March to the Sea

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Shortly after the Election of 1864, William T. Sherman’s soldiers set fire to Atlanta and began a march toward an unnamed destination (which turned out to be Savannah). Fanning out into a 60-mile-wide front, they advanced eastward, encountering little organized resistance. The army crossed the most prosperous area in Georgia. Although Sherman had warned the soldiers not to destroy private property, the soldiers took a broad interpretation of what constituted military equipment and supplies. All things that could in any way contribute to the Confederate war effort were destroyed—homes, farms, food supplies, livestock, railroad tracks, mills, cotton bales and other targets.

The bitterness provoked by this march was immediate and lasting. Sherman’s soldiers needed food and supplies. They lived off the land, depriving desperate civilians of those same items. In some areas huge bonfires of railroad ties were built; rails were pried up and heated in the center, then wrapped around large trees. These “Sherman neckties” remained for decades as a reminder to Southerners of sectional animosity.

Sherman entered Savannah on December 21, proclaiming it a Christmas present for President Lincoln. Later, Sherman’s forces began the march northward to link up with Grant for the final offensive of the war. Charleston, South Carolina was set ablaze despite Sherman’s explicit order not to do so. Some have maintained that the city was set on fire by departing Confederate soldiers.

As Sherman pursued his march to the sea through North Carolina, Lee, lacking other alternatives, restored Joseph E. Johnston to a command and sent him against Sherman. The effort was futile. It had become clear that the South could no longer defend itself. The March to the Sea could not be stopped.

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On Sherman's Trail, The Civil War's North Carolina Climax by Jim Wise.
Journalist and historian Jim Wise follows Sherman's last march through the Tar Heel State from Wilson's Store to the surrender at Bennett Place. Retra...
The March by E.L. Doctorow.
As the Civil War was moving toward its inevitable conclusion, General William Tecumseh Sherman marched 60,000 Union troops through Georgia and the Car...
Sherman's March: The First Full-Length Narrative of General William T. Sherman's Devastating March through Georgia and the Carolinas by Burke Davis.
Sherman's March is the vivid narrative of General William T. Sherman's devastating sweep through Georgia and the Carolinas in the closing days of the ...
Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea by Noah Andre Trudeau.
Civil War historian Noah Andre Trudeau has written a new account that will stand as the last word on General William Tecumseh Sherman's epic march - a...
The Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman by Charles Royster.
Hailed as a prophet of modern war and condemned as a harbinger of modern barbarism, Sherman is the most controversial general of the Civil War. "War i...