Q&A Friday #50: Why Are You A Fan Of William Tecumseh Sherman?

Question: “Why would a southerner put Sherman on his list (of Greatest Americans)? I assume Hawkins is from the South?” — libliever

Answer: First of all, I am from the South. I was born, raised, and live in North Carolina today. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate talented generals on both sides of the Civil War. After all, they were all Americans — and Sherman was brilliant. You can actually see his influence on the strategies of generals like Patton and even Tommy Franks.

Next, I think Sherman actually did the South a big favor by rampaging through the countryside, although most people don’t realize it. Grant may have been a brilliant general, but he was content to beat the South in a war on attrition. In other words, he intended to keep forcing men and materials on both sides into a sausage grinder because he knew the South would break first.

On the other hand, Sherman broke the South’s will to fight without having to needlessly butcher Southern soldiers. The Southern troops out in the field were fighting to protect their homes and after Sherman made it clear that they couldn’t, it helped bring the war to an end. You can rebuild cities and houses, but you can’t bring back men who die on the field of battle. Because of Sherman’s actions, a lot more Southerners lived to reunite with their families.

Last but not least, some people think Sherman’s style of total warfare was some sort of illegitimate or dishonorable tactic. However, I’m not among them. If anything, I think that over the last few decades the Western world has given far too much deference to civilians who support our enemies. In my book, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with trying to break the will of the enemy’s civilians, especially if, like Sherman, you refrain from massacring them.

Put it all together and you can see why I’m a big fan of Sherman, even if that’s a bit unusual amongst Southerners.

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