Sherman's Ghosts: Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War
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Sherman’s Ghosts opens with an epic retelling of General Sherman’s fateful decision to turn his sights on the South’s civilian population in order to break the back of the Confederacy. Acclaimed journalist Matthew Carr then exposes how this strategy became the central preoccupation of war planners in the twentieth century and beyond, offering a stunning and lucid assessment of the impact Sherman’s slash-and-burn policies have had on subsequent wars, including in the Philippines, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and even Iraq and Afghanistan.
In riveting accounts of military campaigns and in the words and writings of American fighting men and military strategists, Carr finds ample and revealing evidence of Sherman’s long shadow. Sherman’s Ghosts is a rare reframing of how we understand our violent history and a call to action for those who hope to change it.
(FATA) in northern Pakistan. Between 2004 and 2013, from 330 to 374 drone strikes were carried out in Waziristan, killing 2,000 to 4,700 people, including 400 to 900 civilians. Investigations carried out by Amnesty International and other NGOs in Waziristan have listed attacks on mosques, bakeries, weddings, funerals, houses, bus depots, and public places in which men, women, and children have been killed and wounded.32 On March 17, 2011, more than forty people were killed when two missiles were
298. 19. Marc Wortman, The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009), 269. 20. James Marten, The Children’s Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 110. 21. Edward Caudill and Paul Ashdown, Sherman’s March in Myth and Memory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 21. 22. For the full exchange between Hood and Sherman, see William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, 2d ed., 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton, 1889).
secession. In the town of Madison, in Morgan County, Captain David Conyngham, an officer in Sherman’s army and a correspondent with the New York Herald, witnessed soldiers dancing on pianos before breaking them up with axes and burning them.12 From the point of view of local farmers and householders, foraging was also a form of destruction, and its impact was often exacerbated by pillage and theft, as soldiers robbed silver plate, cutlery, jewelry, silk dresses, pistols, family heirlooms, and
Civilian deaths during the British “burn and capture” campaign were often due to poor sanitary conditions and mismanagement rather than the result of deliberate policy, but they were often accepted by the British military establishment as a tragic but inevitable necessity in order to bring the war to an end. Many officers shared the outlook expressed in a December 1901 letter to The Times of London, whose author justified programs of slaughter by neglect in prison camps with a quotation from
insurgents. In 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War conducted Winter Soldier hearings in Washington that recalled the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings held in Detroit by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. More than two hundred veterans described a war that bore little relation to its altruistic intentions. Two soldiers from the First Cavalry Regiment told the audience of a “weapons-free” assault on the Abu Ghraib neighborhood in April 2004 in which their unit bulldozed dozens of buildings, crushed