Monday, January 08, 2007
In Iraq: What Would General William Tecumseh Sherman Do?
Visiting Atlanta this past weekend, I was able to run out to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield with a friend for a few hours to reconstruct history and hike to the top for some beautiful views of the north Georgia rainsoaked countryside.
Kennesaw was one of the few battles the Confederacy actually won, however temporarily, before Union General Willian Tecumseh Sherman forced the Confederates to retreat and then led his Union soldiers on to victory in Atlanta during the Civil War.
After burning down the city, Sherman conducted his infamous wartime March to the Sea, destroying everything in his path all the way down to Savannah.
The fall of Atlanta was a crippling blow for the Confederacy and helped turn the tide for the Union, assuring the re-election of Lincoln for a second term as president in the fall of 1864 and the eventual victory for Union forces. The country was later united again into one republic and the abolition of slavery became a blessed reality.
Sherman, never given to political correctness, had some of the greatest quotes in military history about the realities of war. I believe President Bush and the American people should take note of his wisdom as we prepare to regroup in Iraq. Today, however, Sherman's words seem harsh, as our citizens and countries urge fighting a "nice" war. He understood that war is hell and the harsher it sometimes is in the short-run, the quicker it's over.
Below are some of Sherman's most famous quotes, starting with General Uylsses S. Grants' instructions to Sherman before going into Georgia:
Union General Ulysses Grant to Sherman on how to attack the Confederates in Georgia: "...break it up, and go into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can upon their war resources."
Sherman orders the mayor of Atlanta, James M. Calhoun, to issue the following proclamation, September 8th: "To the Citizens of Atlanta: General Sherman instructs me to say to you that you must all leave Atlanta; that as many of you as want to go North can do so, and that as many as want to go South can do so, and that all can take with them their movable property, servants included, if they want to go, but that no force is to be used; and that he will furnish transportation for persons and property as far as Rough and Ready, from whence it is expected General Hood will assist in carrying it on."
Sherman to the leadership of the city prior to burning it down:"War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."
Sherman writes to President Lincoln's chief-of-staff in Washington D.C. after his March to the Sea: "...we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies. I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect. Thousands who had been deceived by their lying newspapers to believe that we were being whipped all the time now realize the truth, and have no appetite for a repetition of the same experience."
Sherman on military fame: "I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers."
And finally Sherman's choice words for newspaper reporters near his battlefields: "I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast."
I think we need more men like General Sherman in Iraq to get on with the job we went there to accomplish.