“Grantism” and “Shermanism”
by Allan Callahan
IT IS PROBABLY common today for most people to look upon modern warfare as being much more “humane” than it used to be. They have read of conquered peoples being sold into slavery in ancient times, and sometimes put to the sword. Nothing like that happens today, they assert. No, it doesn’t happen today because the Machine Age made the slave obsolete, and we no longer fight with swords. But civilians are still singled out for attack, as the democracies proved, in a big way, in WWII. One word for this, coined during the Civil War, was “Grantism.” Onto the shoulders of Ulysses S. Grant was laid the moral responsibility for the way the war was waged. William Tecumseh Sherman received much blame in the South, too, because of his infamous “March to the Sea.” It appears that he deserves to have an “ism” placed behind his name fully as much as Grant did. The “March” seems to have been Sherman’s idea, but Grant approved of it, because he was willing to ignore the modern rules of war to achieve victory. Robert E. Lee was not willing to ignore them. He said: “There are things a gentleman does not do.” Sherman was born in 1820. His father, a judge, died when the boy was around nine, and the family scattered. He was taken in and raised by the family of Hon. Thomas Ewing, who got him into West Point when he became of age. After years of service, he resigned from the army, went into banking for awhile, then practised law until 1859. In Feb. of 1861 he became president of a Saint Louis railroad company, but this didn’t last long. In May of that year he went back into the army, as a colonel.
Sherman seems to have been a man wracked by doubts and insecurity, the latter maybe being caused, at least in part, by his feeling of being abandoned as a youth. At base he was an angry man, prone to rage. His marriage ran into difficulties.
His detractors said that he never won a battle against an enemy of equal strength. He never fully understood the origins of the war. Sent to Kentucky in 1861, he fell into depression, couldn’t sleep, was sure that his own forces were inadequate, felt that the Union cause was hopeless, and saw spies everywhere.
He never fully supported the goals of the war, and had contempt for Negroes. At the start of the war he even had contempt for the Union itself, and didn’t bother to vote. Before hostilities broke out he told Secretary of War Cameron: “. . . I do recoil from a war when the negro is the only question.”
Also at the beginning of the war he had a fondness for the South. Sherman knew Southerners well, admired them, and didn’t hold their institution of slavery against them. He wrote to his daughter that Southerners must be subdued “but we mean them no harm,” and urged her not to use words like “rebels” and “traitors” when referring to them.
Gradually his feelings toward the Union became more favorable, he became a “conditional Unionist,” and this feeling hardened as the conflict dragged on. At one time he almost destroyed himself, but finally snapped out of his depression after the battle of Shiloh. Here, serving under Grant, he won a military and personal victory. He still had rages, but whereas he first swallowed them and directed them against himself, in self-reproach, he now directed them against the enemy, at first, against enemy forces, and later, against civilians, also. He stated that “. . . the best military strategy is to attack civilians.”
His chance to put this into practice, on a large scale, came after he occupied Atlanta on September 8, 1864, and this was due mainly to a mistake of his opponent, Confederate Gen. Hood, who sent his cavalry too far to the Union rear to be able to recall them in time. Sherman could then direct his rage against civilians, but first he had to get permission from Grant, which he did.
The inhabitants of Atlanta were given five days to evacuate the city. Fire and explosives were then used to level it. This done, Sherman’s soldiers then embarked on their “March to the Sea,” destroying the homes and food supplies of the civilian population. Other smaller towns suffered the same fate as Atlanta, and all told, an area of cultivated land larger than Belgium and Holland together was devastated.
Sherman may be best remembered for his statement that “war is hell.” His own actions against the civilian population made his part in the Civil War much more hellish than it should have been.
At any rate, this statement does not seem to have had much effect on men’s decisions on whether to go to war or not. Wars have not slacked off any.
His belief that “the best military strategy is to attack civilians” may have had great effect upon the thinking of the U.S. and Britain in WWII. Their “carpet bombing” of civilians in large cities indicates that it did. In passing, it could be said that, terrible as Sherman’s actions were, at least they took place during wartime. After WWII had ended, the American and French armies in Europe annihilated around one million German POWs, most of them perishing in American camps under control of part-Jew Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The deaths in these overcrowded and appallingly unsanitary camps were deliberate, caused by starvation, disease and exposure. The Americans had plenty of food, and also refused to let locals bring in food. Sometimes guards even denied the prisoners water for several days at a time. The meager food rations caused a high daily death rate, but when water was also withheld, the POWs “died like flies.” Grant and Sherman were cruel; Eisenhower was unspeakable.
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Source: Liberty Bell magazine, November 1995 and Racial Realism