Jane E. Mute Fury: Schultz
of Sherman's March to the Sea, 1864-1865
William Tecumseh Sherman was a pragmatist at heart. when reflecting on the great marches from Atlanta to Savannah and Savannah to Goldsboro, North Carolina, he wrote that Southerners had been unduly afraid of his men: "[T]hey had invented such ghost-like stories of our prowess in Georgia, that they were scared by their own inventions. Still, this was a power, and I intended to utilize it." 1
Sherman was well aware of the relationship between power and fear, and he did not really expect any serious challenge to his troops' preeminence in a country populated by women, children, and old men. His object was to wage "total war," by which he meant destruction not only of military targets but of domestic property and land. 2 In effect Sherman became the first general in American history to declare war on a civilian population.
As ex officio heads of households, women had coped for months at a time with agricultural and mercantile responsibilities. While managing their homes, businesses, and farms had made them selfreliant and self-confident, they nonetheless dreaded the prospect of meeting face to face with Yankee marauders. In the absence of their own men, they looked to other men for protection--particularly those who wore gray uniforms and camped in the yard. Or they implored their husbands to return home, in spite of the trials they knew would follow such a course of action. 3
A social code that taught women deference to male power in return for protection was upended as Sherman's sixty thousand troops razed a landscape through three states over an eight-month period. Women's experience with the enemy was to teach them that they could not depend on male protection during wartime. With the policy of domestic vandalism in effect, Southern women, who con-