Skip to main content

tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  August 22, 2014 5:18am-6:10am EDT

5:18 am
lost cause. and had the federal authorities not arrested him, put him in a cell at for the monroe and clamped him in irons and made a martyr out of him, he would have been denounced through much of southern history. they turned him into the man who was persecuted for the white south but made him a hero. even so post war confederates did not like to air their dirty linen in pub and most them did not do so. johnston was also praised in the writings of his federal opponents. william t. sherman had good things to say about johnston in his memoirs published in 1875. grant said i worried more when joe johnston was in command in front of my army than when robert e. lee was. i don't know if grant actually
5:19 am
said that or not, but if he did, that alone should take his reputation down many notches. because among other things, johnston almost never commanded troops in front of grant's army. only for a few weeks in january and february 1864 did johnston command troops in front of grant and those troops that time sat in their winter quarters and had snowball battles with each other. i don't know why grant was so worried. johnston's men are attacking with snowballs. we have to worry about that. johnston benefited from a lot of the early writing about the war. one of the early prolific historians was edward a. pollard, a richmond journalist who absolutely hated jefferson davis and pollard was writing books almost by the month -- i mean almost as furiously as brian does here. just books vomiting out of
5:20 am
edward a. pollard. in which he denounced jefferson davis in very harsh terms especially for his treatment of joe johnston and it's interesting to sit down with pollard's books because a lot of it sounds an awful like joe johnston. i had some pretty good indications that he and johnston spent good time talking to him. he wrote vile things about jefferson davis in his treatment about joe johnston. even some of the northern writers wrote stuff about it. and his main source for writing about the atlanta campaign was edward a. pollard. and greeley said he got his
5:21 am
information from johnston, so he knows it must be correct. this would not be the critical thinking one would like among historical writers. johnston also benefited by his early biographers. johnston died in 1891. he had two quick biographies. one of them by badly t., who a dear good friend of his and military subordinate, who confessed in his induction that i love joe johnston and the other ones by his kinsman robert hughes and for 50 or 60 years those were the only two biographies of joe johnston that were available. hood didn't have a biography at all until the middle of the 20th century. johnston benefits from all of these things. he also benefited from trends in civil war writing.
5:22 am
the overemphasis on virginia meant that people writing about the war in georgia and atlanta didn't have much to work with and didn't spend a lot of time trying to describe it. they grabbed quickly available sources. people like pollard and greeley and foot and others. these sources for writing the history of johnston's army are widely scattered. you could write a history of the confederate army of virginia, robert e. lee's army and never go more than 150 miles from richmond. that would take you to raleigh, durham, chapel hill to the south and washington and baltimore to the north. and you couple that with the charlottesville and the material in richmond itself, there's no point in going elsewhere to write a history of the confederate army in
5:23 am
virginia. to write a history of tennessee, you have to go all offer the map, from austin, to tallahassee, to baton rouge, to raleigh, nashville, to little rock, to new york, you have to go everywhere because that stuff was so scattered. we're getting collections now and published information on the confederate army on the west so it won't be quite as bad in the future as it has been in the past. but the result of all of this was that joe johnson's view the atlanta campaign was almost completely accepted for decades in the 20th century. the fact you grow up in atlanta as i did in the 1930s and 1940s, that's what you hear. joe johnston was the greatest thing since grits. if he had been left alone, if that idiot jefferson davis had not removed him from command, he would have defeated sherman
5:24 am
outside of atlanta. he would have driven sherman back to chattanooga. he would have flanked him on to nashville. he would have forced him to retreat to louisville. pursued him across the ohio river. back up through illinois, across the great lakes. the remnants of sherman's army would have been drowned in hudson bay, after which joe johnston would have turned and marched on washington and forced lincoln to acknowledge the independence of the confederacy. joe johnston was just great. it got into books and movies and it's very difficult to get people to realize that what they see in movies and read in books is not necessarily so. i had an interesting experience along these lines one time. there was a movie made back i believe in the late '50s called
5:25 am
"on the beach." one of you two look like you might be old enough to remember that. it's a movie set in australia in the after math of the world war iii, the united states, they have killed everybody on earth except the people in australia. those blokes are drinking beer and singing and awaiting the arrival of a radioactive cloud. and this became the kind of pilot movie for a whole genre of films like this on wiping out all life on earth. there was one i was teaching in north carolina state. i think it was a made for television movie if i recall collectly called "the day after." except for the same thing except they are in kansas and north dakota. i had stupids what was it like -- i had students come up and see me, what was it like growing up in the 1950s. >> i mean what do you mean?
5:26 am
>> all you worried about your life being wiped out killed in some kind of atomic blast. some of you remember this, you practice getting under your desk in your home room in case the russians dropped a hydrogen bomb on the school. the students said what was it like thinking about that all the time? i said i have no earthly idea. i didn't think about that. what did you think about it? i thought about this scenario began 800 million years ago when there was a massive rupture on the cosmic continuum on the other side of the big dipper as a result of that a gigantic killer asteroid was jarred out of its normal orbit around the star alpha centuri that in 1955
5:27 am
brought it back into the solar system where it bounced off the planet pluto. pluto was a planet in 1955. ricochetted over, smashed into the earth, throwing up a gigantic cloud of dirt, dust, and debris and when all of that had settled down, there were only 12 people left on earth. 12 people left on earth. only 12 people left on earth. who were they? >> who were they you ask? elizabeth taylor. natalie wood, jane russell, susan haywood. marilyn monroe. kim novak. eva gardener. a audrey hepburn, jane mansfield
5:28 am
and myself. that's what i thought about when i was in high school. [ laughter ] >> but you put this into movies and television about johnston being such a great general and hood being such bad gun and people -- it's got to be true, i saw it in a movie. you know, kind of thing. you could ignore what hood wrote. i mean, after all, by that time hood was this pathetic creature in the history books. ambitious. not just normally ambitious but unscrupulously ambitious. a liar. incompetent. addicted to drugs because of his amputated leg. trying to prove himself a man because he was engaged to the beautiful sally buchanan preston, called buck preston. just a total worthless man hopping around on his one foot trying to impress her.
5:29 am
you can ignore hood. the problem is i found out in decades of research, the problem with ignoring him is that the facts get in the way. facts are strange things. and when you get beyond this rather superficial stuff that people like pollard and greeley and some of the others have written and get down to looking at the facts, things begin to look quite different from what they were originally in your mind. we don't have time to get into a lot of this but let me just give you one example. at the very beginning of the campaign according to joseph e. johnston in his memoirs. his army numbered about 43,000 men. on may 1st, at and near dalton in northwestern georgia. but there's a fact that in the official records there's a document dated april 30th, the
5:30 am
day before, in which johnston himself reported to the confederate government that he had 55,000 men present for duty. i don't know what happened to those 12,000 men on the night of april 30th-may 1st. mass desertion. who knew. maybe the radioactive atomic cloud got there and wiped out 12 thousand of his men. or the question of casualties. johnston had his medical director, johnston lost according to his medical director 9,972 men killed and wounded in his infantry and artillery in may and june. historians have taken that up. and said johnston lost 9,972 men and they ignore those qualifications. killed and wounded. infantry and artillery, may and june. what about prisoners? what about men lost to sickness during the retreat?
5:31 am
one time, johnston said he was losing 300 men a day to sickness. what about deserters? hood said johnston lost 22,750 men. you make reasonable estimates for casualties in the cavalry, in the first two weeks in july which included the evacuation of kennesaw mountain. and the retreat across the river when there were a lot of desertions. you make reasonable estimates for number of prisoners. you wind up pretty close to the 22,750 men that hood had specified. what i'm getting at in all of this is if you get into all the facts, johnston begins to look a lot less brilliant. hood tends to look a lot better, and a lot of the writing about the atlanta campaign in the last 20 or 30 years has been moving in that direction. so that the view of the campaign
5:32 am
that a lot of us were given or read about when we were growing up is changing and it turns out that joseph e. johnston is not regarded now by a lot of people as the greatest thing since grits. he was regarded as a general who retreated into the very heart of the confederacy. it is true he did not lose any great battles in 1864 or at any other time, but it is also true that his retreat into the atlanta area was a political and logistical disaster for the confederacy and johnston's once exalted reputation has begun to come down. why do i call this the general in the jar? many years ago, the folks at the dallas-ft. worth round table were kind enough to invite me to come and speak.
5:33 am
i was speaking on the atlanta campaign. and there is a gentlemen in that round table whose hobby is making little figures about yea high of civil war people. if you've got a speaker open jefferson davis, he will make a little figure of jefferson davis like this and he will mount that figure on a wooden disk, a circular disk and put a glass bell jar over it and present it to the speaker. it's a nice gesture. so he had seen i was speaking on the atlanta campaign and he was certain that i was going to tell him what a great general joseph e. johnston was. when i finished my talk, he got up to give me this little figure of joe johnston that he had made. he had a rather sheepish look on his face and he said would you like me to take this and make one of hood?
5:34 am
what are you going to do saw off one of the legs? i mean that's what the doctor did. but it's a wonderful little thing. it's a nice item. anybody interested in the civil war would like to have this to put on the mantle piece. i was very glad to get it. i thanked him for it. took it back to the motel that night. i was going down to waco to speak down there. wrapped it up in an old dirty t-shirt, put it very carefully in my suitcase. went down to waco in the rental car the next day. spoke there, came back. went to the airport at dfw. checked the bag to go to washington because i was going up there to a smithsonian program, spend a few days at my brother's doing research in the archives. did that. jar still wrapped up in its t-shirt.
5:35 am
went back after i finished to the airport, checked the bag to go back to my home. changed planes in atlanta. they change the bag to the little world war i plane that they use between atlanta and albany, georgia. got down to albany, picked up my suitcase, put it in the car, and drove back. i was convinced that bell jar had broken and it would be a million pieces of glass i would throw out everything in the suitcase. but i got home. opened the suitcase. very carefully unwrapped the bell jar. the glass bell jar was fine, but somewhere in the jarring around the little figure of joe johnston had gone -- that seems very symbolic. thank you people. i hope i've given you something to think about. [ applause ]
5:36 am
5:37 am
thank you very much paul. and thank you all very much for coming. merchant of terror, demon, a killer. if you type was sherman a into
5:38 am
google the auto complete includes war criminal, hero or villain. and if you add a couple more letters you get terrorist. the urban dictionary, a popular website, describes generally william t. sherman as having employed the vicious tactic of targeting civilians. continuing, such tactics had previously been deemed morally unacceptable. the deliberate targeting of the civilians for attack was taken up in world war ii ending in the deaths of millions. the bombing of european cities by both sides of the war and japanese cities by the u.s., as well as attacks on civilians in china, the philippines and korea by japan were consistent with and encouraged by sherman's precedent. the logic of saving lives in the long run by these tactics seems to have been refuted by history. finally if you scroll through this entry, the words related to
5:39 am
general william t. sherman tags at the bottom include "collateral damage, modern warfare, furd, tmurder, terrori war criminal." now let me little a more modest and fair here. this is not the best source out there on sherman. it was written by somebody named text in tex. it was written and misquotes sherman at one point. and i'll always concede it does also include war hero. but what this does represent is a popularly held view that william t. sherman and the march through georgia and the carolinas during the finally months of the civil war have something to do with the creation of total war. and the millions of civilian deaths in the wars of the 20th and 21st century can somehow be laid at his feet.
5:40 am
nor does this view reside entirely on the internet, noted repository of kind of crack pot theories. a history of henry county georgia explains sherman's march to the sea was the first hint of the content of total war which was to come to full fruition during the second world war in which civilian infrastructure is considered a legitimate military target. later writers notably james reston junior tried to connect sherman's march to the atrocities in vietnam. and reston made the argument. he said that when a rash confederate ventured a shot on his trains from a courthouse, the courthouse was burned. when a lady burned her corn crib, she lost her house. the proportionality, this is still reston, of the retaliation is roughly the same if geometrically less as hostile fire from jungle rifle being greeted by b-52 strike.
5:41 am
one of the issues that comes into play when we talk about sherman and these questions of total war and the laws of war is that people seem to use pretty slippery definitions. often sherman seems to be judged by the standards of today, rather than of his own time. often when -- not as much historians, but when people use "total war" they seem to be referring to the degree of mobilization rather the range of targets. what i want to do is take closer look at sherman's march in the context of changing union policy os over the course of the war and see what he was doing and whether that fell within the bounds of civilized warfare. so in 1864 there were no hague or geneva conventions to govern the actions of belligerents. and that is not to say no guides for military behavior and conduct.
5:42 am
but these rules were very fluid and evolving and changing as the very nature of the civil war changed. so initially, union policy towards the confederacy and its civilians has been one of known as conciliation. the idea that there was this silent majority of unionists in the confederate states and all he needed to do was animate them and they would rise up and the states would rejoin the union. this conciliation policy therefore meant a really sort of narrow focus on targeting the confederate armies rather than antagonizing southern civilians. and in effect southern civilians were still being treated as though they were u.s. citizens rather than civilians of belligerent nation. how to in 1862 that began to change and during the summer
5:43 am
union general john pope had issued a series of orders that allow virginia to assist on the produce of the local countryside and lincoln was frustrated by the progress of the war to that point so he approved these orders. pope's soldiers went on a tear of destruction and violence, reminiscent actually of the stories that would come out of georgia and the carolinas two years later. and so great were the abuses perpetrated on civilians that pope actually had to kind of backtrack and condemn his men for being so out of control. so that's happened. at the same time in the summer of 1862 lincoln has come to the realization that he needs to use emancipation as a war measure. and once he issued the preliminary emancipation proclamation in september of 1862, the opportunity for this policy of conciliation to work was pretty much over and the war would become in historian mark
5:44 am
rimsly's phrase, "hard handed". at the same time. so all of this is all happening simultaneously in different levels. the union war department had begun consulting with a prussian born professor named francis lieber about devising a military code. lieber then in turn called his 1863 work a code for the government of armies. but the war department issued it as general orders number 100 and it's more popularly become to be known as the lieber code. the fs designed to codify the laws of war and particularly as they pertain to the interactions between civilians and soldiers. one of the most significant sections of the code are articles 14 through 16, which very carefully delineate military necessity. lieber has a pretty broad definition of that that deplores
5:45 am
cruelty and acts of vengeance as he would put it, but did allow for the making of war in civilians in specific situations and in fact there is a sort of tension internal to the lieber code over what's military necessity and what is going too far? so he does explain further in article 17. he says war is not carried on by arms alone. it is lawful to starve the hostile belligerent, armed or unarmed so it it leads to the speedier subjection of the enemy. he talks also in a later article, the citizen or native of a hostile country is thus an enemy. as one of the constituents of the hostile state of nations and as such is subjected to the hardships of war. so it is clear from lieber's code that there are ways that civilians can be targeted. because of the fact that
5:46 am
civilians are presumed to be inherently helping their military. that being said, among the code's prohibitions however were the theft and/or destruction of art works and the like. and now under punishment of death. this once again is liebers's language. all destruction of property not commanded by the authorized officer, all robbery, all pillage or sack iing even after taking place by main force, a rape, wounding, maiming or killing of such inhabitants. so there is a line and that line seems to be physical violence against civilians. you can destroy their property, some of it. not their art. which is nice. i mean -- but there is limits. now, confederates when they read the lieber code complain that
5:47 am
it's so broad that as to license mischief under the grounds of military necessity. also, by 1864 when sherman is preparing for the march, lincoln and the union in general had become comfortable with a high degree of destruction of private property. cotton could be burned easily. the contents of homes. if not the homes themselves in areas like missouri and the shenandoah valley. so one can argue that the lieber code, at least as it pertained to the treatment of civilians and their property, was probably honored more in the breach than it was followed to the letter. just after the war, something called field service in war by francis j. lippet was published. a manual specifically on military logistics. and he also leans on this doctrine of military necessity
5:48 am
to justify forageing. and he argues foragings was a quote, well-established right of war. he does concede though there need to be restraints placed on forageing because as he put it to do otherwise would be to bring dishonor on the country. and lip it's work, i know it's published after the war but it will all make sense it. dmomt demonstrates the compl complexity of the moral issues that surround forageing. you are inflicting hardship on that civilian population. and so in order to inflict, sort of, the magical right amount of hardship, enough but not undo, to operate within the moral boundaries of civilized warfare, officers need to maintain very
5:49 am
tight control. and lippet explains that without defined foraging parties and centralized systems chaos could ensue and the army would really descend into a sort of armed mob engaging in pillage and so forth. so what's interesting is that you would have expected lippet to use sherman's march as his examples as he's making this complicated case. he doesn't. he actually goes back to napoleon's russian campaign. and he doesn't ignore the march when he's talking about a arm can descend into chaos. that's where he used napoleon. he actually defends sherman's march. and explains how to men carefully discriminated and this is the language from sherman's orders. discriminated between the rich
5:50 am
who were generally hostile to us, meaning the union, and the poor and industrious who were usually friendly or at least neutral. and he also describes sherman as having this very organized system. and with rules and receipts. and he explains that any deviations from this nice, orderly foraging system on the march as he put it were the fault of a few bad apples, stragglers and the like. not the main force of the marchers. kind of talk about that in a minute. the ore piece i want to include in here is that white southerners during the march and immediately afterwards frequently drew comparisons between sherman's march and robert e. lee's invasion of maryland in 1862 and 63 and often quoted lee's general order
5:51 am
72 in the gettys burg campaign. and reminded them the duties expected of us by civilization and christianity are not less obligatory in the area of the enemy than in our own. and we make war only upon armed men and we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all who's abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies. so lee is often praised for these orders, right? that he's restraining his men and relying on their inherent gentility. that is a reading of what actually happened and many of these defenders of lee ignore the many wrongs perpetrated by lee's men specifically when they kidnapped african americans to sell into slavery into virginia.
5:52 am
so we'll set that aside. okay i've got an little ahead of myself and a little offtrack. let's talk now specifically about short-termen aerman and h. despite allegations to the contrary sherman himself was very well aware that war was governed by rules. these charges against sherman, you know, is he a war criminal, generally focus on two events. they focus on the march obviously which i'll talk about. but they also focus on his expulsion of civilians from atlanta. so sherman's army took control of the city of atlanta on september 2, 1864. they weren't planning to stay for very long. but he did want his men to use their time in the city for sort of recharging, to rest a little
5:53 am
bit after the riggeors of the campaign to take atlanta. and he didn't want his men distracted by confederate operatives or women and children. he didn't want to have to feed women and children. and he didn't want to have to leave any men behind to hold onto the city of atlanta when he pulled out of the city. so he famously ordered civilians, unionists and c confederates out of the city and gave them ten days which to comply. and it was about 1,200 people effected by this. many have used his september 12, 1864 letter to the mayor of atlanta in which he famously wrote, quote, war is cruelty and you cannot refine it. to make the argument that he was willing to do whatever worked. to wreak all kinds of havoc on civilians nord civilians in order to end the war. but in other letters written at the same time, sherman's quite explicit about following the rules and laws of war.
5:54 am
in fact he was quite angry when confederate general john bell hood challenged had legitimacy of evicti ining civilians from atlanta and he wrote, i think i understand the laws of civilized nations and the customs of war. and then he suggested maybe the confederates ought to be taking better care of prisoners at andersonville. in his final letter to hood he wrote he was not by the wars because he said the city had been fortified and was being used for military purposes. see the books, he testily concluded. so what of the march itself? before sherman left atlanta on november 15, 1864, he set some ground rules for his 62,000 men.
5:55 am
and he did them in the form of his special field orders number 120. there are nine articles altogether. the first several describe how he is going to divide up the army and their marching orders and then some center sections that in fact deal explicitly with what the army could and could not do along the march. so the men were instructed to, quote, forage liberally on the country and destroy mill, houses, cotton gins, etc. but within limits. the foraging parties were supposed on the regularized and under the control of discrete officers. soldiers were not supposed to enter homes, as long as -- and if the army was left unmolested, southern property was also supposed to be left alone. so essentially what sherman is saying, is if a group of union foragers came on to a farm or
5:56 am
plantation and they were allowed on and nobody was shooting at them or smarting off to them, then they were supposed to just leave all the property. and again, sherman also ordered that when seizing livestock in familiar, his men as i said ought to discriminate between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor and industrious, usually neutral or friendly. and if the arm was well-treated during their foraging, they were instructed to quote, leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance. so he is setting parameters. now, most of these rules were really more -- more honored in the breech than in reality. they are pretty elastic. but i think that the very existence of these rules gave sherman and to a lesser extent
5:57 am
his men a degree of i think moral cover. or at least that is what sherman is trying to achieve. they also allow for a certain elasticity. so you could treat some people more harshly and others more leniently. and there is pretty good evidence that in fact the march does have a sort of ebb and flow to it. certainly it is pretty harsh in georgia. it is extremely harsh in south carolina. and then the men are ordered to really pull back and be less destructive in north carolina because north carolina was perceived to have a lot of unionists. so i don't really want to come away from today thinking i'm a kind of apologyist for sherman's march or that i'm in any way trying to minimize the very real damage and devastation that the soldiers left in their wake. but what i am trying to say that the men were bound by rules and
5:58 am
they knew they were bound by rules. sherman certainly believed that he was operating within the laws of war and the parameters of civilized behavior. he's also willing to push exactly up to those boundaries of those rules. framing people, stealing their supplies, burning their barn, burning their houses even was one thing for sherman. i do think this the kind of wholesale killing, sexual violence as happened in areas ridden by gorilla violence, like missouri for example, was really beyond the pale for sherman's men by and large. sherman biographer michael fellman has argued that while the march quote stopped well short of a total war in the 20th century nazi sense, his rhetoric of destruction implied that he could make war on whomever he chose and that southern whites
5:59 am
would be powerless to stop him. and sherman is certainly well aware of the psychological impact of what he allowed his men to do and encouraged his men to do. does that make sherman a terrorist? he used his calculated brutality to terrorize the southern population. fellman i think really tries to split hairs as much as possible and describes sherman as having, quote, terrorist capacities. i also think there is some responsibility, clearly, for both destroying and reigning themselves in that accrues to the soldiers themselves on the march. and part of the reason that the march was not "total" in the 20th century sense because the veterans limited themselves held back by own internal and cultural sense of morality. i've done a lot of read toing o the march because i have this book coming out this summer. and i will tell you there are
6:00 am
very few instance of the doctor there is not murdering. there is not killing. there is not lining people up and shooting them. there is definitely some violence but not the kind of violence those associated with wars in the 20th and 21st centu centurys. so sherman himself may have overstepped the bounds of legality a few times. each time in retaliation for confederate actions and these charges again are regarding his use of prisoners of war. in the first instance he learned that torpedos or mines had been buried outside of savannah and called for prisoners of war to be brought up to clear the mines, not wanting to risk his own men. and then in the second, a group of union foragers had been captured and killed by wade hampton's men in south carolina and he urged a group of prisoners of war to draw lots
6:01 am
and had one man executed to set a retaliatory example. but, i would argue, what keeps sherman from being a terrorist in the modern sense is that he was operating during wartime with full sanction and full support of his government. and when the war ended, so too does his hostilities and his destruction. in many ways i think that a better analogy to terrorism in the wake of the civil war would be the waves of violence that confronted african americans during reconstruction, as they thought to exercise their new economic and social and political freedoms. and so this notion that sherman brought forth some new kind of war with the march really only makes sense in retrospect. it wasn't -- at the time people didn't perceive it as such. as the 19th century became the 20th and as wars of increasing deadliness and destructive power broke out around the globe, the march seemed to reappear again
6:02 am
and again. and often the analogies surrounding the march are strained. what they do is they reveal i think this evolving notion of the march that somehow the march becomes increasingly destructive as it is repeatedly compared to more modern or more current wars. and i'm going to just suggest a few things, give you a few examples of this. so sherman's march was invoked frequently when germany marched into belgium in 1914. often to actually remind americans of the costs of involvement of war, even when justifiable. once the united states became involved in world war i this usable past of sherman's march ceased to be a significant point of discussion. although, it kid reappear briefly after the war and i'm excited to talk about this in this room. which was that during testimony
6:03 am
before the senate committee on propaganda in 1919, grant's w e squires a new york lawyer who visited belgium testified to the atrocities he saw with the germans. men and women beat within rifle butts, children murdered and families starving without shelter. he was then asked to counter testimony given earlier by a german sympathizer, dr. you had mund van ma. to quote that sherman's march quote had also been a --. and american soldiers had quote, never killed women and children. whatever they did, they did not do that. and nelson, specifically asked squires to address van mach's
6:04 am
charges that the charges were no worse and the squires then confirmed that the germans were different than sherman's march. so what a i'm -- what i see coming out of this is this sense that there is a new standard set for violations of civilians. that where once short-teermansh thefts and fires were the worst people could imagine t great war issued horrors of a entirely different order of magnitude. interestingly there are very few mentions of the march during worlgd war two i was able to come across. but in the vietnam era perhaps because it coincided with the ce centennial of the civil war raised all sorts of analogies to the march. components of the war in vietnam compared sherman's actions to the actions of american soldiers in vietnam. the most detailed and culturally
6:05 am
significant exploration of this relationship somehow between short-termen a sherman and veto name came in james reston junior's 1984 book sherman's march and vietnam. where reston retraces the march through georgia and he's looking at the past to try to explain the turbulent present, this postvietnam world he's living in and he seems at times to draw this straight line this, straight connection, between 19th and 20th century violence. and here is a passage from this. general williams sherman is considered by many to be the author of totally war. the first general of modern hume history to dairy logic of war to ultimate extreme. the first to scorch the earth. the first to wreck an economy to starve soldiers. our first merchant of terror and our spiritual father. and the spiritual father some
6:06 am
contend of our vietnam concept of search and destroy, passification, strategic hamlets, free fire zones. as such he remains a cardboard figure of our history. a monstrous arch villain to unreconstructed southerners, an embarrassment to northerners who wonder if civilized war died with him. whether without sherman the atom bomb might not have been dropped or vietnam entered. now reston concedes after this passage that maybe he is getting -- this is a more metaphorical than real. but he's -- he is really trying to argue that there is, once you loose the bounds, the bounds were constantly loosed. he's trying to make an argument too that sherman's veterans -- that sherman's soldiers and he
6:07 am
put hs them west moreland soldiers has an desire for vengeance and reprisal and where they differed is just in matters of scale which he says is more a function of technology than of desire. and it seems worse in the 19th century because they had weapons of mass destruction and in the in the 19th they didn't. i don't buy it. let me conclude by evoking something what if today? where does sherman fit today? he sometimes is invoked in discussions of the ike waraq wa. again, this would be the dark reaches of internet where people are saying things like if only sherman had been in iraq or afghanistan. okay. just the other day though my --
6:08 am
on tuesday actually, my trusty google alert for sherman's march pointed me to a column on foreign policy entitled "sherman as a counterinsurgent." he argued he was embarking on a counter insurgency. not a heart and minds campaign. but instead a tough minded, you are either with us or against us approach with clear political and psychological dimensions. i read his column over a bunch of times. i'm not really convinced by his argument. but where i think his work is useful and what i am convinced of is that sherman's march and its relationship to what americans think about war is still very much alive and very much relevant today. thank you very much.
6:09 am
[ applause ] i'm happy to answer any questions. there we go. >> yeah, can you address a little -- you talked a lot about the topic from the standpoint of what sherman ordered. can you address kind of what actually was happening on the ground for the union troops? in particular, as may marched through the swath of the south, they obviously disrupted the society that was going on. but in particular, how did his men handle african american slaves? >> that is a great question. and actually my book, i have a whole chapter on the relationship between the march and african americans. as sherman's men


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on