Home:William Tecumseh Sherman: His March To The Sea
William Tecumseh Sherman:
His March To The Sea
William Tecumseh Sherman was born on May 8, 1820 in
Lancaster, Ohio. He was educated at the U.S. Military
Academy and later went on to become a Union General in the
U.S. Civil War. Sherman resigned from the army in 1853 and
became a partner in a banking firm in San Francisco. He
became the president of the Military College in Louisiana
(now Louisiana State University) from 1859-1861. Sherman
offered his services at the outbreak of the Civil War in
1861 and was put in command of a volunteer infantry
regiment, becoming a brigadier general of volunteers after
the first Battle of Bull Run. He led his division at the
Battle of Shiloh and was then promoted to major general of
Soon after Sherman fought in the Battle of Chattanooga he
was made supreme commander of the armies in the west.
Sherman fought many battles with such people as Ulysses S.
Grant, and against people such as Robert E. Lee before he
was commissioned lieutenant general of the regular army.
Following Grants election to presidency, he was promoted to
the rank of full general and given command of the entire
U.S. Army. William Sherman published his personal memoirs
in 1875, retired in 1883, and died in 1891.
William Tecumseh Sherman, was a very talented and very
successful man. He is remembered by many accomplishments,
but probably most remembered by his famous March to the
sea. Sherman's march to the sea was probably the most
celebrated military action, in which about sixty thousand
men marched with Sherman from Atlanta to the Atlantic
Ocean, then north through South Carolina destroying the
last of the south's economic resources.
Bedford Forrest was in Tennessee, and with Atlanta secured,
Sherman dispatched George H. Thomas to Nashville to restore
the order there. John B. Hood threatened Thomas's supply
line, and for about a month, they both fought north of
Atlanta. Sherman decided to do the complete opposite of
what the strategic plan laid down by Grant six months
earlier had proposed to do. In that plan Grant had insisted
that Confederate armies were the first and foremost
objectives for Union strategy. What Sherman decided now was
that he would completely ignore the Confederate armies and
go for the "spirit that sustained the Confederate nation
itself", the homes, the property, the families, and the
food of the Southern heartland. He would march for
Savannah, Georgia and the seacoast, abandoning his own line
of supply, and live off the land and harvests of the
Georgia Country. Grant finally approved Sherman's plan, so
Sherman set off on his march eastward, "smashing things to
the sea." On November 15, 1864, Sherman began his march to
the sea. "I can make . . . Georgia howl!" he promised.
Sherman left Atlanta, setting it up in flames as they left,
with 62,000 men, 55,000 of them on foot, 5,000 on cavalry
horses, and about 2,000 riding artillery horses. It was an
army of 218 regiments, 184 of them from the West, and of
these 155 were from the old Northwest Territory. This army
was remembered as a lean and strong one. The bulk of the
army was made up of Germans, Irish, Scotch, and English.
Sherman and his army arrived in Georgia where there was no
opposition, and the march was very leisurely. The army
fanned out widely, covering a sixty mile span from one side
to the other. The army destroyed, demolished and crushed
whatever got in their way, the land, homes, buildings, and
people. Bridges, railroads, machine shops, warehouses-
anything of this nature that was in Shaman's path was
burned and destroyed. As a result of this march eliminating
a lot of the food to feed the Confederate army and its
animals, the whole Confederate war effort would become
weaker and weaker and weaker. Sherman went on toward the
sea while the Confederacy could do nothing.
Sherman's march to the sea was a demonstration that the
Confederacy could not protect its own. Many agree that
Sherman was too brutal and cruel during the march to the
sea, but Sherman and his men were effectively demolishing
the Confederate homeland, and that was all that mattered to
Because Sherman "waged an economic war against civilians",
he has been called the first modern general. Sherman is
remembered by some as one of the best generals of the U.S.
Civil War, and by others (mainly who live in the south) as
a cruel, brutal, horrible, and evil man. William Tecumseh
Sherman is believed to have coined the phrase, "War is
hell. There is many a boy here who looks on war as all
glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning
voice to generations to come."
Lewis, Lloyd. Sherman Fighting Prophet. Harcourt, Brace &
World, Inc.: New York.
The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War.
Vol. 2. Editors of American Heritage.
Peoples Chronology. License from Henry Holt and Company,
The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Columbia University