Remembering William T. Sherman on his 200th birthday

At a time when Confederate monuments are being pulled down, it would make sense to think one of the military geniuses who defeated the real live Confederates might, conversely, be honored, right?

Not in an age of idiocy.

So the 200th birthday of General William T. Sherman, destroyer of Atlanta and much of the South across the Civil War, the master strategist who, alongside U.S. Grant, led the Union forces to victory, goes virtually unnoted.

He's been called the first modern general, the general of total war, a man whose place in history is certainly worth some kind of notation.  At a minimum, his total warfare is what finally got the slaves freed in the South, which, while some historians quibble about it, was pretty much what the Civil War was about.

It shows that all the Confederate statue pull-downs weren't really about slavery or virtue-signaling. Total war isn't a popular thing, any more than victory is to this bunch, even if it means black people could finally be physically out of chains.  That was the way black people were freed, though.  Today's leftists are convinced that the only way to enact any change of that kind is through Gandhi-an nonviolent resistance — which did work to end bad social constructs that followed the Civil War but were useless in freeing people in physical chains.  Only true physical force (by Sherman and Grant) really worked in that circumstance.  That might explain why the wokesters are not cheering Sherman's birthday, or appreciating anything Sherman achieved by force, which was rather consequential to the Confederates in the days when it mattered.  Statues are so much easier.

The wokester statue pulls were really just about just going Taliban, erasing history altogether, good, bad, complex, and replacing the entire history of the Civil War with Howard Zinn–style identity-politics myths.  The man who really did defeat slavery, on the military battlefront, in a deadly, disease-ridden, utterly brutal war of attrition, Sherman, gets quietly erased from memory too — not by a statue pull-down, but by ignoring him.

On a Google search, I found only a tiny recognition of the bicentennial in Sherman's hometown paper in Lancaster, Ohio.  Two professors decided to act out a play demonstrating the conversations and correspondences between Grant and Sherman.  If I were anywhere near that part of the country, I'd go see it.  But this absence of recognition anywhere in the news or beyond is really pretty sad, calling to light that history has no meaning in the age of wokesters.

As a little kid, I was obsessed with reading about the Civil War.  Being little, I memorized everyone's birthdays, which is how I remember this date.  Sherman, to me, was pretty much derived from seeing Gone With the Wind many times.  My view of Sherman in those years was about what Scarlett O'Hara's in the ruins of Tara shooting the Yankee deserter was: Sherman was a monster.  The guy was a human rights–violator who burned through the region and indiscriminately left the people to starve to win the war, which is apparently true.  Margaret Mitchell did base her book on accounts of Southerners who lived through it.  It's pretty much forbidden under the laws of warfare today, which is why attention is not being paid.  As Sherman himself said: war is hell.

But later readings tended to put more dimension on what really happened.  The North was determined to defeat the South to preserve the Union.  The South was determined to get away and, incidentally, preserve an outrageous and unviable slave system.  The South, dependent on that slave economy, and having all its rail and transport lines going north-south, was unusually vulnerable economically.  The North, led by Sherman, hit them at their weak spot, driving through Atlanta to the sea, burning everything in its path to break the Southern economy, inflicting tremendous human suffering on non-combatants in what was total war.  The North had tried a lot of things before Sherman (and Grant) came along, and this was what worked.  Probably nothing else would have.  It's a sad story, but there was no other path to victory after all the blood and treasure expended.

Wokesters, though, don't like the idea of victory, any more than much of the Deep State or Pentagon brass or credentialed foreign policy establishment.  So much for Sherman being "the first modern general."  He was as archaic as history.

Sherman himself though wasn't a monster at all.  Several things stand out that make him sympathetic.  Like Grant, he was kind of a sensitive soul, fond of painting, not something you expect in the modern age in a soldier.  He was so disturbed by war early in the Civil War that he had a nervous breakdown and had to be shipped back to Ohio to recuperate.  He came back, though, and fought with brilliance for the union, ruthlessly, against his own nature, because there was a higher cause at stake.

When the Atlanta city council begged Sherman to not throw all the residents out of the city before he burned it down, you can see his many dimensioned intensity in his harsh yet kind response to them:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war ... I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success. But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

But it's not as if Sherman didn't feel it himself. He continued to hate war -- after the destruction through the South, he actually lost his Catholic religious faith in the war, which sometimes happens to people under trauma they cannot process. 

I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers ... tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.

That doesn't sound fake, and in fact, apparently nothing he said ever was, which is why he's worth listening to.

He also was known for his intense loyalty to Grant, reportedly retorting to a plot cooked up in the swamp (they had swampers then, too) to have him replace Grant:

General Grant is a great general. I know him well. He stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always.

Yet after the war, Sherman kept his word to the Atlanta city council - he enjoyed cordial post-war relations with his former Confederate battlefield enemies, an amazing thing to consider in today's woke-politics world. He was no frozen dinosaur on that front. Joseph E. Johnston, a Confederate general ranking just below Robert E. Lee, and well regarded in the South, served as a pallbearer at Sherman's funeral, refusing to put on his hat in cold weather, because, he said, if Sherman were the pallbearer and he were the body, Sherman would refuse. Johnston actually caught pneumonia and died a month later for that act of respect. Sherman, and particularly Grant, also had warm post-war relations with Confederate general James Longstreet, the man Lee called his "war horse."

Sherman also stayed out of politics, although he went on to serve as General of the Army under President Grant, he was famous for fiercely saying he'd refuse to run if nominated, and if elected, would refuse to serve. Again, something entirely foreign to hear today.

Sherman's a character who deserves some intensive study, given his intriguing human dimensions and because he's so different from the kind of people we see today. But he's not. He's too complicated for an age of wokeness and identity politics. Yet the very truth of his intense existence exposes the left for all its jejeune ideas. America, though, is poorer for not remembering. 

At a time when Confederate monuments are being pulled down, it would make sense to think one of the military geniuses who defeated the real live Confederates might, conversely, be honored, right?

Not in an age of idiocy.

So the 200th birthday of General William T. Sherman, destroyer of Atlanta and much of the South across the Civil War, the master strategist who, alongside U.S. Grant, led the Union forces to victory, goes virtually unnoted.

He's been called the first modern general, the general of total war, a man whose place in history is certainly worth some kind of notation.  At a minimum, his total warfare is what finally got the slaves freed in the South, which, while some historians quibble about it, was pretty much what the Civil War was about.

It shows that all the Confederate statue pull-downs weren't really about slavery or virtue-signaling. Total war isn't a popular thing, any more than victory is to this bunch, even if it means black people could finally be physically out of chains.  That was the way black people were freed, though.  Today's leftists are convinced that the only way to enact any change of that kind is through Gandhi-an nonviolent resistance — which did work to end bad social constructs that followed the Civil War but were useless in freeing people in physical chains.  Only true physical force (by Sherman and Grant) really worked in that circumstance.  That might explain why the wokesters are not cheering Sherman's birthday, or appreciating anything Sherman achieved by force, which was rather consequential to the Confederates in the days when it mattered.  Statues are so much easier.

The wokester statue pulls were really just about just going Taliban, erasing history altogether, good, bad, complex, and replacing the entire history of the Civil War with Howard Zinn–style identity-politics myths.  The man who really did defeat slavery, on the military battlefront, in a deadly, disease-ridden, utterly brutal war of attrition, Sherman, gets quietly erased from memory too — not by a statue pull-down, but by ignoring him.

On a Google search, I found only a tiny recognition of the bicentennial in Sherman's hometown paper in Lancaster, Ohio.  Two professors decided to act out a play demonstrating the conversations and correspondences between Grant and Sherman.  If I were anywhere near that part of the country, I'd go see it.  But this absence of recognition anywhere in the news or beyond is really pretty sad, calling to light that history has no meaning in the age of wokesters.

As a little kid, I was obsessed with reading about the Civil War.  Being little, I memorized everyone's birthdays, which is how I remember this date.  Sherman, to me, was pretty much derived from seeing Gone With the Wind many times.  My view of Sherman in those years was about what Scarlett O'Hara's in the ruins of Tara shooting the Yankee deserter was: Sherman was a monster.  The guy was a human rights–violator who burned through the region and indiscriminately left the people to starve to win the war, which is apparently true.  Margaret Mitchell did base her book on accounts of Southerners who lived through it.  It's pretty much forbidden under the laws of warfare today, which is why attention is not being paid.  As Sherman himself said: war is hell.

But later readings tended to put more dimension on what really happened.  The North was determined to defeat the South to preserve the Union.  The South was determined to get away and, incidentally, preserve an outrageous and unviable slave system.  The South, dependent on that slave economy, and having all its rail and transport lines going north-south, was unusually vulnerable economically.  The North, led by Sherman, hit them at their weak spot, driving through Atlanta to the sea, burning everything in its path to break the Southern economy, inflicting tremendous human suffering on non-combatants in what was total war.  The North had tried a lot of things before Sherman (and Grant) came along, and this was what worked.  Probably nothing else would have.  It's a sad story, but there was no other path to victory after all the blood and treasure expended.

Wokesters, though, don't like the idea of victory, any more than much of the Deep State or Pentagon brass or credentialed foreign policy establishment.  So much for Sherman being "the first modern general."  He was as archaic as history.

Sherman himself though wasn't a monster at all.  Several things stand out that make him sympathetic.  Like Grant, he was kind of a sensitive soul, fond of painting, not something you expect in the modern age in a soldier.  He was so disturbed by war early in the Civil War that he had a nervous breakdown and had to be shipped back to Ohio to recuperate.  He came back, though, and fought with brilliance for the union, ruthlessly, against his own nature, because there was a higher cause at stake.

When the Atlanta city council begged Sherman to not throw all the residents out of the city before he burned it down, you can see his many dimensioned intensity in his harsh yet kind response to them:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war ... I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success. But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

But it's not as if Sherman didn't feel it himself. He continued to hate war -- after the destruction through the South, he actually lost his Catholic religious faith in the war, which sometimes happens to people under trauma they cannot process. 

I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers ... tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.

That doesn't sound fake, and in fact, apparently nothing he said ever was, which is why he's worth listening to.

He also was known for his intense loyalty to Grant, reportedly retorting to a plot cooked up in the swamp (they had swampers then, too) to have him replace Grant:

General Grant is a great general. I know him well. He stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always.

Yet after the war, Sherman kept his word to the Atlanta city council - he enjoyed cordial post-war relations with his former Confederate battlefield enemies, an amazing thing to consider in today's woke-politics world. He was no frozen dinosaur on that front. Joseph E. Johnston, a Confederate general ranking just below Robert E. Lee, and well regarded in the South, served as a pallbearer at Sherman's funeral, refusing to put on his hat in cold weather, because, he said, if Sherman were the pallbearer and he were the body, Sherman would refuse. Johnston actually caught pneumonia and died a month later for that act of respect. Sherman, and particularly Grant, also had warm post-war relations with Confederate general James Longstreet, the man Lee called his "war horse."

Sherman also stayed out of politics, although he went on to serve as General of the Army under President Grant, he was famous for fiercely saying he'd refuse to run if nominated, and if elected, would refuse to serve. Again, something entirely foreign to hear today.

Sherman's a character who deserves some intensive study, given his intriguing human dimensions and because he's so different from the kind of people we see today. But he's not. He's too complicated for an age of wokeness and identity politics. Yet the very truth of his intense existence exposes the left for all its jejeune ideas. America, though, is poorer for not remembering.