Sherman’s March to the Sea

U.S. #257 – Prior to the war, Sherman had served in the South and considered it a second home.

Sherman’s March to the Sea

After burning Atlanta, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman embarked on his month-long March to the Sea on November 15, 1864.

Following his capture of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, Major General William T. Sherman turned his sights to Savannah, an important port city for the Confederacy. Traveling away from his supply lines, Sherman’s forces would forage area plantations for provisions. He wanted more from this campaign than to capture Southern land – he hoped to destroy the Confederacy’s ability to continue the war.

U.S. #2975q – When the war began, Sherman was offered a Confederate commission, but he turned it down to join the Union.

After setting fire to much of Atlanta, Sherman and his 62,000 men began their march toward Georgia’s eastern border on the morning of November 15. His first goal was to confuse the enemy about his army’s destination, whether toward Macon or Savannah. Sherman divided his force into two columns. Though they occasionally encountered small bands of Confederate forces, they prevailed each time.

As Sherman’s army marched to the east, they targeted the industries and agriculture that resupplied Confederate forces. He set out to negatively affect the morale of the citizens who still felt the South could win the war. In addition to gathering corn, meat, and vegetables, Sherman instructed his officers to oversee the burning of mills and confiscation of horses and mules. If a village did not resist, the soldiers were told to leave the buildings standing. Those areas that burned bridges or organized guerrilla armies were, however, subject to “a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility,” according to his field orders. With their objectives in mind, the Military Division of the Mississippi set out to permanently change the landscape of Georgia and the minds of its residents.

Item #M7377 – Sherman’s victory helped Lincoln win re-election.

Sherman’s forces converged at the outskirts of Savannah on December 10. By this time, 10,000 Confederates were entrenched in the city. They had flooded the surrounding rice fields, leaving only narrow causeways to enter Savannah. This disrupted Sherman’s plan to meet up with the US Navy to be resupplied. He sent a division to capture the Confederate-held Fort McAllister and open an alternate route to the sea. On December 13, the division stormed the fort and overtook it in 15 minutes. Sherman was now able to get his supplies, as well as siege artillery to aim at Savannah.

U.S. #3185i – The recovery from Sherman’s march is included in Gone with the Wind.

On December 17, Sherman sent a message to Confederate commander William Hardee “demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah” and promising “liberal terms to the inhabitants and garrison.” On December 20, rather than surrender, Hardee and his men escaped across the Savannah River on a makeshift pontoon bridge. The next morning, the city’s mayor rode out and told one of Sherman’s generals he would surrender Savannah in exchange for protection of the citizens and their property. The general telegraphed Sherman, who agreed to the terms. The division occupied the city that day.

Sherman sent a telegram to President Lincoln reporting, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah” along with guns, ammunition, and bales of cotton. Lincoln responded, thanking Sherman and his men, calling the campaign “a great success.”

U.S. #2446 – The burning of Atlanta scene was shot long before filming began to make room for the movie’s sets.

After spending the winter in Savannah, Sherman marched through the Carolinas. He continued his total war strategy in the successful two-month campaign. The army reached North Carolina by April 1865, and Sherman accepted the surrender of Confederate General Joseph Johnston on the 26th. Sherman’s strategy was effective in disrupting Southern supplies and lowering the morale of Confederates, but it came at a great cost. He estimated the campaign caused $100 million in damage. His reputation in the South was severely damaged as the citizens of Georgia held onto bitter memories of the destruction he was responsible for. In spite of this, historians say Sherman may have brought an early end to the war because of the loss of Confederate industries and crops.

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13 responses to "Sherman’s March to the Sea"

13 thoughts on “Sherman’s March to the Sea”

  1. Good history for us to know and remember.

    I like working with world wide inexpensive paper on stamps. This is my cold weather activity.

    Thanks for “This Day in History”.

    Reply
  2. It hurts to read fellow American destroying American cities because of war. Mixed feeling about greatness of successful mission and loss of life and property.
    Let there be no war.

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  3. Sherman is also castigated for the burning of Columbia, SC, after he had laid siege to the city during his campaign through the Carolinas. We have a lot of stories about his stay here.
    One is that he wanted to burn the First Baptist Church which was the site of the Orders of Secession. The sexton of the church recognized General Sherman and gave him the directions to the local United Methodist Church, which the General promptly burned, thus saving the First Baptist Church from damage. Downtown Columbia was mostly burned, supposedly by General Sherman, but another view supposes that the city was burned by Confederate soldiers burning the
    Cotton Exchange and local Mint in order to keep them out of Sherman’s Army, and that the blaze spread through the city fanned by winds and dry conditions. Who do you believe????

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  4. Sherman’s Army was the Atomic Bomb of its day: he did not win the war, rather he ended the war in a manner that gave the enemy no hope. That is the only way war actually ends. A lesson for all. A lesson for today.

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  5. THANK YOU!!!!!!!! You bring stamp collecting ALIVE. The history of this daily e-mail enriches my knowledge of stamp history. I look forward to receiving it every day.

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  6. Having been to Savannah, they are well aware of Sherman’s imprint on that city. Even though is army did not burn that city, they cut down and burned most of the trees in an attempt to keep warm that cold winter. It is a very interesting city laid out in 16 squares, with a circle, a church and a government building in each square.

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  7. Somewhat more information – and justification – for Sherman’s destructive “March to the sea” than I had encountered before . . . a welcome lesson in history.

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  8. In spite of a possible early end to the war, Sherman fought a different kind of war than had been seen. It was not only kill his enemies, but destroy the starving people’s lives further. Crush them all, white and black Grant would have won the war without Sherman’s brutality. It was indeed a sad chapter in American history and would make the hatred of the North last for well over a hundred years. Perhaps in some Southern communities even to today. Not the international and diverse city of Atlanta though, which rose up in spite of the burning to become one of our great American cities. Part of winning a war is to win the peace. The North Vietnamese never have won their peace, and neither have the Iraqis or the Libyans. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre, passé mois le pomme de tierre.

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