When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Home Front

By Jacqueline Glass Campbell | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

In February 1865 a Confederate officer learned that William T. Sherman's soldiers were an imminent threat to his South Carolina family. He warned his mother and sisters that they were likely to lose all their material possessions, yet his words expressed no concern over their physical safety. In fact, he advised his female kin that, “should any scoundrel intrude or go rummaging round the place, don't hesitate to shoot.” Ten days later, hearing that his family had survived the ordeal, he thanked God for having provided him with “such a brave mother & Sisters,” and he renewed his own commitment to the Confederate cause. “With such a spirit emanating from you,” he wrote, “how could we [soldiers] do else but perform our duty noble and manfully.” At the same time a Union officer surveyed the charred remains of Columbia, the South Carolina capital, and openly wept at the distress of homeless women and children. An ex-slave who had decided to remain on her South Carolina plantation, rather than flee with the Union army, also remembered that month with bitterness. All she had to thank the Yankees for was “a hungry belly and freedom.”1

These three commentaries on the nature of Sherman's campaign through the Confederate heartland convey a very different picture from traditional accounts of a military strategy that destroyed both the war resources and the morale of the Southern people. But by integrating evidence from soldiers and civilians, black and white, at a moment when home front and battlefront merged, Sherman's March becomes a far more complex story—one that illuminates the importance of culture for determining the limits of war and how it is fought. If we understand war as culturally sanctioned violence, we can place a military campaign in a much broader social context, one that takes into account a wider array of behavioral patterns. These patterns include racial attitudes, gender ideology, and perceptions of the military as a cultural entity.

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When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Home Front
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 3
  • 1: Savannah Has Gone Up the Spout 8
  • 2: Rocking the Cradle of Secession 31
  • 3: The Most Diabolical Act of All the Barbarous War 58
  • 4: God Save Us from the Retreating Friend and Advancing Foe 75
  • 5: With Grief, but Not with Shame 93
  • Epilogue 105
  • Notes 111
  • Bibliography 145
  • Index 167
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