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Major General William T. Sherman's total war in the Savannah and Carolina campaigns.

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Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,30 Apr 2018

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US Army Command and General Staff College, School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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The Savannah and Carolina campaigns cemented Major General William T. Shermans place in American History. While these two campaigns are controversial, Shermans application of total war was operationally necessary to achieve the Unions military end state of ending the Civil War, as supporting operations to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grants operations against Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The focus of the campaigns was to destroy the support base of the Confederacy, railroad infrastructure and material in the Deep South. Shermans application of total war, however, was not only to destroy the support base of the Confederacy but also to take the war to the people of the Deep South, making them feel the hardships of war and breaking their will. To do this, however, Sherman needed the will of the people of the Union and the enmity of his soldiers in order to wage total war campaigns. Without Shermans use of total war, the Civil War could have lasted longer than it did. Shermans armies destroyed the railroad networks in Northern Georgia and the Carolinas, consumed or destroyed material intended for the Confederate armies, and achieved Shermans personal intent of punishing the people of the South for their support of the Confederacy. These two campaigns took their toll on Lees army and had a direct impact on his eventual surrender. From these two campaigns, modern day military planners can understand when to consider total war as a viable option. Total war cannot be used in a limited war with limited aims, but will only be effective where the political aims are total victory. Will and enmity of the people are vital factors to address if they do not exist, then a campaign built around total war will not be palatable to the American people.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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