- 'You cannot qualify war in harsher terms, than I will. War is cruelty and You cannot refine it,' thundered Sherman in King James biblical cadences, which all Americans understood, 'and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.' At this Point Sherman the cool deist had become Jeremiah, the Old Testament judge, and an ancient war god emerged from his prophecy, the god of the terrible swift sword.
- from Citizen Sherman by Michael Fellman
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Stereograph showing skeletal remains and uniforms on the battlefield at Gaines' Mill, Virginia, several months after the battle.
July 5, 2016 | Today's selection -- from Citizen Sherman by Michael Fellman. In his march on Atlanta, and his subsequent march to Savannah and the sea, General William Tecumseh Sherman was the first in the Civil War to engage in "total warfare." In this mode, in addition to battling the Confederate Army, he burned homes, destroyed crops, expelled civilians and sought to destroy the South's will to fight. At a key moment in this campaign, he exchanged letters with his opponent, Confederate General John Bell Hood, thus providing an extraordinary portrait of the mind at war:
"Immediately after Atlanta fell to his army, Sherman initiated a plan to expel all civilians from the city, something he had done on a much smaller scale before but that, at this level, amounted to perhaps the most extreme action yet taken against civilians by any general in the war. Anticipating Southern reactions, Sherman declared to [his fellow General Henry] Halleck, 'If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war and not popularity seeking. If they want peace they and their relatives must stop war.' Writing this letter, on September 4, 1864, was the moment in which Sherman attained his most fully conscious and self-acknowledged role as psychological warrior. Though he had a military argument for getting civilians out of the way of his army -- in order to use Atlanta as one big military rail depot -- his greater purpose was to strike terror into Southern hearts. He would not remain a personality with human feelings, but would incorporate war itself. Having chosen transformation into the totalist warrior, he would offer Southerners a big puzzle -- what would this particular general not do? In purpose and self-conception he would be barbarous and cruel, not from his peacetime person, but from his personal rededication in war, a war into which he had finally and fully entered.
Delanceyplace is very simply a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. All profits from Delanceyplace are donated to charity.
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