Sherman’s March to the Sea, Nov.- Dec. 1864

On November 15th, 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops set fire to Atlanta. Next, Sherman set out with 60,000 troops for Savannah, Georgia’s best sea port. Along the way, Sherman’s men looted the countryside, taking or destroying everything of potential value as they travelled to the sea. They tore up railroad tracks, vandalized homes, and destroyed farms.

After taking Savannah, Sherman continued to pillage [loot] the South, moving next to South Carolina. Union troops burned the city of Columbia, South Carolina, to the ground.

Sherman’s tactics, which are often referred to as “total war,” were designed to break the spirit of the Confederacy – to take the war to the average southerner in the hopes that they would no longer be willing to fight.

Primary Sources

This Union and its Government must be sustained at any and every cost. To sustain it, we must war upon and destroy the rebel forces–must cut off their supplies, destroy their communications . . . and produce among the people of Georgia a thorough conviction of the personal misery which attends war, and the utter helplessness and inability of their ‘rulers’ to protect them . . . If that terror and grief and even want shall help to paralyze their husbands and fathers who are fighting us . . . it is mercy in the end.

-Major Henry Hitchcock, union army officer who served with William Tecumseh Sherman