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POLL: Sherman's March: Good Strategy or Simple Vengeance?


169 votes were cast.


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Frederick Supporting Member of TMP writes:

Good strategy – the March to the Sea brought the war to the Deep South, and convinced the Northern public that victory was in sight (what we see in retrospect is not always so clear at the time)

Not that Sherman was a saint – and there are lots of Southerners to this day who are peeved at him


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VOTING RESULTS
AnswerVotes%Chart
good strategy
123
73%
bar of chart
simple vengeance
13
8%
bar of chart
other
17
10%
bar of chart
no opinion
16
9%
bar of chart
POLL IS CLOSED
POLL DESCRIPTION

Inquisitor Thaken Inactive Member wonders...

I believe that this, or something very like it, was a necessity, if the war was going to be brought to an effective close.

First, however, the counter argument. The South was beaten. None of the standing Confederate armies really had the strength to take the field against the Federal forces, and were everywhere in retreat. Why, then, perform a scortched earth "March to the Sea" that could accomplish nothing other than to bring added suffering to the already beleaguered southern population?

However, I think that argument misses the real facts. Though the Confederate armies were beaten, they were still in the field, and there was a very real division among the Confederate military and government authorities as to what to do. Some were seeking a surrender with terms, and for this, armies in the field that could continue to prosecute a war - even if only by losing more battles - were essential.

However, another faction, led by Davis, believed that the southern armies should disperse into the woodwork, and continue the war as a guerrilla action, in the hope that the North would eventually see the uselessness of really trying to defeat the South, and leave in frustration.

This latter policy, if adopted, would have accomplished nothing other than to bring continued suffering to both North and South. I have always believed that this was exactly what Grant and Sherman intended to prevent, with the March to the Sea.

The thinking was, I believe, that the South had to be shown that any further suffering would be to its own people 20 times what it was to the Union states, and that the North would now prosecute the war with utter ruthlessness, until unconditional surrender was achieved.

In the last analysis, and though it was a brutal strategy, it worked. In the face of the starvation caused by Sherman's foraging, all support for Davis crumbled, and the South was reintegrated into the Union.

I believe that is a fair (though brief) presentation of both sides of the argument. I look forward to other opinions.