Tuesday, November 15, 2011

William Tecumseh Sherman

You people of the South don't know what you are doing.  This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end.  It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!  You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about.  War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. . . . The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make.  You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors.  You are bound to fail. 
In 1859, William Tecumseh Sherman became the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.  He wrote the words above to a pro-secession faculty member and friend after South Carolina seceded from the United States.

Sherman left Louisiana shortly after that letter was written, and was eventually given a commission in the Union army.  His performance in the early years of the Civil War had its ups and downs, but he finally hit his stride after being paired with General Grant.

After a relentless campaign lasting almost four months, Sherman's army occupied Atlanta on September 2, 1864.  Exactly 147 years ago today, he led his army out of Atlanta and began his famous "March to the Sea," wreaking havoc deep within enemy territory without secure lines of supply or communication. 

Sherman was perhaps the most complex and interesting general on the Union side.  He said he hated war, but he believed that the quickest way to end a war was to fight with ruthless determination, destroying the enemy's ability and will to resist -- he was the inventor of what we now call "total warfare," but what he termed simply "hard war."

After retiring from the regular U.S. Army in 1884, Sherman was approached about running for President by Republican leaders.  He famously declined, using these words: "I will not accept if nominated, and will not serve if elected."

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

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