The capture of Atlanta made Sherman one of the top military leaders of the Civil War. He used his hero status to convince Lincoln and Grant to adopt a new strategy of "total war." Sherman had spent his lifetime studying and thinking about the tactics of warfare. He had concluded that the Civil War was more than just a battle between armies— it was also a conflict between two different societies and ways of life. He felt that in order to win the war and achieve a lasting peace, the North had to break the spirit of the Southern people and convince them to give up the fight. In order to do this, Sherman planned to march his army through the heart of the Confederacy and attack civilian as well as military targets.
Sherman turned Atlanta into a fortress and forced all civilians to evacuate the city. In November 1864, he ordered his soldiers to set fire to the railroads, factories, and shops in Atlanta that could be used by the Confederates. The fire spread out of control and ended up consuming one-third of the city, including the main business district and thousands of homes. Then Sherman set out toward Savannah with sixty-two thousand soldiers. During their famous "March to the Sea," Sherman's army lived off the land, with no outside supplies or communications. Sherman spread his forces into a line that stretched sixty miles wide, and authorized them to take food and supplies wherever they found them. They cut a wide strip through the heart of the Confederacy, taking whatever they could use and destroying anything that could be used by the Confederate Army. Sherman concluded his historic march by successfully capturing Savannah on December 24, 1864. He sent a telegraph message to Lincoln that offered him "as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah."
In February 1865, Sherman moved his troops northward into South Carolina. They encountered little resistance as they captured the South Carolina cities of Augusta and Colum-
bia, then moved into North Carolina. In April, Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston—who had regained his command from Hood—requested a meeting with Sherman near Raleigh. Sherman had inflicted more punishment on the Southern people than any other Union general, but mainly because he believed that it would bring a quick end to the war. As soon as he saw an opportunity for peace, he grabbed it. Sherman negotiated generous surrender terms with Johnston. But President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (18141869) rejected the treaty. They felt that Sherman had gone beyond his authority in reaching agreements on nonmilitary matters. Sherman and Johnston met again later in the month, and this time their treaty was accepted. A few weeks earlier, Confederate general Robert E. Lee (1807-1870; see entry) had surrendered to Grant to mark the end of the Civil War.
"War Is Hell"
Many people think of General William T. Sherman as the man who came up with the expression, "War is hell." Although Sherman certainly shared this feeling, he never actually said it. Some historians believe that the mistaken quotation was taken from a letter the general wrote to the leaders of Atlanta, Georgia, shortly after capturing the city in 1864. In this letter, he defended his order for civilians to evacuate Atlanta by saying that "War is cruelty." But it is more likely that these words came from a speech Sherman made in 1880. Addressing a group of Civil War veterans, Sherman said: "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys, war is all hell."
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