Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Mythology of Sherman's March

Kevin Levin at Civil War Memory points out a fine article by Mark Grimsely entitled "'Thieves, Murderers, Trespassers': The Mythology of Sherman's March." A principal point of the article is that the stories of widespread rape and murder during the march are simply not true.

Another historian who has made a similar point is Victor Davis Hanson, in an article entitled
"Sherman's War." Professor Hansen observes:

"As for the charge that Sherman's brand of war was amoral, if we forget for a moment what constitutes 'morality' in war and examine acts of violence per se against Southern civilians, we learn that there were few, if any, gratuitous murders on the march. There seem also to have been less than half a dozen rapes, a fact acknowledged by both sides. Any killing outside of battle was strictly military execution in response to the shooting of Northern prisoners. The real anomaly seems to be that Sherman brought more than sixty thousand young men through one of the richest areas of the enemy South without unchecked killing or mayhem. After the war a Confederate officer remarked of the march through Georgia: 'The Federal army generally behaved very well in this State. I don't think there was ever an army in the world that would have behaved better, on a similar expedition, in an enemy country. Our army certainly wouldn't.'"

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