It seems that lately I have been unleashing a disproportionate amount of criticism on our old friends at the History Channel. And why shouldn’t I? I mean…a channel with all claims to be the go-to network for history airs programming dedicated mostly to truckers, pickers, restorers, pawners and others of their ilk – but little history. And…when there is a program dealing with history – we get this. Sherman’s March…in all its predictability.
We get about what we might expect in Sherman’s March – a sort of post-Vietnam analysis of an army on a rampage (with a little edged in on Sherman the reluctant liberator). It is pretty dull really – the same old story…Sherman helped bring the South to its knees and in the process invented total war (and the film is poorly acted, by the way…bordering on the ridiculous at times). Now I am not saying that Sherman didn’t do his fair share of damage to the glorious South, but the narrative relies heavily on the claims of Sherman himself – making Georgia howl and all, and tends, whether intentionally or not, to sound a bit like the old articles in Confederate Veteran Magazine – you know the ones…those that paint Sherman with the evilest of strokes.
In fact, there is little to nothing in this program that even those with only a slight familiarity with Sherman’s March haven’t already heard. So let me add in a touch to get you thinking.
Of course, Sherman’s March to the Sea – conducted from Atlanta to Savannah Georgia in late 1864 – left behind a swath of destruction, it terrorized those it in its path, and it gave Lincoln Savannah – an important port – as a Christmas present. Then he turned left and raised holy hell in South Carolina – the hotbed of secession. But did his grim work actually damage the Confederate cause as much as we might think? Could the March have hurt the Union war effort? There are scholars who believe that this might be the case.
Did Sherman’s invasion of the Georgia hinterland and subsequent march to the Carolinas actually galvanize Confederate civilians? Did Confederate resistance prove effective and prolong the war? Confederate women especially may have been instrumental in supporting and sustaining the war effort during this volatile time – not just passive victims of a ruthless invading host. For an interesting look at the Rebel response to Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas check out Jacqueline Campbell’s When Sherman Marched North from the Sea. It might change how you think about the war in the deep South. Then you can write a letter to the History Channel and complain.