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General George Sherman


General Sherman

Grandfather told Daddy that General Sherman was a distant relative of his. He suggested he was something on the order of a second cousin. General William Tecumseh Sherman was a leading Union General of the Civil War who became most famous for his “March to the Sea” across Georgia in which his army cut a 30-mile-wide swath of destruction as it moved south through Georgia. On the march his 62,000 troops stripped barns, fields and some houses. They lived off the countryside, destroying railroads and supplies, reducing the war-making potential of the Confederacy, and bringing the war home to the Southern people.

Daddy’s school teacher had students sing General Shermans commemorative song every morning before class. This was 40 years after the end of the Civil War! Here is the way Daddy sang the song to me:

Hooray, Hooray, we’ll sing the jubilee!
Hooray, Hooray, we’ll set the niggers free!
And we’ll sing our song
From Atlanta to the sea
As we go marching through Georgia! (My mother would have probably been singing “Dixie” on similar occasions since her family sympathized with the South.)

There were two sides to General Sherman. Belying his image as the general who laid waste to the enemy, Sherman, for example, denied setting the big fire which destroyed Columbia, South Carolina; and his surrender terms for the Confederate General, Joseph E. Johnston, were considered too generous by President Andrew Johnson.

Sherman was so popular after the war that both the Democrat and Republican parties repeatedly asked him to run for President, but he refused. In 1884 he first made this subsequently oft-repeated statement to the Republicans, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.” Sherman is also remembered for his still quoted assertion that “War is hell.” He knew, first hand.


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