The Truth About Sherman’s March

Lewis Regenstein
Guest Columnist

The Aug. 3 "Point/Counterpoint" articles by Dan Israel and Scott Sherris describe the infamous "March to the Sea" by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, one of history’s great war criminals.

But those articles haardly touch the surface in conveying the extent of suffering caused to Southern civilians, the starving, homeless families left in Sherman’s wake, and the cruelty of the invading army toward unresisting civilians, black and white alike.

Sherris goes so far as to write, with astonishing inaccuracy, that Sherman "did not level any town; he did not massacre civilians," and he compares the courageous Confederate resisters to disobedient children being disciplined by their parents. Sherman "wasn’t the monster Southern stories make him out be," Sherris writes.

For starters, let us observe that he largely burned our own city of Atlanta, full of defenseless civilians, which would seem to constitute "leveling" a town. And even strict parents don’t usually murder their children.

Consider the well-known facts set forth by Brian Cisco, author of the new book War Crimes Against Southern Civilians:

"Women and children, black and white, were robbed, brutalized, and left homeless in Sherman’s infamous raid through Georgia. Torture and rape were not uncommon. In South Carolina, homes, farms, churches, and whole towns disappeared in flames. Civilians received no mercy at the hands of the Union invaders. Earrings were ripped from bleeding ears, graves were robbed, and towns were pillaged. Wherever Federal troops encountered Southern Blacks, whether free or slave, they were robbed, brutalized, belittled, kidnapped, threatened, tortured, and sometimes raped or killed by their blue-clad "liberators.’ "

Some of this I know almost firsthand from the memoirs of my great-great-grandmother Octavia Harby Moses, who had five sons fighting with the Confederate forces at the time. One of her sons, my then-16-year-old great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Moses, rode out to defend his hometown of Sumter, S.C., along with some other teenagers, invalids, old men, and the disabled and wounded from the hospital. A battle-hardened Union force, outnumbering his 20-to-1, had just burned nearby Columbia and was approaching Sumter, presumably to do the same to it.

My family’s home in Sumter was taken over by Sherman’s troops, and Octavia’s account (and others of that terrible time) includes the brutal killing of "poor old Mr. Bee (a refugee from Charleston) who had been murdered by drunken soldiers," apparently while trying to prevent his daughter from being gang-raped by Union troops.

Of course, Sherman’s March was pretty mild compared with the virtual genocide inflicted on the Native Americans during "the Indian wars," going on while the march was taking place, and carried out later under Sherman and other Union generals. No mention is made by your columnists of Sherman’s genocidal views of the Indians, such as writing in 1866, "We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to the extermination, men, women, and children."

Nor is there a single word about the virulent hatred of Jews unashamedly demonstrated by Sherman and other Union officers, well known at the time, and culminating in America’s worst official act of anti-Semitism: On Dec. 17, 1862, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous General Order No. 11, expelling all Jews "as a class" from his conquered territories within 24 hours.

A few months earlier, on Aug. 11, Sherman had warned in a letter to the adjutant general of the Union Army that "the country will swarm with dishonest Jews" if continued trade in cotton is encouraged. And in a letter written in 1858, Sherman described Jews as "without pity, soul, heart, or bowels of compassion."

Sherman’s hatred for Jews, Indians, Southerners and blacks is well documented and not really in historical dispute, despite the politically correct version of the war and the man that is now dominant and has appeared, unfortunately, in the pages of the JT.

Copyright 2007, Atlanta Jewish Times

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