroying Atlanta and then making that demoralizing march right through the heart of Georgia...and taking Savannah wound up getting Lincoln re-elected by sending a clear message the end was in sight. To paraphrase what Frederick Douglass once said, " the door to the prison was ajar...all that was needed was one gallant rush to throw it wide open."

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 880
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/14/2022 11:36:22 AM
Morris, your first sentence says it all! Sherman’s job was to keep the AofT occupied. This Sherman utterly failed to do. Both Grant and Lincoln wanted Hood taken care of before Sherman could entertain thoughts of going to Savannah. Out of friendship … Grant went against his own better judgment. Which is why he flipped out over Hood being in front of Nashville…if anything “bad” happened, the crap was gonna reflect on Grant.

And why is a LOT more attention not paid to the fact that Sherman let Hood escape! And then let Hardee escape from Savannah. To justify letting Hood go and then romping to Savannah, Sherman said something along the lines of “it’s more than war it’s statesmanship”. But that was not his job! He was supposed to do what he was told to do, not play politician.

Yes, the fall of Atlanta (combined with Cedar Creek) got Lincoln re-elected. But the March to the Sea did not….if for no other reason than that Sherman’s progress was impossible to track…and Washington was concerned over Sherman’s faint, until he actually showed up at Savannah.

s.c.
morris crumley
Dunwoody GA USA
Posts: 3065
Joined: 2007
Atlanta destroyed.
11/14/2022 12:23:20 PM
Steve, I did not mean to imply that the capture of Savannah had anything to do with Lincoln`s election. Badly written on my part.

Second: Hood escaped with the very intention of threatening Sherman`s communications line and drawing him away from Atlanta and it`s rails. Sherman didn`t take the bait.

And Grant freaked out about Hood fronting Thomas...because Grant and Sherman both "freaked out" over Thomas. The one big check-mark I put into the negative column of both Grant and Sherman is their distrust of Thomas. Hood had about 37,000, badly supplied men and about 100 guns. Many men, nearly one third were barefoot, and operating in Tennessee, with winter coming on...Sherman was right to let Hood try his best. Hood had proven to be unable to plan, realistically, a battle ...and poorly used his artillery during the entire Atlanta fiasco.

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5772
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/14/2022 3:11:38 PM
If memory serves me, Ron Chernow , in his biography of Grant, emphasised the duplicity of Sherman. In his account, Grant stood by Sherman and was a loyal friend, whereas Sherman was quick to bad- mouth Grant despite his protestations of comradeship.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 880
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/15/2022 9:04:10 AM
Phil,

Sherman was also very quick to bad mouth Thomas (to Grant, during the Atlanta campaign), to cover up (?) his own lack of progress.

s.c.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5772
Joined: 2004
Atlanta destroyed.
11/16/2022 3:14:58 AM
Steve,

Curiosity prompted me to take down Sherman’s memoirs from my shelves.

A beautiful, antique leather bound book ; what a change from the constant online forays !

I took a look at his version of the very criticism you’ve so vigorously launched.

Good grief, he’s a dab hand at self promotion !

Articulate, highly intelligent and, I suspect, commensurately duplicitous..

Regards, Phil


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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
morris crumley
Dunwoody GA USA
Posts: 3065
Joined: 2007
Atlanta destroyed.
11/16/2022 8:52:22 AM
While Sherman did cut a destructive path, about 60 miles wide, across central Georgia...he didn`t really destroy Georgia as much as he claims...but he did great harm to the psyche of the populace.

What is interesting to me, as a native Georgian, is that all the "press" goes to the destruction of his march to the sea...and little is said of the destruction to the northwest corridor of his campaign. Contemporary news reports speak volumes more about the hardships, deprivations, and horrors visited along that line, replete with warnings about traveling through that area. An example: Cassville was a beautiful town about 30 miles south of Resaca. It was the county seat of Cass County. It was burned to the ground....and never recovered. The county seat was moved to Cartersville, and even Cass County no longer exists, now it is Bartow County.

Things got so bad, that when William Tatum Wofford returned to recuperate from weakness and wounds while leading his brigade in Lee`s army, he was put in charge of Georgia State forces and tasked with trying to bring civil authority back to his home region,( he was from Cassville.) Wofford would surrender the last Confederate forces East of the Mississippi.

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."

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