War Criminal(s): Sherman, Forrest, or both?

Courtesy of a reader of the blog, I direct you here for a discussion of this very question. The comments section is open.

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14 thoughts on “War Criminal(s): Sherman, Forrest, or both?

  1. John Foskett June 10, 2015 / 10:32 am

    This starkly illustrates why professors of political science should avoid opining about military history. Sherman probably was in some respects overrated, but a “disaster”??? And John Bell Hood was the “worst Southern general”??? The professor must double as a public relations agent for Pillow, Floyd, Bragg, Polk, etc. etc.

    • SF Walker June 10, 2015 / 10:23 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s also disconcerting to see such mistakes in grammar from a professor. I’ve never seen the value in political science, anyway–its adherents tend to be experts at nothing useful or interesting. Political science can be defined as the study of people who do not need to be studied by people who do.

  2. OhioGuy June 10, 2015 / 12:05 pm

    Well, the Huffingandpuffingpost is at it again. FoxNews didn’t object. They reported that there were some demonstrations against it by some of the usual suspects including our old buddy H.K. If they can’t get that simple reporting correct, I see little reason to spend much time on their shoddy Civil War analysis.

  3. OhioGuy June 10, 2015 / 12:15 pm

    Well, let me get my own reporting right. The FoxNews story is not about demonstrations against, but a fairly even handed report about the flag burners and those who consider it provocative. I personally side with the flag burners in this case, and think that they are making a good point in a dramatic way. The Fox story doesn’t take a position one way or the other. It’s neutral. More than I can say for the Huffingandpuffingpost.

  4. TFSmith June 10, 2015 / 7:00 pm

    Sherman? – No.

    Forrest? – Yes.

    Both? – No.

  5. bob carey June 11, 2015 / 4:56 am

    I think Sherman’s strategy after the fall of Atlanta was innovative, his march through Georgia and the Carolinas shortened the war by months and saved many lives, both Union and Confederate.His tactical skills are lacking somewhat, but he still deserves to be ranked among the great generals of the war.
    Forrest, was a good tactician but none of his actions had any bearing on the final outcome. He was essentially a raider.
    I believe that George Thomas is the most underrated general of the war, followed by Henry Slocum. Afterall no general had a 100 percent success rate but, Thomas does come close.

    • Char June 11, 2015 / 6:00 am

      Yes, yes for George Thomas, a true American.

    • John Foskett June 11, 2015 / 10:12 am

      I think that in some respects, however, Thomas is a great example of how historians can “over correct” the steer out of a skid.

  6. James F. Epperson June 11, 2015 / 7:48 am

    Sherman deserves a lot of criticism for his battlefield performance, and Forrest is (IMO) vastly over-rated in many ways, but I agree that the column is largely worthless. Forrest does deserve war criminal status for Fort Pillow, though. Sherman does not.

  7. Al Mackey June 12, 2015 / 9:03 am

    This article is a great example of the appeal to authority fallacy. The author has a Ph.D. so he must be smart in all things, right? Wrong. He may be cracker jack at explaining voter behavior or analyzing congressional election patterns, but he has a barely superficial knowledge of Sherman, Forrest, and the Civil War. As a Poli Sci major myself, I’m embarrassed. And the headline really has little to do with the content of the article.

  8. Charles Lovejoy June 15, 2015 / 10:36 am

    I really don’t see a comparison of the two. William Tecumseh Sherman was born into an educated family with political connections, received a military education at West Point and had actual military experience during his service in the Seminole Wars. Forrest was born into a poor family, self educated. One of Forest’s business experience was he shot two men and wounded two others with a knife in retaliation for the murder of his uncle. Forest was raised in a slave culture and I would guess when Sherman went south was the first time he saw slavery first hand. Sherman maybe not a great battlefield commander but could move a large army over a long distance, that was Sherman’s strength . IMHO Forest was a fighter and brawler, acted on impulse. Being able to fight and act on impulse was Forest strength. I don’t think Forest would of been able to command and move a large army over a distance. I don’t think Sherman would be a good face to face fighter and brawler like Forest. I see both Sherman and Forest as two complete different individuals from different worlds.

  9. Scott Ledridge January 26, 2017 / 8:54 am

    “William T. Sherman to George Madon Graham January 20, 1861

    My own opinion is that Lincoln will be installed in office, that Congress will not repeal the Union, that the Revenues will be collected. The consequence is inevitable-War, and ugly war too-I do not think the south well be invaded or plain coercion attempted: but no vessel can be cleared at New Orleans, and no vessel enter without paying duties outside. Commerce will cease unless the South can combine, orgaize a navy and fight their way, or unless she can form a treaty with our Old Enemy, England. For the northern and eastern cities will never consent to pay duties, and allow New Orleans to be a free port, to send into the Interior goods cheaper than they.
    Sherman

    This is from Sherman’s Civil War, selected correspondence William T. Sherman, 1860-1865 edited by Brooks D. Simpson”

    It’s ridiculous to condemn the federal government for not wanting to pay to use what is already theirs. But, this excerpt is being used to “disprove” slavery as the cause. I looked up the letter and noticed Sherman talks more meeting to “balance the bank account” and gathering munitions. ´╗┐Is there other context I’m not aware of?

    • Edward Mayer February 7, 2017 / 9:39 pm

      My experience with Neo-confederates leads me to believe that they’re trying to make a tariff claim with that.
      I think it would be important to point out that Sherman was referring what might take place after the rebellion had started and possible federal actions to contain and strangle it. It’s not causality that he is addressing, but effect.
      Sherman’s appears prescient about it becoming an “ugly war” but he doesn’t seem to understand that even if the South were allowed to be another nation, that doesn’t mean items from that nation can enter this one duty free.

      And it might be helpful to point out to them that maybe the Northern and Eastern Cities would have reason for complaint, as they were already providing the bulk of the government revenue.

      “Again, look at another item, in which we have a great interest, that of revenue, or means of government support. From official documents we learn that a fraction over three-fourths of the revenue collected for the support of the government, has uniformly been raised from the North.”
      Alexander Stephens, to the Secession Convention of Georgia, January, 1861

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