The war crimes against American civilians carried out by Sherman were accomplished with the full knowledge and assent of Grant, Lincoln, Stanton, Seward and Halleck. All knew well that for Sherman’s vandals to live off the country in Georgia and the Carolinas meant civilians would endure starvation and worse.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Soldiers Made Ashamed of Their Battle Flag
“In the earlier part of the war, General William T. Sherman knew and recognized the rules adopted by his government for the conduct of its armies in the field; and so, on September 29, 1861, he wrote to General Robert Anderson, at Louisville, Ky., saying, among other things:
“I am sorry to report that in spite of my orders and entreaties, our troops are committing depredations that will ruin our cause. Horses and wagons have been seized, cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens taken by our men, some of whom wander for miles around . . . the men are badly disciplined and give little heed to my orders or those of their own regimental officers.”
Later on General Sherman said, “War is hell.” If we could record here all the testimony in our possession, from the people of Georgia and South Carolina, who had the misfortune to live along the line of his famous “march to the sea,” during nearly the whole length of which he was warring against, and depredating on, women, children, servants, old men, and other non-combatants, it would show that he had certainly contributed everything in his power to make war “Hell,” as he termed it; and he has justly earned the distinction of being called the ruling genius of this creation.
“We consumed the corn and fodder in the region of country thirty miles on either side of a line from Atlanta to Savannah; also the sweet potatoes, hogs, sheep and poultry, and carried off more than ten thousand horses and mules. I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia at one hundred million dollars, at least twenty millions of which enured to our benefit, and the remainder was simply waste and destruction.”
Captain Daniel Oakley of the Second Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers . . . says this:
“It was sad to see the wanton destruction of property, which was the work of “bummers,” who were marauding through the country committing every sort of outrage. There was no restraint . . . The country was necessarily left to take care of itself and became a howling waste.” Another Northern soldier, writing for the “Detroit Free Press,” gives the following graphic account:
“After describing the burning of Marietta, in which the writer says, among other things, “soldiers rode from house to house, entered without ceremony, and kindled fires in garrets and closets and stood by to see that they were not extinguished.”
He then further says: “Had one been able to climb to such a height in Atlanta as to enable him to see for forty miles around the day Sherman marched out, he would have been appalled at the destruction. Hundreds of homes had been burned, every rod of fence destroyed, nearly every fruit tree cut down, and the face of the country so changed that one born in that section could scarcely recognize it. The vindictiveness of war would have trampled the very earth out of sight had such a thing been possible.”
Again he says: “At the beginning of the campaign at Dalton, the Federal soldiery had received encouragement to become vandals . . . When Sherman cut loose from Atlanta everybody had license to throw off restraint and make Georgia “drain the bitter cup.” The Federal who wants to learn what it was to license an army to become vandals should mount a horse at Atlanta and follow Sherman’s route for fifty miles. He can hear stories from the lips of women that would make him ashamed of the flag that waved over him as he went into battle.
When the army had passed nothing was left but a trail of desolation and despair. No houses escaped robbery, no woman escaped insult, no building escaped the firebrand, except by some strange interposition. War may license an army to subsist on the enemy, but civilized warfare stops at livestock, forage and provisions. It does not enter the houses of the sick and helpless and rob women of their finger rings and carry off their clothing.”
[Sherman] not only does not say that he tried to prevent his army from committing these outrages, but says, on page 255 (Memoirs], in referring to his march through South Carolina: “I would not restrain the army, lest its vigor and energy be impaired.”
(The Confederate Cause and Conduct in the War Between the States, Hunter McGuire & George Christian, L.H. Jenkins, Publisher, 1907, pp. 78-82)