May 19, 2024

He understands the psychology of war matters, and he is intent on trying to get the war over as quickly as possible.

We continue our series on Great Captains with a look at William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the more controversial figures in the Civil War due to his actions in the South during the latter stages. A brilliant leader who understood well the impact that war has on soldiers and societies, Sherman was credited by Liddell-Hart as being the first “modern” general. But as the architect of a brutal campaign that severly weakened the Confederacy, Sherman also invoked fear and anger from enemies and friends alike. War College professors Jacqueline E. Whitt and Andrew A. Hill take a close look at Sherman and his legacy and one of histories Great Captains.


Jacqueline E. Whitt is Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Army War College and Andrew A. Hill is the Chair of Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense.

Photo: Cropped portrait of William T. Sherman by Mathew Brady, listed as between 1865 and 1880. Digitally enhanced from original negative.

Photo Credit:  Prints and Photographs DivisionBrady-Handy Collection, Library of Congress (public domain)


  1. Yet Sherman sent one of his black regiments to lead his army into Charleston. There was a man on horseback in front with a makeshift flag with the word “Liberty” written on it. Perhaps he saw further into racial injustice then Dr. Whitt seems to think. Admittedly, this would also scare the Hell out of confederate sympathizers who watched the parade as well.

  2. Sherman was a war criminal plain and simple. His tactics are the same as Putin’s in the Ukraine today. By destroying homes and farms as well as stealing or destroying their live stock and food stores, he condemned women and children to starvation. He didn’t have to order the murder of civilians outright. The rules of war as modified by the North allowed any officer to murder when they “thought it necessary.”

    Don’t forget the Union shut down freedom of speech and the press. They confiscated newspapers and turned them into hate fueled propaganda rags. War crimes were not reported, again like the Russians. What Sherman would have with rockets and bombs would make Putin proud.

    Consider this. No one defends his “total war” policies when he turned them on Native Americans. Killing and starvation worked, again. So be honest and admit he perfected his strategy against the civilians of the South. He could say anything he wanted, but he was the kind of monster the federal government needed to do the dirty things they wanted. He would be right at home as the Russian commander in the Ukraine in 2022. He liked it.

    1. Now, please share your thoughts on Andersonville. I suppose you think the CSA’s actions were akin to Mother Theresa’s work. That the atrocities documented there were fake news.
      Horrors on both sides are the nature of war. As Uncle Billy said,” War is hell”
      He brought that to reality for the CSA.
      By the way Putin and friends started the war with Ukraine, just as the CSA fired on Fort Sumter. And Putin soul mate is more likely to be to Nathan Bedford Forrest..

    2. From everything I’ve read, Sherman loved the South and Southerners. The cadets at the military academy in Baton Rouge LA he supervised, loved and admired him. I think Sherman saw deeply into the nature of war and its horrors. Everything he did was to end the war as soon as possible and in the long run probably lessened suffering. He was not a beast but a deeply thoughtful and tortured man who realized what total war meant. Look at the photos of WTS by Matthew Brady and you will see what war was doing to him.

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