This Civil War general's legacy goes deeper than a tank and 'total war'
General William Tecumseh Sherman’s military legacy rests on a lot more than just killing the enemy.
Of course, he helped change how the United States would wage war in the next 80 years. His name would also later adorn one of the country’s most iconic symbols of military might.
But the one that probably matters the most for today’s veterans was his influence on how to deal with the invisible wounds of war.
Sherman was a high-profile general and war hero who successfully overcame mental health issues to return to service and play the decisive role he played in the Civil War.
In late 1861, he grew despondent over his command in Kentucky, a secondary theater of the war. Knowing he was not well, he insisted upon his relief in November of 1861. Caught in the depths of what a number of historians believe to have been either bipolar disorder or depression, Sherman even contemplated suicide.
However, he would recover, and Gen. Henry Halleck would return him to light duty. Eventually he would be paired with Ulysses S. Grant in time to win the Battle of Shiloh. In the Western Theater, Grant and Sherman were two high-ranking “battle buddies” who eventually won the Civil War.
For today’s vets, his recovery without the modern understanding of mental health issues points to the important role that supportive friends, family, and superiors can play in treating the invisible wounds of war. In light of the recent suicide of Major General John Rossi, remembering the support that General Halleck and Grant gave to Sherman’s efforts to recover may be his most important legacy.
While his legacy of overcoming the “invisible wounds” of mental health problems is the most important legacy for today, that misses other contributions he made.
Sherman’s most immediate legacy was the introduction of the “total war” strategy to the United States military. The way he burned and pillaged his way through the state of Georgia, first taking Atlanta, then with his March to the Sea that took Savannah (near the present-day Fort Stewart), severed the supply lines for Confederate forces. The resulting logistics problems, combined with the bad news from home, helped force the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in Virginia in April, 1865.
Eighty years later, Germany and Japan both surrendered, thanks to the use of that same doctrine. Whether it was the use of massed bomber formations, or submarines putting merchant vessels on the bottom of the ocean, Sherman’s concept of total war was in play during World War II.
World War II also saw another legacy of William Tecumseh Sherman. This time it was the famous M4 Sherman tank that was named in his honor. Prior to the Civil War, Sherman had warned the South that it was about to pick a fight it could not win – particularly given the North’s industrial might. In World War II, the Sherman was one of the most prominent examples of America’s industrial might – over 49,000 were built. They saw combat in every theater of combat, and were used not only by the Army and Marine Corps, but by the British, Canadians, Soviets, and Chinese. After World War II, they saw action in Korea and the Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistani Wars.
In an ironic twist, just as General Sherman warned the South prior to the Civil War that provoking a fight with the North was a bad idea, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto warned his superiors of America’s latent industrial might. Unlike Sherman, who left the South and backed up his moral convictions, Yamamoto implemented the desires of the Japanese war lords, and helped plan the Pearl Harbor attack. While Sherman lived to be reviled through the South, Yamamoto met his end at the hands of Tom Lanphier over Bougainville on April 18, 1943.
It is said that William Tecumseh Sherman was the first so called “modern general.” Given that his legacy to the United States military will continue to reverberate through the United States military and around the world, that seems to be a very fair statement.
Why the 'Butcher of Bosnia' faces a life sentence for war crimes
Ratko Mladic, a former Serbian general, will receive a verdict from the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes he committed, to include genocide.
Russia swears a cloud of radioactive pollution is not a nuclear accident
A radioactive cloud is moving over parts of Europe, seemingly coming from Russia, reminiscent of the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant disaster in 1986.
Taliban drug labs targeted by B-52 strikes overnight
American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding.
Why South Korea is building a unique missile interceptor
A missile system that could be used to target North Korea Scuds will cost Seoul more than $800 million to develop, a Seoul defense committee said.
SEALs honor the man who made the ‘frogmen’ possible
Last week, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, a crowd gathered to commemorate the fateful event that gave rise to what would become the US Navy SEALs.
The 50 most violent cities in the world
Of the fifty cities on the list, forty-three are in Latin America, including nineteen in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.
How the true story of Thanksgiving ended in a war
Just a generation after the famed Thanksgiving feast shared between pilgrims and Native Americans, the two groups were engaged in bloody battles.
The wounded North Korean defector is infected by an unknown parasite
The North Korean defector shot by his fellow soldiers has been found to be riddled with parasites his South Korean doctors have never seen.
North Korea's emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
Kim Jong Un's regime of dictatorship continues to be threatened as North Korea advances into the free market. Capitalism could be hero here.