Sunday, November 16, 2014

Civil War Sunday- War is Hell

Since many of my readers are not from the United States, here are some fast facts about Atlanta, Georgia.

1.  It is the cosmopolitan capital city of the state of Georgia. 
2.  Population of the city proper is about 448,000 but its metropolitan area's population is around 6.1 million - and the major traffic jams there bear testimony to that.
3.  Among many other things, it is known as the home city of The Weather Channel, CNN, Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Turner Broadcasting, Coca-Cola, and many other corporations.  You may have heard of some of these.
4.  150 years ago yesterday, a Civil War event, the thought of which still brings pain to so many,  began in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you don't think Sherman's March to the Sea isn't well remembered in the former Confederate states (which include Georgia), I will tell you a true story.

I am a native of New York State. I lived some years in the South (Florida, Arkansas), but most of my life has been spent between New York City and upstate New York.

Several years ago, my husband and I visited Charleston, South Carolina (the first state to secede from the Union, in late 1860), where the Civil War began in April of 1861.  A fellow blogger recommended we go to a Civil War reenactment being held near Charleston during our visit, and asked us to look up a reenactor she knew.  We did this, and found the man, who was giving a talk to a number of people attending the reenactment, which had not yet begun.

The reenactment wasn't for one particular battle, but combined several battles fought in the Charleston area.

This knowledgeable man was talking about aspects of the Civil War and answering questions.  We asked some questions, and it must have been obvious to the other people in the group that we were from the North - our heavy New York accents gave that away. (You never do lose the accent of the New York City area). All was going well - until the reenactor started to talk about Sherman's March.

The temperature suddenly dropped about 20 degrees and, at least to me, it was like everyone was looking at my spouse and me. The looks were not friendly.

We left the discussion and walked elsewhere.

It doesn't matter how educated you are about the Civil War.  If you only know four things about the Civil War, they might just be the bombardment of Ft. Sumter that started the war, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and....Sherman's March to the Sea, which started in Atlanta on November 15, 1864 and concluded in Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.

If you've never heard of the Battle of Atlanta - well, chances are you have heard of it (at least in fiction). It is part of the famed movie Gone with the Wind.

Prior to the March starting, Union troops had captured Atlanta in September, 1864.  Sherman ordered  the city burned. 

When Sherman gave the order that the city be evacuated and burned, the Mayor of Atlanta appealed to Sherman to reverse his decision.   This was Sherman's response. 

This is not easy reading.  But war is not easy for anyone.

After spending some time in Tennessee and Alabama, Sherman split his troops into two parts. With 60,000 men under his command, the March began.

In the March, (known as the Savannah Campaign by historians), Union Major General William Sherman's aim was to destroy the capacity of the Confederate South for waging war.   He succeeded in that aim by marching across Georgia, destroying much in his path. As far as the innocent civilians that got in the way, their livestock and food was stolen and (if they resisted) their houses were burned.  And, 150 years later, the after effects of that campaign still linger psychologically.

Ironically, if you ever hear the expression "War is Hell", try this quote from General Sherman:

“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

Sherman died on February 14, 1891.  His funeral, in St. Louis, was attended by thousands.  Flags flew at half staff.  One of his pallbearers was former Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. 

Johnston had surrendered his troops to Sherman near Durham, North Carolina, not long before the war ended.

Johnston contracted pneumonia at the funeral and died a little more than a month later.


  1. Did this experience in Charleston begin your research and blogging about the Civil War? We live in a Civil War history-rich area, so it is a part of our every day language almost.

  2. What a sad story. I was actually born in Florida on a naval base and we spent time down there back and forth so I know there are differences between southern and northern history to a point.

  3. We live in the Shenandoah Valley and "The Burning" that took place here under Sheridan in 1864 is remembered the same way. People are still angry that their ancestors lost their barns and livestock to the Yankees. Never mind that it helped end the war... bringing suffering upon the civilian population always seems unfair.

  4. I hate war. Gone With the Wind certainly highlighted some of the events you're talking about. It's surprising in this day and age that people still hold resentment, witnessed by the cold looks your accent caused. Surely people can move on and accept the past for what it is--over.

  5. It's sad to hear that people are still harboring feelings about a war that was long ago.


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