In concert with General Ulysses Grant’s grand strategy to bring an end to the civil
war, General William Tecumseh Sherman utilized and pioneered, “Total War” to
devastating effect on the south. I will discuss the campaign objectives, the march to
Georgia and the Carolinas, and finally General Sherman’s strategy of “Total War”. Each
topic serves to emphasize special importance of the contributions to Lincoln’s reelection
and of the Civil War as a whole as a Union victory.
The campaign objectives that were carried out by General Sherman were to bring
massive damage to the Confederates, economically, psychologically, and strategically.
The desired effect would have been to demoralize the enemy and deny them the ability to
wage further war. Finally, in the endgame, Union forces would hold General Lee’s army
in a vice grip.
Without any major gains in President Lincoln’s direction to fight the Confederates
for restoring the Union, his upcoming re-election did not seem to be in his favor.
However, the next series of fortunate events have helped bolster the president’s support.
It wasn’t until a series of victories by Sherman did President Lincoln’s approval rating
steadily climbed. I believed the Union could have just as easily lost on two fronts if
positive gains on the battlefield did not come, having a direct negative impact on
Lincoln’s reelection. The next would-be democratic president to succeed Lincoln would
most likely have chosen a more compromising route, possibly forever changing the
geographical landscape in an accepted Confederate sovereignty.
General Sherman was intent to use total war deliberately as a necessity in denying
the Confederate South any means to wage war. In carrying out the strategy, Sherman
identified factories, crops, rail roads, and anything that could keep the gears of war
turning for the enemy; they must all be eliminated. The resultant effect was desolation up
to sixty miles wide in Georgia towards the Atlantic. In addition, with the destruction of
the rail roads, supplies were no longer being fed by rail. Foraging was ordered, which
dealt an even more humiliating blow to the enemy.
If a Union army can march straight through enemy territory in the deep south, it
would have devastating impact on enemy morale and a boost to the home front for the
Union; the war could actually be won. Like Atlanta, Sherman held no reservations in
leniency for South Carolina. It was his intention to make an example of the first state to
secede and demoralize the enemy further. General Sherman did held restraint in other
southern states however.
By the time General Sherman marched into North Carolina, the Confederacy was
already ready to fall. For the march from behind General Lee’s forces only tightened
Grant’s vice on the enemy. In April 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered.
General William Tecumseh Sherman introduced total war, in the most modern
applications during the Civil War. The strategy was instrumental in ushering a decisive
close to the war. The strategy was able to save lives on both sides as a result of ending
any possible continuation of fighting. Most importantly, it was the assistance to
President Lincoln’s reelection, with continued efforts in Washington for a Union victory.