"I can make this march, and I will make Georgia howl!" - William Tecumseh Sherman
"No Civil War commander possessed a more astute appraisal of the nature of the contemporary warfare, how to form and pursue grand strategy, and the critical nexus between war, civil society, popular support, and electoral politics, And few American generals have since." - Victor Davis Hanson, The Savior Generals
William Tecumseh Sherman holds a unique position in American history. Synonymous with barbarity in the South, Sherman is lauded as a war hero in the North, and modern historians consider him the harbinger of total war. As a Union general, Sherman was recognized for his outstanding command of military strategy but criticized for the harshness of the "scorched earth" policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States, especially in 1864 and 1865. Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart famously declared that Sherman was "the first modern general."
Both Grant and Sherman shared the same theory of war: anything that might help the enemy's war effort should be considered a military target. Grant explained to Sherman that the Confederates must be "demoralized and left without hope," and he instructed Sherman, "Take all provisions, forage and stock wanted for the use of your command. Such as cannot be consumed, destroy. Leave the valley so barren that crows flying over it...will have to carry their provender with them." In addition to the wholesale plundering of Southern resources, including taking them from civilians, the Union reversed its policy of swapping prisoners, realizing it had a far bigger reserve of manpower than the South. The Atlanta Campaign was a perfect example of this, as both sides lost about the same number of casualties. By September 1864, however, Sherman still had about 80,000 men, while Hood's army was reduced to about 30,000.