Sunday, January 25, 2015

Civil War Sunday - The Years Ahead

If I blog every Sunday about the United States Civil War, I will only be blogging for the next three or so months.  But the ending of the war in April, 1865 (that isn't technically true as the last battle was fought in May of 1865, but that's a story for another time) didn't mean that history stopped.

I fear that blogging about the 150th anniversary of the war that made the United States what it is today may not interest my many foreign readers, but history has so many lessons to teach all of us.

150 years ago, as I mentioned, the Civil War was entering its final months.

In January of 1865, we got a sneak preview of what the ending of the war would bring for the slave population of the United States, courtesy of none other than Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

His is another story of how convoluted the story and study of history can be.

General Sherman was concerned about winning the war for the North. On the other hand, he wasn't too concerned about the slave population of the Confederate territories he and his armies had pillaged and occupied.  It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that Sherman, along with most other whites of his day (even those who opposed slavery), was a racist.  His interest was winning the war for the United States, not in doing anything for the slaves in the areas he was fighting in.

But thousands and thousands of slaves, freed as Sherman destroyed the plantations where they were enslaved, started to follow his armies.  Some tragic things happened to those slaves, especially at a location in Georgia called Ebenezer Creek.

On January 16, 1861, Sherman issued Special Order 15, which is worth reading all the way through, although it is a long document, just for a historic flavor.

St. Johns River, Florida, photo taken from Auto Train by AM
Sherman formulated a plan after meeting in Savannah, Georgia (which he had conquered right before Christmas of 1864) with black ministers and the U.S. Secretary of War. Sherman had a vision of resettling these freed slaves on a strip of confiscated land between of Charleston, South Carolina and the St. Johns River in Florida.  This would serve a number of military objectives for Sherman.

Would the idea of reserving land to freed slaves-40 acres of tillable land in parts of Georgia and Florida- have worked?  (Many know the plan as "40 acres and a mule" but the mule was more intended as a loan than a gift.) We'll never know, because the plan only lasted until the fall of 1865.  At that point, the war over and a new President in charge of the post-war United States, the land reverted back to its former owners. The freed slaves faced many, many years of misery ahead of them.

Another sad chapter in the history of the Civil War was about to begin.


  1. History used to bore me in school, but today I can't get enough of it. Most books I read are historical, mostly Revolutionary War.

    1. We are going down to South Carolina and Georgia later this year, and are going to visit a couple of Revolutionary War site. I believe many teachers do not do a good job of teaching history - I know the right history teacher ignited something in my son during high school.

  2. I'm a foreign reader but I find your history posts very fascinating. Thanks.

  3. AIana,
    I remember Sherman's march so well. Even from high school. Terrible man. I love Civil War history! My family once visited Gettysburg and I was touched by all the real people and heroics in the battles. I read several books on it (the novels) and wow, did it come alive!
    Thanks for Civil War Sunday post!

    1. I think the very best way to experience history is to go to the sites where it happened. It's been years since I've been to Gettysburg, although I pass close by to it at least once a year. Shame on me!


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