“The older I get the more I enjoy history.” I’ve heard that statement from several of my friends and I think it has to do with the realization that many of us have lived through some of the history our grandchildren are studying. But besides that, as you have more life experiences you recognize the common thread of humanity that runs through all of our history. Another thing that makes history more interesting is our ability to visit historical sites and to actually be in the places where great events took place.
I remember sitting in a stuffy classroom in Oregon and wishing I was outside, while the teacher droned on about the Civil War, General Sherman’s campaign to defeat the South and his march to the sea. But that was in another galaxy—far away and long ago.
I recently watched a documentary titled “When Georgia Howled,” and everything about Sherman’s campaign came alive in vivid color. I was mesmerized! Kennesaw Mountain–I’ve been there and I’ve been to Rome, Dallas, Marietta and Jonesboro Georgia. I knew the area where the battles took place. I’ve seen the Chattahoochee and Etowah rivers and recognized the names of the roads in Atlanta. I knew where the railroad came through Dalton, etc. Visiting the places and knowing the terrain made all the difference in my interest. Suddenly it was real. I could imagine the people in the campaigns—on both sides and history came alive.
General Sherman promised that he would capture Atlanta, which was a manufacturing center and the Confederacy’s main supply line. He promised to “Make Georgia howl.” And he certainly did that. And because his own supply line from the Kentucky/Tennessee area had been cut by the Confederacy, rather than retreat, he decided to “march to the sea” living off the land.
And which direction did Sherman go to march to the sea? Well, from the north to the south of course. He marched all the way to the Gulf of Mexico—or so I thought. I don’t know where I got that idea but it has been firmly planted in my mind for 50+ years. I don’t remember any teacher telling me or reading it in any textbook. It just made sense to me, so I guess I assumed that because Sherman came from the north he would be marching south.
Nope! I was wrong. And we all know how seldom that happens. 🙂 Sherman turned east from Atlanta and marched across Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean. He marched into Savannah. Huh! There goes a fifty-year-old wrong assumption.
And after burning much of Atlanta, his army cut a huge swath across Georgia, burning and pillaging. If the army found more livestock than they needed to eat, they killed them and left them to rot. There has always been that part of history where you wonder about man’s inhumanity to man. You hear stories about small mercies even in times of war but they are few and far between and you wonder about that.
But this documentary, which relied heavily on commentaries from Civil War historians, stated that Sherman did not believe there could ever be a good war. He was one of those who said, “War is hell,” and because of that belief, his philosophy was to hit hard, give no leniency and finish the war as quickly as possible. And then the historians commented that Sherman’s philosophy has been adopted by many American military leaders in the years following the Civil War. I thought immediately of the bombing of Japan in World War II. That seems to have been the philosophy there.
I don’t know if I am a proponent of that thinking, but it does make sense and it helps me understand some of the military decisions that have been made throughout history. If war really is hell, let’s get it over as quickly as possible. A hard theory for a Christian to contemplate, but I am thinking about it anyway.