General Sherman was a War Criminal

General William Tecumseh Sherman was one of the cruelest, most appalling figures to ever walk the face of the Americas. While his practices were much more common in war than not elsewhere, they were un-American by every measure.

Of course, it should be noted that this group’s founder has no horse in this race, as it pertains to the Civil War, War of Northern Aggression, War of Southern Independence, etc., etc. My grandparents and great grandparents immigrated to this country long after that war, and, I might add, lived for some time in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. I am also a native of Texas, a state that had been strongly divided on secession, which was opposed by founder Sam Houston. It barely won enough votes to carry. Besides this, Texas of course was (and still is) somewhat aloof to the rest of the goings on of North and South (Texas was a sovereign republic at one point, as you might recall). So I neither get worked up for one side or the other, since I see, rather clearly, that both sides, both North and South had their faults.

However, General Sherman was an evil man, and in today’s world would no doubt stand before a war crimes tribunal for the cruelties which he sponsored (unless, of course, he’s Russian, in which case the world would ignore it, but I digress).

In addition to ordering his troops to rape, murder, steal from, and burn down the homes of civilians white and black, free and slave (even callously causing hundreds of freed slaves to drown at Ebenezer Creek). The point of fact was that neither Sherman nor others in blue (such as Generals John Turchin, Thomas Williams, Col. Rush C. Hawkins, and many others ) had any regard for blacks, Indians or any other minority, nor the common decency afforded to women, children, the infirm, or the elderly. Sherman sought to punish every civilian for the fair conduct of his opponent on the battlefield with no regard for the issue of slavery. However, for those who saw it as some form of retribution for slavery, one must remember that only a tiny percentage of Southerners owned slaves, and, until the Emancipation Proclamation offered by Lincoln late in the war because the Union was losing, it was legal for those in the North to own slaves as well, which had been a practice, along with cities such as New York (the largest profiteer)and others tightly enmeshed in the slave trading business, despite the outlawing of the slave trade in 1803. Of course the only good of the war is that slavery was abolished, and eventually, blacks were recognized as having the same God-given rights every man should; however, Indians today continue to pay a heavy price arguably exacted early on as punishment for cooperation with the Confederacy. Indeed, if there exist today any truly second-class citizens in America, they are those Indians.

Although much of his practices were the rule rather than the exception for the Union army of this period, the extent of his atrocities which included the total destruction of two major cities and their surrounding countrysides make him the obvious focus of the evil that in that century also cost so many scores of thousands of Indian lives as well. In fact, the open war was declared on Indian civilians after Lee's Surrender in 1865 was a punitive one, set forth in retaliation for the close ties that existed between Indians and Confederates.

There is a right way and a wrong way to achieve a noble goal. The U.S. Presence in Germany and Japan after World War II and our presence elsewhere since, such as Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate that noble aims can be achieved through noble methods; in fact, success of our cause was partly more quickly seen because of our fair treatment of the civilian population. Contrast this with the rather bumpy ride of mistrust and lack of genuine good will and cooperation we had to suffer in the U.S. on fronts from Civil Rights to the more contemporary Red State-Blue State issues we face today; the resentment of the heartland towards a the New England elite and its reciprocating sentiment.

In contrast to this one can see the war policy of the Confederate army as expressed by General Robert E. Lee when he stated,

“It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom benevolence belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain. Thankfully, it was Robert E. Lee’s vision of military conduct (as well as military prowess), not Sherman’s that became a primary rule of engagement for the U.S. Military in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Sherman was a wretched, disheveled, ugly little man, made even smaller still because he used his position in the military to let loose his demons of terror on innocents who had no military value. It is good to remember him as an example not to follow, even as we may praise ourselves for seeing to it his historical aberration for America did not become the rule.