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John Marszalek, professor emeritus at Mississippi State University, said that William Tecumseh Sherman, despite his modern-day reputation, was the South’s “best friend” because he advocated a “hard war” and a “soft peace.”
Marszalek spoke to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on July 12, 2016 about the general whom many in the South and elsewhere consider a 19th century terrorist.
Historian John Marszalek spoke to the Roundtable on Tuesday, July 12, about William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union general whose march through Georgia in 1864 brought a “hard war” to the civilian population.
The event still echoes in the minds of Americans.
But Marszalek called Sherman the “South’s best friend.”
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The members of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable will have to wait until Tuesday (July 12, 2016) to find out what historian John Marszalek has to say about William Tecumseh Sherman being “the South’s best friend.”
Before then, however, we can read a bit of what Marszalek has written about Sherman.
Here are some excerpts from Marszalek’s biography John F.. Sherman : A Soldier’s Passion for Order.
This from the Prologue:
The destructive methods Sherman employed in the march to the sea were controversial, but he was no villain; he was one of the great military leaders of the Civil War. He knew how to outmaneuver a major Confederate army and how to destroy the Confederate will. He was an appealing individual, whom soldiers, family, and friends idolized. As a major public figure, he was in demand for both the office of the presidency and small social gatherings and public speeches. He impressed his contemporaries, influenced his age, and left a name for posterity.
Many people in the South, whether familiar with the Civil War or not, recoil at the mention of Gen. William T. Sherman.
The negative image of the man who wreaked havoc in the Carolinas and made “Georgia howl” persists to this day. But there is more to this story than first meets the eye. Sherman had many close relationships with Southerners before, during, and after the war. He spent most of his life after his 1840 graduation from West Point in the South, and just before the war began he was superintendent of the Louisiana Military Seminary, the forerunner of today’s Louisiana State University.
At the close of the war, this leading practitioner of “hard war” became the strongest advocate for a “soft peace,” so much so that he was roundly denounced by Stanton, Halleck and many Northern newspapers for the lenient peace terms he offered Joe Johnston.
Note: The annual anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg was this weekend. To commemorate that, we are posting, with permission, excerpts from Battlelines: Gettysburg, that describe aspects of the battle. Battlelines: Gettysburg contains the battlefield drawings of Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes, the only two artists who witnessed the battle.
A hard, driving rain drenched Gettysburg on July 4, 1863.
The rain was both merciful and burdensome. It was merciful in that it provided relief from the stifling heat of the previous days. More importantly, it discouraged both armies from attacking each other.
It was burdensome because many of the dead and wounded were still lying exposed to the elements or without adequate shelter, and for those still living the rain could not have been helpful. The rain was yet another obstacle in cleaning up the battlefield, finding the dead and wounded, and in getting the army ready to move when the commanders decided it was time.
Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia stood ready to receive an attack from the Army of the Potomac. In some Confederate quarters, there was even hope that this would happen. Southerners still wanted to inflict some pain on their Union counterparts.
Alfred Waud, Army of Northern Virginia, Battlelines: Gettysburg, Civil War, Culp's Hill, Edwin Forbes, George Armstrong Custer, George Meade, Gettysburg, J.E.B. Stuart, James Longstreet, Pickett's charge, Richard Ewell, Robert E. Lee
Note: The annual anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg is this weekend. To commemorate that, we are posting, with permission, excerpts from Battlelines: Gettysburg, that describe aspects of the battle. Battlelines: Gettysburg contains the battlefield drawings of Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes, the only two artists who witnessed the battle.
Lee’s original plan for the third day of battle was similar to that of the second day: attack both sides of the Union line. But early in the morning, instead of just holding his position, Meade ordered troops at Culp’s Hill to clear out the Confederate forces that had captured Union positions the day before. So, rather than storming Culp’s Hill – as Lee had planned – General Richard Ewell’s troops had to fight to hold their own position.
When Lee realized that Ewell’s troops were occupied, he changed his plans and told Longstreet to prepare of an attack on the center of the Union line. The attack would require soldiers to cross nearly a mile of open fields that gradually sloped up toward a copse of trees that stood just behind the center of the Federal forces. Longstreet argued against the assault, but Lee was a gambler and felt this was a chance worth taking.
By 11 a.m., Ewell’s troops had been flushed out of their positions at Culp’s Hill and could offer no support for the advance that would later occur. At 1 p.m. Confederate artillery opened up on the Union line, but many of their shots were aimed too high and fell harmlessly behind the lines. Union artillery answered for a while until the order came to cease firing in order to conserve ammunition. By not answering the Confederate fire, Union artillery units were able to conceal their positions in some instances.
After two hours of bombardment, the cannons ceased, and more than 12,000 Confederates advanced on Union lines in what has become known as Pickett’s charge. In addition to the field being open and often exposing the troops to direct and flanking fire, the troops had to cross fences that further exposed them to Union musketry. The center of the Union line held fire for a time, leading Confederate leaders to believe that the artillery bombardment had been successful.
They were wrong.