Sherman's Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War

Sherman's Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 1595589554

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“To know what war is, one should follow our tracks,” General William T. Sherman once wrote to his wife, describing the devastation left by his armies in Georgia. Sherman’s Ghosts is an investigation of the "tracks" left by the wars fought by the American military in the 150 years since Sherman's infamous “March to the Sea.”

Sherman’s Ghosts opens with an epic retelling of General Sherman’s fateful decision to turn his sights on the South’s civilian population in order to break the back of the Confederacy. Acclaimed journalist Matthew Carr then exposes how this strategy became the central preoccupation of war planners in the twentieth century and beyond, offering a stunning and lucid assessment of the impact Sherman’s slash-and-burn policies have had on subsequent wars, including in the Philippines, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and even Iraq and Afghanistan.

In riveting accounts of military campaigns and in the words and writings of American fighting men and military strategists, Carr finds ample and revealing evidence of Sherman’s long shadow. Sherman’s Ghosts is a rare reframing of how we understand our violent history and a call to action for those who hope to change it.

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120 Wall Street, 31st floor, New York, NY 10005. Published in the United States by The New Press, New York, 2015 Distributed by Perseus Distribution ISBN 978-1-62097-078-2 (e-book) CIP data available. The New Press publishes books that promote and enrich public discussion and understanding of the issues vital to our democracy and to a more equitable world. These books are made possible by the enthusiasm of our readers; the support of a committed group of donors, large and small; the

91–93; encounters between civilians and soldiers, 95–98; Johnston’s surrender at Bennett Farm, 2 nuclear weapons, 182, 184–85 Obama, Barack, 272 occupation(s), 212–23; American approach to, 218; of Belgium, 200–201; of Civil War South, 23; conduct of, 7; of Haiti, 222; of Jackson, Mississippi, 26; by Japanese and Nazi Germany, 221; of Lawrence, Kansas, 27; of Philippines, 6; success of, 136; of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 218–21; World War I-era political opinions on, 150. See also individual wars

Even before capturing Savannah, Sherman had always intended to join Grant’s armies in Virginia via the Carolinas. As the first state to secede from the Union, South Carolina and its planter aristocracy were particularly despised by Sherman and many of his soldiers. “With Savannah in our possession, at some future time if not now, we can punish South Carolina as she deserves,” he told Grant on December 17. “I do sincerely believe that the whole United States, North and South, would rejoice to have

negroes, males and females, house servants generally, blessing us—cheering us—laughing—crying—praying—dancing and raising a glorious old time generally, even trying to hug the men as they go along.” In a letter to his wife, General Oliver Howard described freed slaves following his troops on the road to Lafayetteville with “bundles on their heads, children in arms, men on mules, women in old wagons & many with little to eat. They will do anything, suffer anything for freedom.” Many slaves saw

they encountered. On entering Columbia, one Union soldier saw a young girl playing with a puppy on a porch and promptly brained the dog with his rifle, leaving her crying. Another soldier soothed her by converting a cigar box into a tiny coffin before burying the dog. In Georgia two homeless orphaned girls were cleaned up and fed by soldiers and brought to Savannah, where they were taken back to the Union by a wounded lieutenant and adopted. In North Carolina, the Ohio infantryman S.A. McNeil

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