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  • In the Wake of Sherman's March

    University of Georgia historian Emory Thomas, reenactor J.C. Nobles, and Marty Willett, a historic interpreter at the Jarrell Plantation in Jones County explain Gen. William T. Sherman's March to the Sea where Union soldiers were under orders to forage liberally and live off the land as they marched from Atlanta to Savannah.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. What was unique about Sherman's orders for his troops to "forage liberally" while marching?

    2. Evaluate Sherman’s march through Georgia: politically, economically, and culturally.

    3. Why did Grant and Sherman plan this March through Georgia as a way to end the long Civil War? 

    Expansion

    1. Create two class newspapers: One half of the class will create the front page of a Georgia paper (e.g., The Augusta Chronicle); the other half of the class will create the front page of a paper from a northern city in the Union. Both papers will recount (and editorialize) Sherman’s march through Georgia with a map showing visually where Sherman’s troops were and the devastation of Union troops. These papers should have different slants: one vilifying Sherman’s troops and the Union; the other praising both and the hopeful end of the War.

    2. After viewing the Georgia Story, summarize the effectiveness of the March to the Sea on two fronts–at home and on battlefields not in the path of the march.

    Vocabulary

    atrocities: horrible actions committed against people
    pillage: to seize by force
    plunder: to take or steal; usually on a large scale
    indiscriminate: acting in a manner that shows lack of forethought
    ascertain: to determine
    assailant: one who attacks
    garrison: a military post
    forage: to look for food or supplies
    feint: a false move or bluff
    capitulation: agreement of surrender
    magnanimous: magnificent and inspiring in attitude
    behooves: to be worth doing because it will provide benefits

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. What was unique about Sherman's orders for his troops to "forage liberally" while marching?
    Sherman's targeting of the civilian population of Georgia was a tactic that had been out-of-bounds, so the speak, in formal, declared war and was understood to be unacceptable behavior for an army. Many Georgians believed this strategy to be brutal and barbaric, evidence of the mentality and lengths the Union would go to in order to impose its will upon the South. 

    2. Evaluate Sherman’s march through Georgia: politically, economically, and culturally.
    Politically: It showed the inadequacy of the Confederate government to supply the war – both with troops, uniforms, food, horses, arms, etc. The Union was proven to be a stronger government and functioned on behalf of all the people, not just the northern establishment. The beginning of the end of slavery began during this march, and owners of slaves were forced to allow slaves to leave mainly because they lost the land. 
    Economically: Citizens were left penniless and landless. Their slaves had been freed, and they could not work the land during this time of war. (The South suffered more because more battles were fought in the south than in the war. Gettysburg was as far north as a battle was fought during the war.) Since agriculture – particularly the cotton crop – was the main economy of the south, and because of the blockade and the inability to plant, work the land, or trade the cotton as freely, the south suffered economically. 
    Culturally: Plantation life would never recover after the war. Slavery had been dealt a death blow. Those who had been rich before the war were either destitute or had suffered heavy losses. Life for the people would never be the same. During the march, the lowliest Union private had more power than the plantation owner. Reconstruction would be cruel.

    3. Why did Grant and Sherman plan this March through Georgia as a way to end the long Civil War?
    Both Sherman and Grant knew that as long as the Confederacy had a supply line, they could continue the war as long as they could re-supply their troops. They also knew that the Confederacy had planned to spread the war westward toward Texas. All the Confederacy had was their civilians to supply the troops. If they could discourage the civilians by destroying their crops, taking their mules, wagons, etc. and tear up the railroad supply lines, the war could be ended sooner. Pres. Truman used much the same tactic to end World War II by dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

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