William T. Sherman: Man of the Year

general-william-tecumseh-sherman
Congratulations General

No doubt, many will shudder in revulsion after hearing of such an honor. For a select group their anger will overflow with rage when they learn that the title was bestowed on Sherman earlier today at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. This has been an annual occurrence throughout the sesquicentennial. This year the speakers were Gary Gallagher, Harold Holzer, John Marszalek, Joe Mobley, and Craig Symonds. The results are as follows:

  • Sherman- 38
  • Cleburne- 29
  • Lincoln- 15
  • Lee & Grant- 11
  • Vance- 8
  • David Farragut (write in)- 1
  • Citizens (write in)- 1

Sherman is the obvious choice.

I assume Gallagher nominated, Lee; Holzer nominated Lincoln; Marszalek nominated Sherman; Symonds nominated Farragut; and Mobley nominated Cleburne. Except for Cleburne they are all obvious choices. Someone is going to have to tell me what Cleburne did to deserve such a nod and please don’t tell me it was owing to his proposal to arm slaves.

I assume that the video will be available at some point soon

58 responses... add one

It already has begun.

Read Article 100 in the Rules of war adopted by both the Union and Confederacy.

Prior to 1864, both Union and Confederate commanders had waged a rather limited war, with the armies usually fighting only each other, without inflicting damages on innocent civilians or private property. Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman realized, however, that they would have to use a new strategy to end the war, because it was the support of these very same civilians that was keeping the war going in the South. Only when Southern civilians demanded an end to the war would the Confederacy lose its will to fight. As a result, Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman decided to open up a total war in which no one was innocent and private property was fair game.

Shermans orders…

There are three letters he writes regarding the post in question.

1. To Howard…

in it he states…”I want the foragers, however, to be kept within reasonable bounds for the sake of discipline.”
He naturally is defending what he called “our war right to subsist our army on the enemy. Napoleon always did it…”

2. To Kilpatrick…

” I want the foragers to be regulated and systematized so as not to degenerate into common robbers, but foragers…”
Again he is ordering death for death…but will not tolerate judgement by the enemy…he tells Kilpatrick..” if our foragers commit excesses punish them yourself…”

Finally to Hampton he warns him of his plan to retaliate in the death to all foragers. He didn’t believe he was behind the murders, but wanted him to put an end to them.

He also claimed if the civil authorities supplied his requisitions, he would forbid all foraging.

In these series of letters…pp818-820 it seems Sherman was not behind any atrocities his men committed, ordered his subordinates to get his men in line, but warned his counterpart that murder would not be tolerated.

War is all hell…indeed.

But don’t tell the others sleepwalkers… let them wallow in their ignorance, be mislead by the pied Piper, and continue believing in their own hate. They won’t believe it anyway.

The souths sherman was General Juble Early. He followed by example.

Like him or not, he was one of the fathers of total war. The south knew who and what he was or they would have never offered him a Generals Commission in the Confederate Army

William T. Sherman. He performed superbly as a subordinate at the Battle of Bull Run, and received acknowledgment and promotion for this. After his infamous nervous breakdown in Kentucky, he returned to service and turned in a superb showing at the Battle of Shiloh in holding and later beating back the Confederate assault. He gave a mixed showing early on during Vicksburg, but did quite well later on in the campaign, and his performance at Chattanooga was solid though uninspired. Of real relevance to this comparison though is his direction of the Georgia and Carolina campaigns, which in my mind show him to be Lee’s superior in grand strategy, and at the very least his equal in operational strategy, higher tactics, and logistics. With the exception of his frustrated misstep at Kennessaw Mountain, he performed superbly in patiently maneuvering the army of Joseph E. Johnston back towards Atlanta, and he defeated the army under John Bell Hood three times around Atlanta before taking the city. A slight criticism of his conduct here can and will be made by me, for his single minded focus on Atlanta caused him to overlook a opportunity to divide and conquer the army of Hood rather than allow it to live to fight another day, but a victory is a victory, and the taking of Atlanta was a strategic coup and a huge morale boost for the North.

The next topic is the most controversial, Sherman’s famed March to the Sea. He cut loose from his quite extended communications, which were subject to attack from Hood’s troops in any case, and only after taking proper precautions to deal with the eventuality of Hood moving against Tennessee did Sherman undertake his famous march. Although controversial, his “hard war” concept was brilliant, and one of the first modern understandings and applications of total war. He ravaged the South’s economic infrastructure and simultaneously severely weakened it’s morale by demonstrating he could march and burn at his leisure. Sherman repeated this technique in South Carolina, which he was particularly interested in punishing as it was the cradle of secession. He continued his campaign into North Carolina after successfully moving through South Carolina, and when his Confederate opponent Joseph E. Johnston heard of the pace Sherman’s men were making through the swamplands then in their path, he made up his mind that there had been no such army since the days of Julius Caesar. Sherman defeated Johnston for good at Bentonville after a well conceived and valiant attempt by his opponent there, and brought about the surrender of Johnston’s army, a vital piece in the conclusion of the Civil War. (Interesting for all his supposed cruelties towards the South, Sherman’s initial surrender terms to Johnston were so generous he was vilified by elements of the government and in the northern press as being on the take from rebel money!)

The above campaigns and successes of Sherman show a truly brilliant strategic mind, surprisingly modern in it’s conception of war, and indisputable in his results. For those reasons, he gets my vote.

John, let me correct one thing: General Orders No. 100 was issued in the spring of 1863 by the United States’ Army and bound only them. For more, see John Fabian Witt, _Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History_. He argues that Sherman did not violate any fo the existing rules of war by the March to the Sea.

And beyond that let me put in another plug for Mark Grimsley’s Hard Hand of War, which persuasively argues that Sherman’s tactics did not represent a fundamental shift in warfare. It was consistent with military strategy going back to the Middle Ages.

Check out Wayne E. Lee’s Barbarians and Brothers

It examine the propensity towards violence in American warfare from a cultural aspect. But it also focuses on aspects of control, examining the Civil War in its conclusions by pointing out Sherman’s strategy of ruthless aggression on the civilian infrastructure, while restraining troops from attacking civilians.

Forgot about that. I guess I was thinking about Symonds’s more recent scholarship which is on the navy. Cleburne had absolutely no impact on the course of the war.

Patrick Cleburne. Has to be the “dark horse”. By late 1863, it had become obvious to Cleburne that the Confederacy was losing the war because of the growing limitations of its manpower and resources. In 1864, he dramatically called together the leadership of the Army of Tennessee and put forth the proposal to emancipate slaves and enlist them in the Confederate Army to secure Southern independence.This proposal was met with polite silence at the meeting, and while word of it leaked out, it went unremarked, much less officially recognized. From his letter outlining the proposal:

Satisfy the negro that if he faithfully adheres to our standard during the war he shall receive his freedom and that of his race … and we change the race from a dreaded weakness to a position of strength.
Will the slaves fight? The helots of Sparta stood their masters good stead in battle. In the great sea fight of Lepanto where the Christians checked forever the spread of Mohammedanism over Europe, the galley slaves of portions of the fleet were promised freedom, and called on to fight at a critical moment of the battle. They fought well, and civilization owes much to those brave galley slaves … the experience of this war has been so far that half-trained negroes have fought as bravely as many other half-trained Yankees.

It would not be until the last weeks of the Confederacy that a form of Cleburne’s idea would be revived as the desperate rebel leadership was finally ready to endanger the slave system to forestall total defeat. The Confederate Congress approved a plan to recruit black soldiers into their army in March 1865, and trade them freedom for their service (although it foresaw no general emancipation as Cleburne wanted) but it was too little too late, and no black units created under this law ever saw action before the final collapse of Confederate forces defending Richmond the following month. Patrick Cleburne himself did not live to see his idea of black Confederate soldiers finally accepted as he died at the Battle of Franklin in late November 1864.

In any case, if there is any historical significance to Cleburne’s proposal of January 2, 1864 to arm the slaves for the Confederacy, it is, first, to further confirm that the rebels, for all their denials, were fighting to keep slavery. While certainly soldiers like Patrick Cleburne were devoted to the idea of Confederate nationhood in its own right, the top rebel leadership could not countenance embracing emancipation merely to give their army a better chance at success in 1864. Because unlike Cleburne, they knew not only that many slaveholders would not give up their property voluntarily under any circumstances, but also that with a lifetime of oppression behind them ending slavery would likely not suddenly convert African Americans to the Confederate cause, and they feared if given arms would promptly turn them on white Southerners in an orgy of barbaric vengeance.

In any case, if there is any historical significance to Cleburne’s proposal of January 2, 1864 to arm the slaves for the Confederacy, it is, first, to further confirm that the rebels, for all their denials, were fighting to keep slavery.

By 1864 most Confederates did not need Cleburne and/or his proposal to remind them that slavery hung in the balance.

That is for sure. Day late and a dollar short but still if they had, the “real” black Confederates would most likely remained slaves even after service. I have seen NO MENTION from any source in which freedom was offered.

The War Department issued General Orders No. 14, which is pretty clear that no black men would be enlisted without having already been manumitted by their masters.

Given the outcome, hard to see that any Confederate had an impact on the outcome of the war, except for John Wilkes Booth, of course. They could merely prolong the war or shorten it. Cleburne is more a question of possibility than actuality. If someone is looking for a Confederate hero in 1864, he is the only who fits the bill. As far fetched as it was, his plan was the sort of Hail Mary that has to be thrown at the end of a losing game.

Sherman will always have votes against him. He is a reviled figure by many outside of the South. His version of war is often credited, rightly or wrongly, in the human rights community with ushering the mindset that made civilians the primary targets of 20th Century conflict.

Good for the MOC for including an immigrant on the list of people under consideration.

But as you know very few people even knew about the proposal. The debate was already under way in certain circles and it came to fruition without Cleburne, though much too late to have any impact.

I would argue that it never came to fruition at all, since it was an emancipation proposal and the plan finally adopted by the Confederacy was an arming the slaves program. In other words, Cleburne’s underlying premise was roundly rejected by Confederate lawmakers.

Cleburne’s plan had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the war.

He was still the best Confederate nominee.

I think it is the best choice, the MoC is taking a balanced view of the war and this is evidenced by this decision.

Certain elements will howl, protest and bemoan the choice and the path of the MoC on their semiliterate blogs and Facebook pages. But if they look at the actual history there can be no choice for Man of the Year 1864 than William Sherman. He did more to bring about a speedy conclusion of the war through his campaigns in that year than anyone else.

None of the other choices even Grant, Lee or Sheridan (in my humble view he would be a worthy candidate) than who they picked. It was a brilliant choice.

Sherman is the perfect choice: one does not have to approve of his concept of war to appreciate the impact he had: people do often get more upset about loss of property than loss of life. Uncle Billy made Georgia howl!

I do not understand nominating let alone choosing Cleburne: his proposal was quickly squelched by Davis and the participants were ordered to turn in all their copies. He had zero impact on the war, whether extending the Confederacy or impacting future American history.

I do not understand nominating let alone choosing Cleburne: his proposal was quickly squelched by Davis and the participants were ordered to turn in all their copies. He had zero impact on the war, whether extending the Confederacy or impacting future American history.

He is a charismatic character and a tough fighter who only emerged in Civil War memory because apart from Lee there were no Confederate generals in 1864-65 to really rally around. It’s as simple as that.

Bob wrote: “I do not understand nominating let alone choosing Cleburne”. Since Cleburne got the second largest number of votes, this may indicate a lack of imagination.

First, recall, that this is a vote for Man of the Year, not for which white man had the most impact on the war.

Second, the vote is taking place after the Civil Rights Revolution. Had it taken place in 1964, Cleburne would not even be on the list.

As to Kevin’s point “He is a charismatic character and a tough fighter who only emerged in Civil War memory because apart from Lee there were no Confederate generals in 1864-65 to really rally around. It’s as simple as that.” I think that by omitting the Confederate emancipation proposal, Kevin misses the point of Cleburne’s popularity.

Take a look at the ngram for Patrick Cleburne:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=Patrick+Cleburne&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2CPatrick%20Cleburne%3B%2Cc0

Cleburne is briefly popular after the war and around the 50th Anniversary, he then fades from view until the 1980s. His revival in memory is not due to his “hard fighting qualities”, they were there in the 1920s to the 1950s when he was neglected. His revival is due to the changing view of race among white Southerners and the desire to find a Confederate who appeared forward looking on the subject.

Kevin suggests that Lee would have been a better choice than Cleburne for the Man of the Year for 1864, but by then Lee was merely spilling blood in a lost cause rooted in the past.

Kevin suggests that Lee would have been a better choice than Cleburne for the Man of the Year for 1864, but by then Lee was merely spilling blood in a lost cause rooted in the past.

Lee certainly did not believe this. There is a good deal of scholarship pointing to the continued optimism of Confederate late into 1864.

Kevin, read Cleburne’s assessment of the Confederate situation in January 1864 and compare it to the rosy versions put forward by other Confederates:

We have now been fighting for nearly three years, have spilled much of our best blood, and lost, consumed, or thrown to the flames an amount of property equal in value to the specie currency of the world. Through some lack in our system the fruits of our struggles and sacrifices have invariably slipped away from us and left us nothing but long lists of dead and mangled. Instead of standing defiantly on the borders of our territory or harassing those of the enemy, we are hemmed in to-day into less than two-thirds of it, and still the enemy menacingly confronts us at every point with superior forces. Our soldiers can see no end to this state of affairs except in our own exhaustion; hence, instead of rising to the occasion, they are sinking into a fatal apathy, growing weary of hardships and slaughters which promise no results. In this state of things it is easy to understand why there is a growing belief that some black catastrophe is not far ahead of us, and that unless some extraordinary change is soon made in our condition we must overtake it. The consequences of this condition are showing themselves more plainly every day; restlessness of morals spreading everywhere, manifesting itself in the army in a growing disregard for private rights; desertion spreading to a class of soldiers it never dared to tamper with before; military commissions sinking in the estimation of the soldier; our supplies failing; our firesides in ruins. If this state continues much longer we must be subjugated.

Hi Pat,

I think it is clear that Cleburne saw a dark future for the Confederacy, but to me the preface to what he knew would be seen as a radical proposal is different from assessments by soldiers in the field responding to more local events. In researching my Crater book I was surprised by the number of soldiers who remained optimistic throughout the summer and fall of 1864 up to the election. I highly recommend Jason Phillips’s Diehard Rebels on this particular issue.

I was surprised by the number of soldiers who remained optimistic throughout the summer and fall of 1864 up to the election.

But to what degree is the soldier’s optimism merely a tool of morale? Did the officers think this way as well?

I didn’t find much of a difference between the enlisted soldiers and mid-grade officers. Again, I would definitely check out Phillips’s Diehard Confederates as well as Peter Carmichael’s The Last Generation which looks specifically at young officers who were reared on the sectional debates of the 1850s.

Someone at the MOC was tweeting about the presenters. Gary Gallagher nominated Lee and Grant and Harold Holzer nominated (no surprise) Lincoln. According to the tweets, Holzer claimed Lincoln’s re-election victory was worth a dozen battlefield victories. Kind of a silly claim, but if that’s true, then Sherman, who made Lincoln’s re-election a reality with the capture of Atlanta, is definitely the right choice. Anyway, John Marszalek nominated Sherman, Joe Mobley nominated Zebulon Vance of all people, and Craig Symonds nominated Cleburne–for his proposal to arm the slaves. Farragut was a write-in, so no presenter nominated him.

Thanks for the clarification, Al. Like I said, I don’t understand why Cleburne was nominated.

Al Mackey wrote: “According to the tweets, Holzer claimed Lincoln’s re-election victory was worth a dozen battlefield victories. Kind of a silly claim, but if that’s true, then Sherman, who made Lincoln’s re-election a reality with the capture of Atlanta, is definitely the right choice. ”

Perhaps then Hood should have been the Man of the Year.

I was going to say Hood might be a better confederate candidate than Cleburne, but on closer examination I think his effect on Sherman’s campaign against Atlanta was really fairly small, and his campaign toward Nashville really didn’t have a significant impact on operations other than the loss of troops that could have been used in 1865.

“We will remove and destroy every obstacle -if need be, take every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.” On the eve of his march through Georgia, Sherman boasted, “I am going into the very bowels of the Confederacy, and propose to leave a trail that will be recognized fifty years hence.” It would be, he assured Halleck, “a track of desolation.” A man of his word!
True- his surrender terms were very beneficial for the Southerners, those who had slaves would of been able to keep them under his terms.
A commander who does not control his troops is not a commander. If Sherman was a commander today, his actions and the actions of his troops would of been cause for relief of duties and a court martial. I realize by today’s standards, the buck does not stop at the top any more, it is deflected and pointed at some one else ” Jubal Early”,” G.W. Bush”…as examples. Bottom line Sherman is responsible for the actions of his Army.

Man. You should see the flack and HATE that the typical revisionists and “hate not heritage” bunch are spreading on the MOC Facebook page.

Glad I have a thick skin. They HATE me. When they are even slightly losing a debate or even come across any form of conflicting opinion they turn nasty. They’ll debate….but almost like a cue …..there will always be at least one personal attack in their rant. Usually a really off color one about intelligence like they are the only group allowed to have an opinion. Does that seem extremely bigoted to anyone else

It’s a relatively small, but vocal group that spew that kind of nonsense. First, the bestowing of Sherman with MOY does not necessarily mean that he is being embraced as some kind of hero. Rather, it is a recognition of his importance to the course of the war in 1864 and beyond. My advice is not to respond to such nonsense. It’s a waste of time.

Exactly. It’s more than a little ironic that the folks on the MOC facebook page mockingly ask if Hitler should have been the “Man of the Year” in 1939. Well, he was in fact Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938. This was because of his obvious importance in reshaping the European map and politics, not a moral judgement.

Great point. The nature of the symposium is lost on those people who see themselves as actors in this history.

You should see the flack and HATE that the typical revisionists and “hate not heritage” bunch are spreading on the MOC Facebook page.

They flashed the Batshit Signial on Facebook, encouraging everyone to swarm the MoC page. But you had to anticipate this. There are few subjects more likely to send that crowd into a spittle-flecked, veins-poppin’, shouty rage than the MoC or Sherman, and when you put them together. . . well, don’t be surprised if someone over there strokes out.

Gregg Kimball wrote:

It’s more than a little ironic that the folks on the MOC facebook page mockingly ask if Hitler should have been the “Man of the Year” in 1939. Well, he was in fact Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938.

Oh, they do love them some Hitler analogies, so long as they’re the ones making them.

Oh, they do love them some Hitler analogies, so long as they’re the ones making them.

So true.

I think that as 2014 continues and changes into 2015 we’re going to see some really stubborn and inane Lost Cause defenses going on. People that are studying the war are seeing how the Confederacy lost in 1864. The colorful reenactments of this anniversary year have the confederates on the defense and losing for the most part. As they look for answers historians deliver them and that is not going to make the Lost Causers happy because those answers do not fit in with the fiction of the Lost Cause. So I really expect for them to continue to squawk and parrot the same old things over and over again because they have nothing to support their arguments.

I love the choice of Sherman almost as much as I love Sherman.

He waged a massive and effective campaign that, without question, hastened the end of the war to a favorable outcome. And he did it with incredibly minimal loss of life to his own force, the enemy, or civilian casualties. His campaign created no permanent, or even lasting damage to his area of operations. If that’s not a textbook definition of a perfect military operation then I don’t know what is.

And for all the talk of white southern victimhood in Georgia, it’s important to remember that FAR more Union soldiers suffered and died in the state in 1864 than did Confederate soldiers & civilians combined.

And for all the talk of white southern victimhood in Georgia, it’s important to remember that FAR more Union soldiers suffered and died in the state in 1864 than did Confederate soldiers & civilians combined.

Never thought of that and it is probably true.

I cant believe the remarks, personal attacks and hate that was directed at me on the MOC FB page. It is obvious none of them understand why this was done or even where.

1st. It was NOT at the MOC. the MOC was the sponsor with the LIBRAIRY of Virginia, Tredegar and the MOC among other civic and historical venues.

2ed. The MOC did NOT vote on this. People just like you had the chance to buy tickets and VOTE. You did not and now you are upset.

3rd. The speakers who nominated those men were NOT on the board of the MOC they were invited and were versed historians.

4th. Sherman was chosen NOT because he was a good guy or on popularity but because he did the most that year to earn the acclaime. He accomplished more than anyone.

If they (bigots-revisionists and haters) would take the time or interest 1/3 as much as the energy they futilely burn wasting time on uneducated comments, maybe then they would have had an impact or simply get the concept.

But alas as with most, they don’t think rationally and just react without any concept of what anyone is talking about.

John,

It’s easy to get roped into a “conversation” with some of these people, but you should know that there is no chance for a rational discussion. Always remember that these kinds of comments come from a relatively small group.

Forrest doesn’t get a single vote?

Sherman:
“Forrest is the very devil, If we must sacrifice 10,000 lives and bankrupt the Federal Treasury, it will be worth it. There will never be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead.”

In 1864, Forrest tied down perhaps 10,000 Union reinforcements intended for Sherman. Without those men, Sherman still marched from Chattanooga to Savannah. His net impact on the outcome of the overall war was pretty much negligible.

What did NBF do in 1864 – or any other year – that impacted the Civil War; that extended the life of the Confederacy or shortened it?

I submit that Forrest is easily the most over rated individual in the War on either side. His most notable exploit in 1864 was to massacre US Colored Troops at Fort Pillow, as part of raid that should have been hitting Sherman’s supply lines instead of raising hell on the Mississippi. What else did Forrest do?

I wonder what the source for that often used quote is. I did some Internet checking and found frequent mention of it but the closest thing to a source was the claim that Sherman wrote it to Stanton. I cannot find my copy of _Battle from the Start _to see if Wills has it. I checked Simpson and Berlin, _Sherman’s CW_ and not only did not find any such quote but the overall tenor of WTS on NBF was that Forrest was a minor nuisance, rather than a threat. I am not saying the quite did not occur, just that I am curious where it comes from.

Thanks Brooks. Obviously, no matter what hyperbole Sherman used, he did not allow Forrest to distract him and did not do anything to cause 10,000 lives and break the Treasury. Uncle Billy was frustrated about Forrest’s ability to, as he put it, “cower” rear echelon troops! The quote can be found 75 OR 480.

Interesting question. In sheer magnitude I would say that in ’64 U.S. Grant and the Jeff Davis administration’s continued highly tenacious orchestration of the war effort would ultimately have the largest impacts in terms of the dictation of the course of events.

Nathan Towne

Having already voted for Sherman, I am changing my mind. The United States soldier who reenlisted in the fall of 1863 and spring of 1864, cancelling his mid-1864 discharge, coupled with his overwhelming vote to reelect Lincoln. They made the choice that anything over than defeat of the Confederacy was unacceptable.

I would have voted for Grant. He was the one that dictated (as said above) all of these things and put them into motion. He has Lee pinned down by the end of the year with almost no place that he (Lee) can go. He did not always win the battles but he wins the war.

A still great book from 1938 that looks at the Generals of these highly important campaigns is ‘Lee, Grant and Sherman: A Study in Leadership in the 1864-65 Campaign’ by Alfred Burne. He has some really thought provoking comments on Lee, Sherman, Grant, Hood, and Sheridan that was really ahead of its time.

Chris

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