On this date in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began his horrendous Savannah Campaign in order to strangle the South. The campaign later came to be known as “Sherman’s March to the Sea.” By November 15, Sherman had taken control of Atlanta, Georgia. On November 16, his troops started out toward Savannah, taking the city on December 21, 1864.
Sherman’s soldiers left a path of destruction sixty miles wide as they made their way across Georgia, burning, stealing, and killing everything in their path. Escaped slaves followed the soldiers for miles, praising Sherman and worshiping him as a savior. In one instance, Sherman, who was a racist, ordered his soldiers to dismantle a bridge once they had crossed over it. The ex-slaves tried to swim across, but many were swept away in the current and drowned.
Sherman’s March created so much physical and psychological harm in his “total war” that it caused irreparable wounds. It has been portrayed in such classics as Margaret Mitchell’s novel, “Gone with the Wind.” The actions of General Sherman and his men caused such deep scars that the damage they inflicted still exists. Many ruins of once astounding plantation houses still speckle the South. And Southerners who are patriotic to their homeland still hold a grudge toward the Union general and his destructive forces.