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Was Sherman's March to the Sea militarily necessary?

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  • Was Sherman's March to the Sea militarily necessary?

    Hello,

    In the other thread, I had brought up one of my points that Sherman popularized the concept of total war in his (in)famous march to Savannah. Now, this thread is not meant to debate the morality and legality of Sherman's march, but whether it was militarily necessary in the first place.

    The march itself was over 300 miles ands took four or five weeks to complete, the result was the capture of Savannah, in addition to the total destruction of CSA's industrial capacity. The reason behind Sherman's march, according to Wikipedia, was due to:
    He [Sherman] and U.S. Army commander Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant believed that the Civil War would end only if the Confederacy's strategic, economic, and psychological capacity for warfare were decisively broken. Sherman therefore applied the principles of scorched earth, ordering his troops to burn crops, kill livestock, consume supplies, and destroy civilian infrastructure along their path. This policy is often also referred to as total war...

    ...

    A second objective of the campaign was more traditional. Grant's armies in Virginia continued to be in a stalemate against Robert E. Lee's army, besieged in Petersburg, Virginia. By moving in Lee's rear, performing a massive turning movement against him, Sherman could possibly increase pressure on Lee, allowing Grant the opportunity to break through, or at least keep Southern reinforcements away from Virginia.

    Many historians have claimed Sherman's march helped to hasten the end to Civil War, but is this true?

    Naturally, it's only my opinion, but if Sherman really wanted to end the war quickly, wouldn't it be far better if he took his armies directly to Lee's rear as soon as possible?

    If you look at the map, Savannah is hundreds of miles away from Lee's rear, Sherman actually moved away from Lee. Now, if Sherman did the same thing, but taking a different direction, moving 300 miles closer to Lee's rear, what would the result be like?

    I used Sherman's 1864 campaign map provided at this link: http://www.libs.uga.edu/darchive/har...aps/1864g4.jpg

    If Sherman took the north approach instead of going to Savannah, in a month, he could have taken Greenville in SC, then Charlotte and Greensboro (or Raleigh?) in NC, and finally Petersburg in VA (perhaps one or two months later, depending on his supply and manpower issues), that is barring any successful CSA efforts to slow him down. By going to Savannah, he delayed his arrival in North Carolina.

    My argument is that by taking his time in destroying CSA's civilian infrastructure instead of the only real hope CSA had which was in Lee's army, he prolonged the war if only by a few months or so. I don't know whether Lee would have surrendered earlier had Sherman actually been in VA. Neither do I about Johnston's army which was in North Carolina. Maybe he would have joined Lee's army, in any case, even with combined armies under Lee's control, he still had no real chance of winning against either Grant or Sherman.

    Just how valid was the concept of total war in this case? Do you think militarily Sherman should have concentrated his efforts on actually getting into Lee's rear as soon as possible, forgetting about everything else in his path instead of presenting Savannah as Christmas present to Lincoln? Do you think historians should have taken a step back and to check out to see whether Sherman's march did in fact hasten the end to four years of bloody civil war?

    I would like to know your answers.

    One more thing, please keep your focus on whether Sherman's march was a good military decision and that it did hasten the end to the war. Pleae leave out the issues associated with his brutality to civilians and economic damages inflicted on them, I can promise you that we WILL NEVER SEE eye-to-eye on this aspect of Sherman's march.

    Dan
    Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

    "Aim small, miss small."

  • #2
    I always wonder about this sort of thing myself. Maybe it's just that I don't understand military strategy very well, or maybe it's that historians toss out glittering generalities and most people swallow them without thinking.

    Offhand, it seems reasonable to me that a more direct march toward Lee's army might have been better. Then again, I can see the desirability of aiming for a seaport as a destination, in case living off the land turned out to be harder than it actually was. Also, the more direct route is often the one that's most expected and easiest to defend against; so there's often an advantage to be had in doing something indirect just for its own sake.

    In fact, Sherman regularly gained ground by seeming to head toward one objective while actually aiming for another -- or by marching in between two possible objectives, to keep the enemy uncertain which way he'd go.

    What's really odd is something B. H. Lidell Hart mentions in his book Strategy. He says that when Sherman arrived in Savannah, Grant's first thought was to transport his army up to Petersburg by sea! According to Hart, that would've spoiled the whole advantage of "outflanking" Lee's army, which is the main thing Sherman's march did. It was the march north from Savannah that had all the real military effect. The march *to* Savannah had been a blow to southern morale, but probably not much else.

    Just my little semi-informed opinion, FWIW.
    --Patrick Carroll


    "Do all you have agreed to do, and do not encroach on other persons or their property." (Richard Maybury)

    Comment


    • #3
      Good thread...

      I think there has to be some supply issues also. Lee had had (srry) trouble getting supplies to his armies later in the war. I beleive that by marching through Georgia he destroyed rail lines and supplies vital to the confederate cause.
      If he had of attacked Lee I think Lee was skillful enough to figure a way out of it or do something to halt the advance and reach a better sitaution.
      You guys may think I rely on Lee's leadership of the army and the suppliability of his armies but I think that the march was the better plan.

      BTW this is offtopic but its kind of cool. Sherman stopped in my home town and his headquarters were like 5 miles down the street.
      He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.
      --Napoleon Bonaparte

      Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets. --Napoleon Bonaparte

      We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction. --Douglas MacArthur

      Comment


      • #4
        The March was a military necessity because it:
        a) Put the South in a quandry--see below.
        b) knocked Georgia out of the war as a supply source for the Confederates
        c) weakened Confederate morale--both military and civilian
        and
        d) left Sherman's army in a position with several movement options; continue by land up the coast, continue by water up the coast or change directions again and head toward Mobile or whereever.

        Imagine you're J. Davis and Sherman has taken off from Atlanta--what do you do with Hood's army? Pursue? Retake a gutted Atlanta for propaganda purposes? Invade the North? Move it to reinforce Lee? reinforce the coast?
        Remember, you don't know where Sherman is headed.

        Now imagine you're J. Davis and you've just lost Savannah to Sherman's troops. How do you prepare for that army's next move?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by grognard View Post
          Now imagine you're J. Davis and you've just lost Savannah to Sherman's troops. How do you prepare for that army's next move?
          That's easy...surrender to Sherman and Grant. Once Atlanta was taken, all bets are off, there was simply no way CSA could continue the war indefinitely and come out as the winner.

          Remember Savannah was captured on December 22, 1864. The war ended only five months later in April 1865. My argument was that Sherman could have ended it sooner than that, perhaps a few months earlier.

          What could either Lee or Hood could do against Sherman? Did Sherman really need to use military finesse to manuveur his army toward Lee? The only action Hood could take was to harass Sherman, and it's highly doubtful it would have been successful either.

          I'll admit it, maybe it was wrong for Davis and Lee to continue fighting when they already knew for all practical purposes the war was over by the time Atlanta was taken.

          Dan
          Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

          "Aim small, miss small."

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree that Davis and Lee should have seen the writing on the wall after Atlanta, but it's not easy to admit you're wrong especially in life or death matters.

            As for Sherman, if he moved over to VA, he would not be in independent command, and as far as I know, no one, not Grant, not Lincoln, not Sherman even suggested sending AoT to Va in Sept. 1864. Again, try to think of the situation from their point of view, not from hindsite. As an independent commander, would you give up your independence or your best troops?

            So you would have surrendered if you were Davis? Even in Sept.? Do you war-game that way? I don't know anyone who does.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by grognard View Post
              I agree that Davis and Lee should have seen the writing on the wall after Atlanta, but it's not easy to admit you're wrong especially in life or death matters.

              As for Sherman, if he moved over to VA, he would not be in independent command, and as far as I know, no one, not Grant, not Lincoln, not Sherman even suggested sending AoT to Va in Sept. 1864. Again, try to think of the situation from their point of view, not from hindsite. As an independent commander, would you give up your independence or your best troops?

              So you would have surrendered if you were Davis? Even in Sept.? Do you war-game that way? I don't know anyone who does.
              Actually, Grant did want Sherman to be in VA asap, Sherman's troops were supposed to be on steamers and go straight to VA. However, Sherman managed to convince Grant otherwise.

              Maybe if CSA didn't surrender at Atlanta, but should have done so at Savannah. So in the other words, CSA would have surrendered if Sherman managed to take Greenville, Greensboro, and Raleigh all within one or two months. Historically, after Savannah was taken, Sherman took his sweet time and had his eye on South Carolina for a while. The only city of importance Sherman captured was Columbia, the capital of SC, I believe. That wasn't enough to induce CSA to surrender before Petersburg.

              With Lincoln's election finished, I think Lincoln probably wanted quickest way to end the war, so he could get on the hard task of rebuilding the devastated nation. However, he was wot to interfere in military affairs, he tried that and he found it was usually a bad thing to do. I recall after Savannah was captured, Lincoln wrote to Sherman to the effect that he wouldn't interfere with Sherman or Grant's next war plan.

              Therefore, in hindsight, Lincoln missed an opportunity to order his generals to end the war in quickest way possible, and in some ways that caused the South to hang on its cause for as long it could.

              Dan
              Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

              "Aim small, miss small."

              Comment


              • #8
                You might say it was not militarily necessary, but it was probably politically necessarily. Here's why:

                Around the time of Appomattox, there was a contingent of officers who wanted to break the AoNV into small bands and scatter, to wage a guerilla war after the armies had been formally defeated (e.g., BG Porter Alexander). Undoubtedly they weren't alone. If Southern morale had not been crushed, it would have been more likely that the organized war would have degenerated into a low-intensity guerilla conflict that would have been disastrous for both sides. By sweeping through the back country - Georgia and the Carolinas - Sherman made it more likely that large segments of the population south of Virginia would not get any ideas about picking up the torch once Lee and Johnston surrendered.

                Not that Sherman's march guaranteed an end after Lee's/Johnston's surrenders, or that without Sherman's march, there definitely would have been a protracted guerilla war. But Sherman definitely made that nightmare less likely.
                "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
                -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

                (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jon Jordan View Post
                  You might say it was not militarily necessary, but it was probably politically necessarily. Here's why:

                  Around the time of Appomattox, there was a contingent of officers who wanted to break the AoNV into small bands and scatter, to wage a guerilla war after the armies had been formally defeated (e.g., BG Porter Alexander). Undoubtedly they weren't alone. If Southern morale had not been crushed, it would have been more likely that the organized war would have degenerated into a low-intensity guerilla conflict that would have been disastrous for both sides. By sweeping through the back country - Georgia and the Carolinas - Sherman made it more likely that large segments of the population south of Virginia would not get any ideas about picking up the torch once Lee and Johnston surrendered.

                  Not that Sherman's march guaranteed an end after Lee's/Johnston's surrenders, or that without Sherman's march, there definitely would have been a protracted guerilla war. But Sherman definitely made that nightmare less likely.
                  With all due respect, although you bring up a good point or two, but I disagree with you.

                  First, Sherman could not have known about that small contingent of officers wanting to break up into guerrilla units and made his decision in ordering the march to sea. He didn't have the benefit of hindsight, he had to go on what he knew and saw on the map in the front of his eyes.

                  Second, Lee's army already suffered many desertations and breakdowns in its morale. There was nowhere Lee could go, Grant refused to retire like many of Union generals did, he kept up relentless pressure on Lee. All Grant needed was something big enough to get into Lee's rear, and that was Sherman's army. Grant's outflanking moves would be far more successful had Lee been forced to pay attention to multiple fronts. Politically, there was nothing CSA could keep up its morale and continue the war efforts, the South was already crushed by that time.

                  Furthermore, wasn't it Lee who discouraged his officers or soldiers from getting an idea of breaking up and becoming guerrilla units? They were all professional soldiers, they're not fanatics or martyrs, they're good Christians, and they for most part managed to live co-peacefully with Union supporters. It's highly doubtful that they would have broken up into guerrilla fighters.

                  Dan
                  Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

                  "Aim small, miss small."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Post #1

                    Dan said:

                    “If Sherman took the north approach instead of going to Savannah, in a month, he could have taken Greenville in SC, then Charlotte and Greensboro (or Raleigh?) in NC, and finally Petersburg in VA (perhaps one or two months later, depending on his supply and manpower issues), that is barring any successful CSA efforts to slow him down. By going to Savannah, he delayed his arrival in North Carolina.”


                    It took Sherman five months to move 90 miles from Dalton, GA to Atlanta GA. He followed a Railroad all the way. In 1864 there was no direct connection to Greenville, S. C., so he would have had to march there 145 miles directly with enormous trains carrying fodder, forage ammunition, food and other supplies. Certainly Lee would have found out about this move and sent at least cavalry to harass him. Hardee was in SC with about 15,000 troops to assist the cavalry. Wheelers cavalry forces would have been added to the crowd, plus what ever Joe Johnston would have been able to muster. At the same time, Hood, with around 50,000 troops was left behind to his own devices and who had not yet met George Thomas, would have been diverted to meet Sherman’s threat.

                    Raleigh, NC was still 103 miles from Greenville, SC.

                    “My argument is that by taking his time in destroying CSA's civilian infrastructure instead of the only real hope CSA had which was in Lee's army, he prolonged the war if only by a few months or so. I don't know whether Lee would have surrendered earlier had Sherman actually been in VA. Neither do I about Johnston's army which was in North Carolina. Maybe he would have joined Lee's army (Lee was trying to join Johnston until he got to Appomatox), in any case, even with combined armies under Lee's control, he still had no real chance of winning against either Grant or Sherman.”

                    Don’t know about your last statement. Grant certainly had done nothing against Lee for eight months starting in May, 1864. Sherman didn’t care to fight pitched battles (see results at Chickasaw Bayou, Missionary Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain and almost lost the Battle of Bentonville against immensely inferior forces). Assuming Lee and Johnston once connected could outlast the combined Union armies is a stretch. The war could have lasted longer but, who knows how much?

                    “Just how valid was the concept of total war in this case?”

                    Your assuming Sherman fought a “Total War.”

                    There is substantial proof that the current crop of Military Theorists can’t come up with a valid definition:

                    From the : Conference at the Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung, Hamburg, August 29 to September 1, 2001. Co-sponsored by GHI Washington, GHI London, Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung, and Max-Planck

                    168 GHI BULLETIN NO. 30 (SPRING 2002)

                    “The fifth and final conference in the series on Total War was devoted to the Second World War. Several central problems dominated the discussions at this conference, as they have the previous four. The effort to reach a consensus about the definition of “total war” bore little more fruit this
                    time, even though we confronted a conflict that many instinctively regard as a paradigmatic case. In his opening remarks, Roger Chickering again drew attention to the vexing problems of definition. He suggested that the term “total war” be used historically and limited to the era in which contemporaries themselves employed it, which began in the later phases of the First World War and culminated in 1945.”[/

                    So, there is no accepted definition of “Total War!”

                    I think (my opinion being as valid as others) crediting Sherman as a precursor of “Total War” was a PR decision by Sherman’s admirers to enhance Sherman’s checkered military reputation. Remember Sherman never won a battle and botched up his Atlanta campaign right at the start. By crediting him with a theory that military scholars today can’t define nor develop a time frame in which to place it

                    Sherman’s orders in themselves deny the description that many of Willy’s admirers can’t define.

                    “Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Kingston, Georgia, November 9, 1864

                    I. For the purpose of military operations, this army is divided into two wings viz.: The right wing, Major-General O. O. Howard commanding, composed of the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the left wing, Major-General H. W. Slocum commanding, composed of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps.

                    II. The habitual order of march will be, wherever practicable, by four roads, as nearly parallel as possible, and converging at points hereafter to be indicated in orders. The cavalry, Brigadier - General Kilpatrick commanding, will receive special orders from the commander-in-chief.

                    III. There will be no general train of supplies, but each corps will have its ammunition-train and provision-train, distributed habitually as follows: Behind each regiment should follow one wagon and one ambulance; behind each brigade should follow a due proportion of ammunition - wagons, provision-wagons, and ambulances. In case of danger, each corps commander should change this order of march, by having his advance and rear brigades unencumbered by wheels. The separate columns will start habitually at 7 a.m., and make about fifteen miles per day, unless otherwise fixed in orders.

                    IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten day's provisions for the command and three days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be instructed the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled.

                    V. To army corps commanders alone is intrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

                    VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or bridges. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

                    VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms.

                    – William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi Special Field Order 120, November 9, 1864"

                    In Section IV above “foraging liberally” is not “Total War.” In the same section he denies his troops entrance into private homes or commit any trespass.

                    Section V limits destruction to retaliation.

                    Section VI allows the foragers to take from the rich. Apparently, Willy anticipates our present day democrats. He allows his men to replace jaded animals.

                    Don’t sound like “Total War” to me.

                    “Do you think militarily Sherman should have concentrated his efforts on actually getting into Lee's rear as soon as possible, forgetting about everything else in his path instead of presenting Savannah as Christmas present to Lincoln? Do you think historians should have taken a step back and to check out to see whether Sherman's march did in fact hasten the end to four years of bloody civil war?"

                    I don’t see how he could ever get into Lee’s rear ASAP! He failed to do what any proper military commander would have done. That is, to eliminate Hood’s threat to his rear. To advance with the AOT on your rear and the ANV waiting for you doesn’t sound like good strategy to me.

                    He did nothing to end the CW earlier. At Nashville, Thomas cleared the West of any viable force. He (Thomas) then moved to block any roads thru Tennessee that might allow Lee an escape route. Then he set up Wilson’s cavalry to clear out any ancillary forces left in Alabama and Mississippi. In addition to destroying manufacturing facilities in Birmingham and Selma. Grant’s moves to cut Lee’s supply lines forced Lee to evacuate Petersburg and finaly accept surrender at Appomatox. There was no need for Sherman’s forces then. All that was left for him to do was to botch up Johnston’s surrender.


                    Don

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                    • #11
                      Grant wanted Sherman in VA after Savannah, not before, or Grant would have ordered some troop transfers in Sept. or Oct.

                      Hood still had an army and Sherman did chase Hood for a while, after that didn't work, Sherman proposed the March to the Sea. Again, Grant could have said, send the troops but he didn't.

                      In short, since Sherman was not in overall command, he did nothing to prolong the war.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        One thing that has to be considered is the other alternative of a quick defeat of Lee's army without 'defeating' the hearts and minds of the heart of the Confederacy. The war might well continue. If Lee would not be in it, then the war might well dissolve into an ugly and prolonged insurgency, with Union soldiers fighting bushwhackers and guerrillas amidst a sullen population willing to support the insurgents. How would that have impacted upon American history?

                        That this did not come to pass in actual history was very much due to the prestige and wisdom of GEN Lee, who rendered possibly the greatest service to the Confederacy and the United States by refusing the suggestion of continuing the fight and waging a guerrilla campaign.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by slowtrot View Post
                          [COLOR="Red"]Don’t know about your last statement. Grant certainly had done nothing against Lee for eight months starting in May, 1864. Sherman didn’t care to fight pitched battles (see results at Chickasaw Bayou, Missionary Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain and almost lost the Battle of Bentonville against immensely inferior forces). Assuming Lee and Johnston once connected could outlast the combined Union armies is a stretch. The war could have lasted longer but, who knows how much?

                          I think (my opinion being as valid as others) crediting Sherman as a precursor of “Total War” was a PR decision by Sherman’s admirers to enhance Sherman’s checkered military reputation. Remember Sherman never won a battle and botched up his Atlanta campaign right at the start. By crediting him with a theory that military scholars today can’t define nor develop a time frame in which to place it.

                          Lol, well, you certainly have your opinion. I think the majority of the historical community disagrees with you, but hey, that is ok.

                          Sherman never won a battle? I'd say he won most of the Battle for Atlanta....remember, you blame Rosecrans for the defeat at Chickamauga, so the Army commander gets the credit for the wins & the blame for the losses. Since Sherman was in charge, he gets the wins. He also won fights during the Vicksburg campaign & during the Meridian expedition.

                          As for Grant doing "nothing" against Bobby Lee, you obviously don't understand or get the strategy involved in the last year or so in the Civil War.

                          Not to take anything away from Thomas (which it doesn't). Thomas did a splendid job at Nashville. However, that didn't win the war.....it helped to win it as did Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Wilson, Farragut, & all the other soldiers & generals who took part in that final year of the war. It was a team effort.
                          The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldier's last tatoo. No more on life's parade shall meet that brave and fallen few.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            If Sherman took the north approach instead of going to Savannah, in a month, he could have taken Greenville in SC, then Charlotte and Greensboro (or Raleigh?) in NC, and finally Petersburg in VA (perhaps one or two months later, depending on his supply and manpower issues), that is barring any successful CSA efforts to slow him down. By going to Savannah, he delayed his arrival in North Carolina
                            Most of what has been said by Hellboy and Grognard I agree with.

                            I just want to add that South Carolina was the first state to secede, it was a morale boost to the north to capture SC's capital in Columbia, if Sherman had taken the Northern route most of SC would have been spared.

                            Also if Sherman would have moved North through a sliver of South Carolina and central North Carolina only one state would have been removed from the South's arsenal; NC

                            By setting out on his March to the Sea Sherman removed Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina from the CSA arsenal of states.

                            It was militarily, strategically and tactically important that Sherman march to the see and continue north through SC and NC. If Petersburg had held out longer (maybe if Pickett hadnt been picnicking at Five Forks ). Sherman would have joined Grant outside Richmond and Grant and Sherman would have faced Lee and Johnston. But as history woul ahve it Petersburg fell and Lee surrendered before that happened.
                            All war is based on deception. - Sun Tzu

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by vicfirth311 View Post
                              Most of what has been said by Hellboy and Grognard I agree with.

                              I just want to add that South Carolina was the first state to secede, it was a morale boost to the north to capture SC's capital in Columbia, if Sherman had taken the Northern route most of SC would have been spared.
                              I won't lie to you that I do believe Sherman's motivation to go into South Carolina wasn't based on sound military strategy, but out of retribution for SC being the first state to secede.

                              But putting that aside, you raised another good point, it was important for Sherman to deliver a decisive propaganda blow to the South. So, in many ways, the March to Sea was based on a combination of strategic, tactical, political, economic, and propaganda reasons.

                              Also if Sherman would have moved North through a sliver of South Carolina and central North Carolina only one state would have been removed from the South's arsenal; NC
                              Actually, in order to get to NC, you had to go through SC, so that would still have meant removing GA, SC, and NC regardless of the direction Sherman went in. I did mention in my initial post that if he took the northern approach, he would have to take Greenville first, which is in SC. However, because of the distance between Greenville and Columbia, you're right, much of SC would have been spared.

                              By setting out on his March to the Sea Sherman removed Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina from the CSA arsenal of states.
                              See above.

                              It was militarily, strategically and tactically important that Sherman march to the see and continue north through SC and NC. If Petersburg had held out longer (maybe if Pickett hadnt been picnicking at Five Forks ). Sherman would have joined Grant outside Richmond and Grant and Sherman would have faced Lee and Johnston. But as history woul ahve it Petersburg fell and Lee surrendered before that happened.
                              Good points, I guess.

                              Dan
                              Major James Holden, Georgia Badgers Militia of Rainbow Regiment, American Civil War

                              "Aim small, miss small."

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