Friday, September 30, 2011
"Libertador" Simón Bolívar
Bolívar's death by Venezuelan painter Antonio Herrera Toro (1889)
Monument to Simon Bolivar, with flowers of Venezuela Government, at Venezuela square of Bilbao
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, commonly known as Simón Bolívar (Spanish pronunciation: [siˈmon boˈliβar]; July 24, 1783, Caracas, Venezuela – December 17, 1830, Santa Marta, Colombia) was a Venezuelan military and political leader. Together with José de San Martín, he played a key role in Hispanic-Spanish America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire, and is today considered one of the most influential politicians in Latin American history.
Born to wealthy Creoles in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 24, 1783, his father died when he was three and his mother six years later. Simon was reared by an uncle with a tutor who exposed him to the writers of the Enlightenment, such as Voltaire and Rousseau, who were inspirations for the French Revolution. The tutor, Simon Rodriguez, fled the country when he was suspected of conspiring to overthrow Spain's colonial rule in 1796.
At 16, Bolivar was sent to Spain to complete his education and on the way, his ship stopped in Vera Cruz. During an audience with the viceroy, he audaciously praised the French Revolution and American independence, both of which made Spanish officials nervous.
In 1802, he married the daughter of a nobleman in Spain and returned to Caracas, only to have her die a year later from yellow fever. As a way of keeping his mind off of his grief, Bolivar decided to return to Europe to immerse himself in the intellectual and political world he had found so stimulating.
While in Paris, he met Alexander von Humboldt, the great naturalist who had just returned after five years in South America. As von Humboldt spoke of the enormous natural resources and wonders of the continent, Bolivar remarked, "In truth, what a brilliant fate--that of the New World, if only its people were freed of their yoke."
Von Humboldt responded, "I believe that your country is ready for its independence. But I can not see the man who is to achieve it." It was a fateful comment Bolivar was to vividly recall the rest of his life.
He also witnessed the coronation of Napoleon as emperor on December 2, 1804. Bolivar was appalled at what he felt was a betrayal of the principles of the Revolution, yet he took note of the ability of one man to change the course of history.
Bolivar had met up with his old tutor, Rodriguez, and the two traveled to Rome, where they again crossed paths with von Humboldt. On August 15, 1805, Bolivar found himself with Rodriguez on Monte Sacro (Aventine Hill), a place associated in Roman history with freedom from oppression. The 22-year-old feel to his knees and, grasping his teacher's hands, vowed to free his country. After returning to Paris, Bolivar sailed for America, stopping often along the east coast before arriving home in 1807.
The following year, France invaded Spain. By 1810, the city council of Caracas had grown bold enough to depose the Spanish viceroy and sent Bolivar to London to seek protection from the British government against any attempt by France to seize Venezuela. No help was forthcoming, but Bolivar recruited Francisco de Miranda, who had sprearheaded a prior revolt, to return to head the new independence movement. While in London, Bolivar also had his most famous portrait painted. On close examination, a medallion hanging from his neck reads, "There is no fatherland without freedom." When he left on September 21, he was never to return to Europe.
As is typical of revolutions before history is rewritten to present all the natives as patriots, what followed in South America was as much civil war as an effort to throw off the colonial yoke. The see-saw power struggle between revolutionary and loyalist factions and with the royal forces was to last 14 years (followed by several years of occasional conflict between factions in the liberated territories).
In March 1811, a national congress met in Caracas. Though not a delegate, Bolivar gave his first public speech to the group, saying, "Let us lay the cornerstone of American freedom without fear. To hesitate is to perish." The First Republic was declared July 5, Venezuela becoming the first colony anywhere in the Spanish empire to attempt to break free.
Like many in the aristocracy, Bolivar had slaves, and in the spirit and excitement of the independence movement he was the first to set them free. He was later to call for the abolition of slavery across the entire Western Hemisphere.
Although he had no formal military training and no battlefield experience, Bolivar was made Lieutenant Colonel serving under Miranda. He participated in his first engagement on July 19, an assault on the Spanish stronghold of Valencia in which he distinguished himself, but the rebel forces were repelled. A siege forced capitulation on August 19th after heavy losses on both sides. It was a harbinger of things to come.
Miranda and Bolivar had been having an increasing number of serious disagreements, from how to treat counterrevolutionary conspirators (Bolivar was for execution) to whether those born in Spain should be allowed to stay (Bolivar wanted them expelled). Meanwhile, on the political front the republicans were suffering from lack of governing experience. Within a few months, the captured royal treasury was spent and a Spanish blockade led to a worsening economic situation.
On March 26, 1812, two years to the day after the Caracas city council had deposed the viceroy, a severe earthquake hit the region, killing 10,000. Areas where loyalists to Spain resided were little affected and religious hysteria followed, blaming the independence movement for defying God's chosen monarch. The Spanish commander-in- chief, Juan Domingo de Monteverde, took advantage of the situation, marching out into the country, even finding rebel units eager to switch sides. However, Miranda, who had 5,000 men vs. Monteverde's 3,000, could have struck a decisive blow if he had gone on the offensive instead of being overly cautious. In the few times they clashed, Miranda held back his men from pursuit which could have annihilated the Spanish.
Bolivar was put in charge of the most important republican port, Puerto Cabello, where a large number of prisoners were kept at the main fort, as well as a large stockpile of arms and artillery (which played little role by either side in South America's fight for freedom) . The combination proved fatal: a traitor freed the prisoners who armed themselves and began bombarding Bolivar's position. He and his men barely escaped with their lives.
Bolivar felt disgraced by the loss and furious that Miranda had not responded to calls for help. Shortly thereafter, he and other officers turned Miranda over to the Spaniards.
As the Spanish completed their reconquest of the country, Bolivar escaped to Cartagena in New Granada (now Colombia), where rebels held power (though locked in civil war with a rival faction in Bogata).
There in 1812, he wrote the first of his many eloquent political manifestos, saying, "Not the Spanish, but our own disunity led us back into slavery. A strong government could have changed everything." He began championing a political system in which the nobility played a strong role, led by a president for life. He condemned the leniency against crime in general and against the state in particular that he felt had contributed to the fall of the First Republic. He began arguing that Venezuela should be liberated as the first step in creating an entire continent of independent states.
The government of New Granada authorized a revolutionary force to liberate the Spanish-held bastions in their territory and in Venezuela, headed by Pierre Labatut. Against orders, Bolivar took 200 of the men and boldly attacked a Spanish garrison, capturing supplies and boats. One small victory followed another and the rebel ranks swelled.
As a result of his actions, Bolivar was named commander-in-chief of the entire New Granadian army. He had to improvise tactics as he went along, finding European tactics he read about in books useless in a land of enormous mountain ranges, deep gorges, rushing rivers, vast plains, no roads, minimal ability to communicate over any distance, and sparse population.
Taking 650 men, he reentered Venezuela in May 1813. Facing 4,000 Spanish soldiers, Bolivar's expedition seemed foolhardy. Using speed and surprise, he would defeat units of the Spanish army and the population rose up to swell the ranks of the republicans. He also recruited from the enemy by offering amnesty for deserters, threatening to kill captured Spaniards. Though only occasionally carried out, he believed that only through such a drastic measure could the republicans win and avoid the slaughter and plunder of civilians that was inevitable if they lost.
After five swift victories, Bolivar had built up an army of 2,500, which came across 1,200 of the enemy, who retreated swiftly towards Valencia. He placed two men on each of 200 horses and had them ride around the Spanish through the night. The Spanish found their way blocked in the early morning of July 31 and in the Battle of Taguanes the revolutionaries crushed the royalists. It was Bolivar's first large-scale victory (by the small-scale standards of South American war).
The republican army reentered Caracas on August 7, where Bolivar, now 30, was given dictatorial powers, although half of Venezuela remained under control of the crown, which had 10 times the number of troops, who were, of course, much better equipped and trained.
Gradually, the population grew war-weary and sentiment turned against the independence movement, which was also hindered by being poorly equipped (the infantry typically had antiquated muskets which required six motions to load; often running out of ammunition, they resorted to bayonet attacks, when they had bayonets)!
The Spanish leaders also began recruiting the fierce llaneros, nomadic cattle-raising horsemen of the Amazon grasslands. They appointed Jose Tomas Boves, a former rebel embittered by having been imprisoned by his comrades, to head them. Known as the Legion of Hell, it consisted of as many as 10,000 riders using spears, knives, and bolos, easily superior to better-armed republicans, who were almost entirely infantry. They began waging an even more savage war, so the rebels responded in kind, even killing civilians who would not take up arms against the royalists. Prisoners were executed on the spot. There was no grand war strategy, no static fronts, just one pitched battle after another between a few hundred or few thousand.
On November 10, Bolivar inflicted what seemed to be a defeat on the llaneros and Spanish soldiers at Barquisemeto, but in the midst of the pursuit by the republicans, someone in their camped issued a call to retreat, throwing the army into confusion and the roles were reversed, the Spanish turning to pursue. It was Bolivar's first personal battlefield loss in one-and-a-half years. The first regiment to retreat was stripped of its medals, rank, and banners.
Then on December 5, at dawn, Bolivar's 3,000 attacked 5,000 Spanish forces under General Monteverde, who were on in the hills near Araure. The patriot's advance unit was immediately wiped out, but while Monteverde was reinforcing his flanks where he expected the next assault, rebels armed mostly with knives and sticks overran the center. After fierce hand-to-hand combat, Bolivar himself led the charge which scattered the Spanish. He gave chase until 2 a.m. the next morning, directing his men to kill even those who surrendered.
Over the next few months, the patriots found themselves fighting on so many fronts that they sometimes faced 7-to-1 odds. Bolivar's forces were nearly annihilated several times.
By February 1814, Bolivar had recruited some replacements and had dug in at San Mateo. The Spanish, who had 10 times the cavalry, made repeated attacks on his positions and nearly succeeded in overrunning them. At one point, they almost captured the supply and munitions depot, until the defenders blew themselves up to prevent its capture. The Spanish finally gave up after several months.
On May 28, Bolivar's 5,000 faced 1,000 entrenched royalists in hills above the Plains of Carabobo. Although his men were poorly armed, he knew that llaneros were on the way to reinforce the enemy, so he decided to risk everything again. The assault was so relentless that the Spanish fled.
But with his men nearly naked and the rainy season turning the region into a swamp, Bolivar found it increasingly difficult to follow up, final victory always slipping from his hands. On June 15, he gathered 3,000 soldiers at La Puerta against Boves' equal number, and this time the revolutionaries were trounced, Bolivar barely escaping from the field. As Boves marched onto Caracas with his numbers increasing by the day, 20,000 fled the city.
At Aragua, Boves caught up with remnants of the patriot army and 4,000 men, mostly Bolivar's, died in one of the bloodiest battles of the South American war for independence.
Bolivar shipped 24 chests of church silver and gems to a safe point to buy arms from British colonies and in September sailed to Cartagena. The royalists gained control of Venezuela by the end of the year, reinforced in May 1815 by 11,000 veterans of the Napoleonic wars, the biggest expedition the Spanish had ever sent to the Americas!
Ever the optimist, Bolivar wrote his fellow citizens, "I have been chosen by fate to break your chains…Fight and you shall win. For God grants victory to perseverance." He exhorted his men that misfortune was the "school of heroes."
The government of New Granada gave him an army to go after its own Spanish garrisons and rebellious cities He sent out a public letter, pleading with the factions to unite against Spain because "our country is America." But he was only partially successful in stopping the civil war and when a large Spanish army arrived from Venezuela in May, Bolivar sailed for Jamaica with most of his officers.
There, the prolific Bolivar wrote his most famous document, Letter from Jamaica, in which he declared, "A people that love freedom will in the end be free." He foresaw a great federation of Hispanic American republics which would deserve the same respect as European nations.
A man of great charm who could size up the people he met instantly, the indefatigable Bolivar set out to persuade the world to back his vision yet again. He was said to speak so eloquently on the spur of the moment that his speeches could be printed without editing. He answered every letter written to him, sometimes dictating to three secretaries at once.
Bolivar's pleas fell on deaf ears as far as governments went, with the exception of Haiti, whose president agreed to provide money and equipment. In March 1816, the first expedition sailed with 250 men in seven ships, an absurd force to engage the 10,000-strong royal army. They came across four Spanish vessels and were able to board two. They landed the next day at San Juan Griego and were warmly welcomed by the people. Another 300 joined what was called the Liberating Army. But shortly thereafter they were driven back and returned to Haiti for reprovisioning.
When Bolivar landed in Venezuela again in December1816, he was 33 and would remain there for the rest of his life. He had 500 men with him; a nearby fort had 1,500 of the enemy, never mind the 16,000 government soldiers in Caracas.
Bolivar began circulating proclamations, making up stories about supposed victories in various areas of the country, building an image of himself everywhere and invincible. In actuality, he operated mostly on the plains around the Orinoco river in the interior, headquartered in remote Agostura.
And Bolivar was actually spending much of his time quelling efforts by subordinates to usurp his command. Bolivar showed excellent political skills in maneuvering around the many internal roadblocks, but finally felt compelled to execute the leading conspirator, Manuel Piar, who was, unfortunately, was also the republicans' best tactician.
One man became indispensable to Bolivar's new strategy: Antonio Jose Paez, seven years his younger (who had an enormous bodyguard called the First Negro who had a knife so large no one else could wield it!). Paez had mastered the supreme difficulties of guerrilla cavalry warfare in the tropics. Some of the llaneros were so impressed by him that they changed sides. His lightning attacks achieved the first victories against the powerful army which had landed in 1815.
By May, the 2,000 republicans had achieved some significant victories. One incident illustrated how much they thrived on boldness. With 15 of his officers on a reconnaissance, Bolivar spotted a large number of Spanish soldiers lying in wait to ambush him as he rounded a corner. He shouted for his men to form up and prepare for an assault on the enemy position--as if his own army were right behind. The Spaniards retreated!
In January 1818, Bolivar's 3,000 soldiers marched 350 miles through a swampy region to join Paez's 1,000 cavalry. Armed mostly with lances and bows and arrows, they surprised one Spanish garrison after another. The commander if all Spanish forces in Venezuela and New Granada, Pablo Morillo, barely escaped.
But inevitably, Spanish numbers and arms turned the tide prevail. Bolivar retreated to El Semen with 2,000 men and while he was passing baggage over a ravine on March 25, royal forces attacked. The rebels were exhausted and Morillo killed half of them, capturing their materiel and papers, though Bolivar escaped. The Spanish were sure that he was finished this time.
But Bolivar was discouraged by the lack of popular support, but he still had Paez's 2,100 horsemen. He immediately began rebuilding the infantry by recruiting from convalescent hospitals and among teenage boys!
Gradually, though, he realized that the only way to achieve a level of professionalism to match the enemy was to form a foreign legion. He began raising money and his agents found great interest among the 30,000 recently discharged soldiers of the British army. The weather and the inability of the rebel army to meet payroll was discouraging to the mercenaries, but they adapted to conditions and became committed to the cause. Of the nearly 6000 who joined, 220 drowned on the way over, some deserted, and most were died from disease or in battle: only a few hundred survived the war.
In February 1819, a republican congress was convened to draw up a constitution for the Third Republic.
Meantime, guerrilla warfare was being successfully waged by Paez's cavalry. In one encounter, they lured the Spanish into a trap. The Venezuelans lost six, the Spanish 400. The Spanish withdrew from the region after losing half their 7,000 troops.
Bolivar began to conceive one of the most audacious military campaigns in history. He had been operating on the eastern part of the Plains of Casanare. On the western plains up against the Andes, Francisco de Paula Santander was conducting a guerrilla campaign the Spanish found impossible to suppress. During the rainy season when the plains were a virtual swamp, the royalist troops withdrew and in April, Santander sent a message to Bolivar that the area was free of the enemy.
Bolivar knew that the Andes were considered impassable during winter (in the southern hemisphere) and that the Spanish guarded the frontier of New Granada on the other side very lightly. He called a war council of his generals, all of them under 40, in a hut without furniture; they sat on the bleached skulls of oxen to discuss his idea on May 23.
Hannibal had spent years preparing for his epic trek through the Alps, as had San Martin of Argentina when he made his own climb over the Andes, both with seasoned soldiers. But within a week of making plans, Venezuela's 2,500 ragtag rebels set out to for the foot of the mountains. First, though, they had to cross 10 swollen rivers, as well as move through flooded plains with water often waist-deep, with the torrential rain constant. Half the cattle brought along for food drowned. Bolivar continually moved up and down his lines to exhort his men forward.
On June 25, they began the ascent into the mountains. The army consisted mostly of men from the plains and Britain and Ireland, none of them prepared for what they were about to face. The higher they went, the colder it became. By the time they were at 18,000 feet, the horses and cattle had died in the frozen wasteland. The half-naked men who had no wood for fire most of the time, took to flogging each other to keep circulation going. Nearly 1,000 men died along the way!
Those who made it to the other side of the range were half-starved and had dropped their weapons along the way, but found a population eager to resupply them. After Bolivar's men had a few skirmishes with Spanish government outposts, word reach the regional commander, who prepared to meet the rebels in a well-defended position with 3,000 soldiers on July 24 at Pantano de Vargas. After the revolutionaries' cavalry managed to charge in the steep terrain and the foreign legion seemed to cinch a victory with a bayonet assault, the Spanish pushed them back. It was a stalemate, but the commander sent a report to the viceroy: "The annihilation of the republicans appeared inevitable. But despair gave them courage. Our infantry could not resist them."
The Spanish retreated and the patriots pursued. At Boyaca, on August 7, the rebels prevented the royalists from crossing a bridge that would have allowed them to reach the garrison at Bogata. In a two-hour clash, they captured half of the 3,000 Spanish troops, the rest having been killed or fled the battlefield. It was the turning point for the independence movement in South America. The Spanish began to evacuate New Granada and word spread like wildfire that the empire was coming to an end. Desertions from the royal army increased and formerly neutral citizens began actively supporting Bolivar.
In December, the underground legislature of Venezuela assembled and declared its country and New Granada united as the Republic of Colombia (which included what is now Ecuador). Bolivar was made president and military dictator.
Political events in Spain provided impetus for negotiations with the republicans throughout 1820, but skirmishes continued. Bolivar and Morillo, the Spanish commander, met in November and signed an armistice. In the following months, the patriots built up their army and made plans for a campaign in the event a final agreement should not be worked out. The conflict resumed in April 1821.
On June 24, the Spanish general La Torre brought 5,000 troops to Carabobo to block both passes that could allow the rebels to move towards Caracas. He made some decisive mistakes in position: a weak right flank, no sharpshooters at the edges, and cavalry too far to the rear to be brought up in a timely manner.
Bolivar, with a total of 6,500 men, sent Paez with cavalry and infantry, including the British battalion, around to the enemy's right rear, but while cutting through the heavy bushes, that they were spotted. The Spanish reinforced their right and concentrated fire on Paez's troops, repelling the initial attack, which required the patriots to climb across steep ravines. But when the overconfident Spanish broke out and chased them, the royalists ran smack into the British veterans of the Napoleonic wars who cut them to pieces with disciplined heavy fire at close range. Running out of ammunition, the British charged with bayonets and the Spanish right collapsed.
The main forces of both sides had not yet engaged, but when Bolivar saw the outcome on the right, he ordered a full attack. One-third of the Spanish troops were captured and as many were killed or wounded.
The region between Cali (Colombia) and Guayaquil (Ecuador) remained a Spanish stronghold after the victory at Carabobo. Bolivar had sent General Antonio Jose Sucre south to aid the local revolutionaries and he had achieved some success. In March 1822, Bolivar set out with 3,000 soldiers, but one third of them perished from exposure or harassment from loyalist guerrillas.
On April 7, he came up against 1,800 Spanish troops in a seemingly impregnable position in thick woods at Bombana. Bolivar ordered an attack on the right at night under a full moon, losing a third of his 2,000 men under withering fire.
But over the next six weeks while the Spanish were concentrating on resisting Bolivar, his right-hand, Antonio Jose Sucre, had gone around them, defeated royalist troops positioned near Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and taken it. From that base, he was able to mop of Spanish forces and Bolivar went on to Guayaquil.
Forces under the generalship of Jose de San Martin, a 20-year veteran of service to the crown, and Bernardo O'Higgins, son of an Irishman who had become viceroy of Peru, had ended colonialism in Chile and Argentina. Between their armies and Bolivar's troops lay Peru, with 19,000 Spanish troops, the last of the empire. San Martin was well-provisioned and well-armed when he marched over the Andes with 4,500 veterans to take Lima in June 1821. However, had not been able to push further inland.
On July 26, 1822, San Martin and Bolivar met in Guayaquil to see how they could work together. There is no record of the meeting, but they didn't seem to get along well personally and had different visions for the continent. San Martin was so discouraged by Bolivar's impassioned insistence that his views would prevail that he retired immediately to France. Peru was left in Bolivar's hands.
In June 1824, Bolivar assembled an army of 9,000 in Peru to move 600 miles over the Andes to the high plateau. Inadequately clothed, suffering from sun-blindness, lack of oxygen, and the hazards of the dizzying precipces, they climbed to 12,000 feet. One English general, a long-time veteran in Europe, described it as the most difficult military operation he had ever undertaken.
At the top, Bolivar reviewed his troops and told them, "Soldiers, you are about to finish the greatest undertaking Heaven has confided to men--that of saving an entire world from salvery!"
On August 6, Bolivar reached the heights above the Plains of Junin. Below, he spotted part of the Spanish army moving across the plains. Bolivar sent 900 of his horsemen to attack the 2,000 royal cavalry at their rear. The engagement lasted 45 minutes, no shot was fired during the clash of lances and swords. The patriots lost 120 men, the Spanish, who retreated in wild disorder, 400. It was to be the last battle Bolivar would personally lead against the king's men.
Bolivar stepped down to attend to political matters and put nearly 5,780 soldiers under the command of Sucre. The Peruvian viceroy, La Serna, took 9,300 troops and began to pursue Sucre's forces. A cat and mouse game ensued through country crossed by steep ravines and deep rivers. Bolivar wrote Sucre that, "The axiom of Marshal of Saxony is being fulfilled. Feet spared Peru; feet saved Peru; and feet will again cause Peru to be lost. Fixed ideas always avenge themselves."
The Spanish finally trapped Sucre's army in the valley of Ayacucho on December 9. The republicans had only one 4-pounder gun, opposed to the crown force's 24 artillery pieces. As the Spanish marched down on the republicans, Sucre rode along his lines, shouting, "Upon your efforts depend the fate of South America." Knowing that some of La Serna's subordinates perpetuated massacres of surrendered troops, the rebels knew it was a fight to the finish. One of Sucre's lieutenants killed his horse, explaining to his soldiers, "I have now no means of escape, so we must fight it out together." The Spanish were startled by the fierceness of the republican resistance and when the latter charged with bayonets, the Spanish lost 2,000 men and 15 guns. La Serna was taken prisoner and the commanding general surrendered.
Sucre's report to Bolivar announced, "The war is ended, and the liberation of Peru completed."
Mop-up operations occupied 1825 and in the same year the people of upper Peru deciding to form a separate nation, which they named Bolivia in Bolivar's honor. He wrote its constitution and accepted the position of lifetime president.
The fight for the independence of Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Panama (a department of Colombia) had involved 696 battles, with an average of 1,400 soldiers per engagement, counting both sides together!
Bolivar received a letter from the then-old Marquis de Lafayette on behalf of the family of George Washington, along with a gold medallion coined after the capitulation at Yorktown. It read, "The second Washington of the New World." Bolivar was deeply moved.
Simon Bolivar began vigorously rebuilding and administering the devastated new states. He was at the height of his power when he convened a congress of Latin American republics in Panama in 1826. He envisioned a league of the fledgling Central and South American nations, but he was far ahead of his time.85
Soon thereafter, fighting between the states, personality conflicts, and resentment of his authoritarian ways caused his influence to wane. After an assassination attempt and with failing health, Bolivar resigned all his positions and died shortly thereafter on December 10, 1830.
But to Latin Americans, Bolivar remains immortal, one of the greatest military leaders in the history of the entire world.
Monday, September 26, 2011
his May 22, 1954 file photo shows Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who commands the Communist-led Vietminh forces currently waging war against French Union Troops in Indochina
Fidel Castro and Vo Nguyen Giap
General Vo Nguyen Giap in the cover of TIME Magazine
Vo Nguyen Giap in 10 July 2008
In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 file photo, Hanoi Communist Party chief Pham Quang Nghi, center right, shakes hands with Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap in a hospital bed in Hanoi, Vietnam, prior to the start of celebrations for the city's 1,000th birthday
Võ Nguyên Giáp (born August 25, 1911) is a prominent Vietnamese officer in the Vietnam People’s Army and a politician. He was a principal commander in two wars: the First Indochina War (1946–1954) and the Vietnam War (1960–1975). He participated in the following historically significant battles: Lạng Sơn (1950); Hòa Bình (1951–1952); Điện Biên Phủ (1954); the Tết Offensive (1968); the Easter Offensive (1972); and the final Hồ Chí Minh Campaign (1975). He was also a journalist, an interior minister in President Hồ Chí Minh’s Việt Minh government, the military commander of the Việt Minh, the commander of the Vietnam People’s Army (PAVN), and defense minister. He also served as Politburo member of the Lao Động Party.
He was the most prominent military commander, beside Hồ Chí Minh, during the war and was responsible for major operations and leadership until the war ended.
Giáp was born in the village of An Xá, Quảng Bình Province. His father and mother, Võ Quang Nghiêm and Nguyen Thi Kien, worked the land, rented some to neighbors, and lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle. At 14, Giáp became a messenger for the Haiphong Power Company and shortly thereafter joined the Tân Việt Cách Mạng Đảng, a romantically styled revolutionary youth group. Two years later, he entered Quốc Học (also known in English as the “National Academy”), a French-run lycée in Huế, from which two years later, according to his own account, he was expelled for having organized a student strike. Although he has denied it, Giáp is said to have also spent a few years in the prestigious Hanoian Lycée Albert Sarraut, where the local elite was educated to serve the colonial regime. He was apparently in the same class as Phạm Văn Đồng, future Prime Minister, who has also denied having studied at Albert Sarraut, and Bảo Đại, the last emperor of Annam. In 1933, at the age of 22, Giáp enrolled in the University of Hanoi.
Giáp was educated at the University of Hanoi where he gained a bachelor’s degree in politics, economics and law. After graduation, he taught history for one year at the Thăng Long School in Hanoi. Throughout most of the 1930s, Giáp remained a schoolteacher and a journalist, writing articles for Tien Dang, while actively participating in various revolutionary movements. He joined the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1931 and took part in several demonstrations against French rule in Indochina as well as having assisted in founding the Democratic Front in 1933. All the while, Giáp was a dedicated reader of military history and philosophy, revering Napoleon I and Sun Tzu (Vietnamese: Tôn Vũ). Võ Nguyên Giáp was arrested in 1930 and served 13 months of a two-year sentence at Lao Bảo Prison. During the Popular Front years in France, he founded Hon Tre Tap Moi, an underground socialist newspaper. He also founded the French-language paper Le Travail (on which Phạm Văn Đồng also worked). In 1939 he married Nguyễn Thị Quang Thái, another socialist. She bore him a daughter, Hong Anh. When France outlawed communism during the same year, Giáp fled to China together with Phạm Văn Đồng where he joined up with Hồ Chí Minh, the leader of the Vietnam Independence League (Việt Minh). While he was in exile, his wife, sister, father and sister-in-law were arrested, tortured and later executed by the French colonial authorities. His daughter is also believed to have perished in prison due to neglect.
He returned to Vietnam in 1944, and between then and 1945 he helped organize resistance to the Japanese occupation forces. When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, the Japanese decided to allow nationalist groups to take over public buildings while keeping the French in prison as a way of causing additional trouble to the Allies in the postwar period. The Việt Minh and other groups took over various towns and formed a provisional government in which Giáp was named Minister of the Interior.
In September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh announced the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Unknown to the Việt Minh, President Harry S. Truman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin had already decided the future of postwar Vietnam at a summit meeting at Potsdam. They agreed that the country would be occupied temporarily to get the Japanese out; the northern half would be under the control of the Nationalist Chinese and the southern half under the British.
After the Second World War (WWII), France attempted to reestablish control over Vietnam. In January 1946, Great Britain agreed to remove her troops, and, later that year, the Chinese left Vietnam in exchange for a promise from France that she would give up her rights to territory in China.
In late 1945, after the defeat of Japan in WWII, the French returned to reclaim Indochina. Sporadic fighting quickly became a general war between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Việt Minh) and the French on December 19, 1946. The first few years of the war involved mostly a low-level, semi-conventional resistance fight against the French occupying forces. However, after the Chinese communists reached the northern border of Vietnam in 1949 and the Vietnamese destruction of French posts there, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union.
French Union forces included colonial troops from many parts of the French former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan (i.e. from France itself) recruits was forbidden by the governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the "dirty war" (la sale guerre) by supporters of the Left in France and intellectuals (including Sartre) during the Henri Martin Affair in 1950.
When it became clear that France was becoming involved in a long drawn-out and so far not very successful war, the French government tried to negotiate an agreement with the Việt Minh. They offered to help set up a national government and promised that they would eventually grant Vietnam its independence. Hồ Chí Minh and the other leaders of the Việt Minh did not trust the word of the French and continued the war.
French public opinion continued to move against the war. There were five main reasons for this:
Between 1946 and 1952 many French troops had been killed, wounded, or captured.
France was attempting to build up her economy after the devastation of the Second World War. The cost of the war had so far been twice what they had received from the United States under the Marshall Plan.
The war had lasted for seven years and there was still no sign of an outright French victory.
A growing number of people in France had reached the conclusion that their country did not have any moral justification for being in Vietnam.
Parts of the French left supported the goals of the Việt Minh to form a socialist state.
While growing stronger in Vietnam, the Việt Minh also expanded the war and lured the French to spread their force to remote areas such as Laos. In December 1953, Navarre set up a defensive complex at Ðiện Biên Phủ, which attempted to block the aids transportation route passing through Laos. He surmised that in an attempt to reestablish the route to Laos, Giáp would be forced to organize a mass attack on the French forces at Ðiện Biên Phủ, where he hoped to have advantage in a conventional battle.
Giáp took up the French challenge. While the French dug in at their outpost, the Việt Minh were also preparing the battlefield. Divergent attacks in other areas, diverted French air logistics elsewhere. Giáp ordered his men to secretly pull their artillery by hand, 24 105mm howitzers to hollows on the inner hill sides of Ðiện Biên Phủ for providing them cover from French aircraft and counter-attacks from French artillery.
With antiaircraft guns supplied by the Soviet Union, Giáp was able to severely restrict the ability of the French to supply their forces, and forced them to inaccurately drop supplies from high altitude to the besieged areas. Giáp chose to surround the outpost and ordered his men to dig a trench system that encircled the French. From the outer trench, other trenches and tunnels were dug inward towards the center. The Việt Minh were now able to move in close to the French troops defending Ðiện Biên Phủ.
When Navarre realized that he was trapped, he appealed for help. The United States was approached and some advisers suggested the use of tactical nuclear weapons against the Việt Minh, but this was never seriously considered. Another suggestion was that conventional air raids would be enough to scatter Giáp’s troops. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, refused to intervene unless the British and other Western allies agreed. Churchill declined, claiming that he wanted to wait for the outcome of the peace negotiations taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, before becoming involved in escalating the war.
On 13 March 1954, Giáp launched his offensive. For 54 days, the Việt Minh seized position after position, pushing the French until they occupied only a small area of Ðiện Biên Phủ. Colonel Piroth, the artillery commander, blamed himself for the destruction of French artillery superiority. He told his fellow officers that he had been "completely dishonoured" and committed suicide with a hand grenade. General De Castries, French Commander in Ðiện Biên Phủ, was captured alive in his bunker. The French surrendered on May 7. Their casualties totaled over 2,200 men, 5,600 wounded and 11,721 taken prisoner. The following day the French government announced that it intended to withdraw from Vietnam.
Giáp remained commander in chief of the People’s Army of Vietnam throughout the war against the United States. During the conflict, he oversaw the expansion of the PAVN from a small self-defense force into a large conventional army, equipped by its communist allies with considerable amounts of relatively sophisticated weaponry, although this did not in general match the weaponry of the Americans. Giáp has often been assumed to have been the planner of the Tết Offensive of 1968, but this appears not to have been the case. The best evidence indicates that he disliked the plan, and when it became apparent that Lê Duẩn and Văn Tiến Dũng were going to push it through despite his doubts, he left Vietnam for medical treatment in Hungary, and did not return until after the offensive had begun. Although this attempt to spark a general uprising against the southern government failed militarily, it turned into a significant political victory by convincing the American politicians and public that their commitment to South Vietnam could no longer be open-ended. Giáp later argued that the Tết Offensive was not a "purely military strategy" but rather part of a "general strategy, an integrated one, at once military, political and diplomatic."
Peace talks between representatives from the United States, the Republic of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the NLF began in Paris in January 1969. President Richard M. Nixon, like President Lyndon B. Johnson before him, was convinced that a U.S. withdrawal was necessary, but five years would pass before the last American troops left South Vietnam. In October 1972, the negotiators came close to agreeing to a formula to end the conflict. The plan was that the last U.S. troops would withdraw from Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of American prisoners held by Hà Nội. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power until new elections could be arranged to unite the whole country. Although the casualties in the Nguyễn Huệ Offensive during the spring of 1972 was high, PAVN was able to gain a foothold in territorial Southern Vietnam from which to launch future offensives.
Although U.S. troops would leave the country, PAVN troops could remain in their positions in the south. In an effort to put pressure on both North and South Vietnam during the negotiations, President Nixon ordered a new series of air raids on Hà Nội and Hải Phòng, codenamed Operation Linebacker II. Following the failure of the operation, on 27 January 1973, Nixon agreed to sign the Paris Peace Accords that had been proposed in October.
The last U.S. combat troops left in March 1973. Despite the treaty, there was no letup in fighting. South Vietnamese massive advances against the [[Vietcong|NLF] controlled teritorry inspired their opponents to change their strategy. In March, communist leaders met in Hanoi for a series of meetings to hammer out plans for a massive offensive against the South. In June 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment to prohibit further U.S. military involvement, so the PAVN Hochiminh trail were able to operate normally without fear of U.S. bombing.
South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu appealed to Nixon for continued financial aid. Nixon was sympathetic but the U.S. Congress was not, and the move was blocked. At its peak, U.S. aid to South Vietnam had reached $30 billion a year. By 1974, it had fallen to US$1 billion. Starved of funds, Thiệu’s government had difficulty paying even the wages of its army, and desertions became a problem. On the other side, the PAVN was also has to bring up obsolette equipment such as the SU-100 tank destroyers to prepare for their final offensive.
Some sources claim that right after the war, Giáp was made into an outcast. The Politburo was suspicious of Giáp’s intentions, and feared his influence, because Giáp had a high reputation after the war. Sometime before 1968, Lê Duẩn, the future general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, accused Giáp of being a Soviet mole. Despite these accusations, Giáp played a critical role in all military decisions at the end of the war. Some VC Politburo's ex-members even said: "None of his proposals were refused by the Politburo throughout the war."
In the spring of 1975, Giáp sent four star General Văn Tiến Dũng to launch the deadliest attack on Buôn Ma Thuột. This town sat at the intersection of the important routes of Central Highland and it was a weak point for the enemy forces. The sudden strike frightened the southern leaders and generals, worsened the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) morale, and shook the ARVN defence system.
Giáp sent General Lê Trọng Tấn to launch series of attacks against Đà Nẵng, where nearly 100,000 well-equipped troops of the best southern divisions were camped. In three days, Đà Nẵng was seized. Giáp appointed General Văn Tiến Dũng as 1st Commander and General Lê Trọng Tấn as 2nd Commander of the "Hồ Chí Minh Campaign", a massive conventional operation that utilized armor and heavy artillery. The goal of the operation was to take over Saigon from two directions, Central Highland and coastal no.1 highway. These attacks were done in coordination with General Lê Đức Anh and Snr. Lt. General Trần Văn Trà. After important areas such as Buôn Ma Thuột, Đà Nẵng and Huế were lost in March, panic swept through the ARVN and its high command. President Thiệu attempted to abandon the northern half of the nation while pulling his troops back to defensive positions in the south.
Under guidelines from Giáp, General Lê Trọng Tấn’s force was first to enter Saigon and Tấn captured Dương Văn Minh alive. Minh was the last president of the Vietnamese Republic in the capital of Saigon on 30 April 1975. Soon afterward, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established. In the new government, Giáp maintained his position as Minister of National Defense and he was made Deputy Prime Minister in July 1976. He was removed from this post at the Defense Ministry in 1980 and was also removed from his position in the Politburo in 1982. He remained on the Central Committee and Deputy Prime Minister until 1991.
Giáp has also written extensively on military theory and strategy. His works include Big Victory, Great Task; People's Army, People's War; "Ðiện Biên Phủ; and We Will Win. Historian Stanley Karnow described him as ranking with "Wellington, Grant, Lee, Rommel, and MacArthur in the pantheon of great military leaders".
In 1995, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara met Giáp to ask what happened on 4 August 1964 in the second Gulf of Tonkin Incident. "Absolutely nothing", Giáp replied. The incident, that served President Johnson as a pretext to step up U.S. involvement in the conflict, had been imaginary, although it had not started as a deliberate fabrication.
In 2010, Giáp became a prominent critic of bauxite mining in Vietnam following government plans to open large areas of the Central Highlands to the practice. Giáp indicated that a 1980s study led experts to advise against mining due to severe ecological damage.
Interview with Vo Nguyen Giap, Viet Minh Commander:
Q: Was Diên Bin Phû a conventional military victory or was it a victory for military warfare?
Giap: The victory at Diên Bin Phû was a victory for the people. But then, of course, while the concept of a people's war and guerrilla warfare are not entirely separate, they are separate nonetheless. In this case, it was the people's war that was victorious. And guerrilla warfare was one aspect of that people's war. It's all quite complicated.... What is the people's war? Well, in a word, it's a war fought for the people by the people, whereas guerrilla warfare is simply a combat method. The people's war is more global in concept. It's a synthesized concept. A war which is simultaneously military, economic and political, and is what we in France would call "synthesized." There's guerrilla warfare and there's large-scale tactical warfare, fought by large units.
Q: What was new about the idea of the "People's War"?
Giap: It was a war for the people by the people. FOR the people because the war's goals are the people's goals -- goals such as independence, a unified country, and the happiness of its people.... And BY the people -- well that means ordinary people -- not just the army but all people.
We know it's the human factor, and not material resources, which decide the outcome of war. That's why our people's war, led by Ho Chi Minh, was on such a large scale. It took in the whole population.
Q: What do you think about the significance of Diên Bin Phû for the world?
Giap: The history of the Vietnamese people goes back thousands of years. During that time we've repelled thousands of invaders. Only, in former times the countries that tried to invade us were on the same economic level as we were. Theirs, like ours, was a feudal society. That was the case, for example, when we fought the Chinese in the 13th century. But Diên Bin Phû was a victory in another era. What I mean is that in the latter half of the 19th century, when western imperialism divided the world into colonies, a new problem emerged. How could a weak, economically backwards people ever hope to regain its freedom? How could it hope to take on a modern western army, backed by the resources of a modern capitalist state? And that's why it took us 100 years to fight off the French and French imperialism. Diên Bin Phû was the first great decisive victory after 100 years of war against French imperialism and U.S. interventionism. That victory that put an end to the war and marked the end of French aggression. From an international point of view, it was the first great victory for a weak, colonized people struggling against the full strength of modern Western forces. This is why it was the first great defeat for the West. It shook the foundations of colonialism and called on people to fight for their freedom -- it was the beginning of international civilization.
Q: Was Diên Bin Phû an easy victory because the French made so many mistakes?
Giap: It's not as simple as that. We believed that in the French camp, French general staff and the military chiefs were well informed. They'd weighed up the pros and cons, and according to their forecasts, Diên Bin Phû was impregnable. It has to be said that at the beginning of the autumn of '53, for example, when our political headquarters were planning our autumn and winter campaigns, there was no mention of Diên Bin Phû. Why? Because, the Navarre plan didn't mention it either. They had a whole series of maneuvers planned.
For us, the problem was that Navarre wanted to retain the initiative whereas we wanted to seize it. There is a contradiction that exists in a war of aggression whereby you have to disperse your forces to occupy a territory but rally your mobile forces for offensive action. We took advantage of this contradiction and forced Navarre to disperse his forces. That's how it all started. We ordered our troops to advance in a number of directions, directions of key importance to the enemy although their presence wasn't significant. So the enemy had no choice but to disperse their troops. We sent divisions north, northwest, toward the center, towards Laos; other divisions went in other directions. So to safeguard Laos and the northwest, Navarre had to parachute troops into Diên Bin Phû, and that's what happened at Diên Bin Phû. Before then, no one had heard of Diên Bin Phû. But afterwards, well that's history, isn't it? French General Staff only planned to parachute in sufficient troops to stop us advancing on the northwest and Laos. Little by little, they planned to transform Diên Bin Phû into an enormous concentration camp, a fortified camp, the most powerful in Indochina. They planned to draw our forces, break us, crush us, but the opposite took place. They'd wanted a decisive battle and that's exactly what they got at Diên Bin Phû -- except that it was decisive for the Vietnamese and not for the French.
Q: Before Diên Bin Phû, do you think the French ever imagined you could defeat them?
Giap: Well, everyone at Diên Bin Phû, from the French generals and representatives of the French government to the American generals and the commanding admiral of the Pacific Fleet, agreed that Diên Bin Phû was impregnable. Everyone agreed that it was impossible to take. The French and then the Americans underestimated our strength. They had better weapons and enormous military and economic potential. They never doubted that victory would be theirs. And yet, just when the French believed themselves to be on the verge of victory, everything collapsed around them. The same happened to the Americans in the Spring of '65. Just when Washington was about to proclaim victory in the South, the Americans saw their expectations crumble. Why? Because it wasn't just an army they were up against but an entire people -- an entire people.
So the lesson is that however great the military and economic potential of your adversary, it will never be great enough to defeat a people united in the struggle for their fundamental rights. That's what we've learned from all this.
Q: Why was the National Liberation Front so successful in expanding the areas it controlled between 1960 and 1965?
Giap: Throughout our long history, whenever we've felt ourselves to be threatened by the enemy, our people have closed in the ranks. Millions of men, united, have called for "Unification above all," for "Victory above all".... The National Liberation Front was victorious because it managed to unite most of the people and because its politics were just.
Q: Did you change your tactics at all when the American troops began to arrive after 1965?
Giap: Of course, but even so, it was still a people's war. And, a people's war is characterized by a strategy that is more than simply military. There's always a synthesized aspect to the strategy, too. Our strategy was at once military, political, economic, and diplomatic, although it was the military component which was the most important one.
In a time of war, you have to take your lead from the enemy. You have to know your enemy well. When your enemy changes his strategy or tactics, you have to do the same. In every war, a strategy is always made up of a number of tactics that are considered to be of great strategic importance, so you have to try to smash those tactics. If we took on the cavalry, for example, we'd do everything we could to smash that particular tactic. It was the same when the enemy made use of strategic weapons.... And, when the Americans tried to apply their "seek and destroy" tactic, we responded with our own particular tactic that was to make their objective unattainable and destroy them instead. We had to...force the enemy to fight the way we wanted them to fight. We had to force the enemy to fight on unfamiliar territory.
Q: Was your Têt offensive in 1968 a failure?
Giap: As far as we're concerned, there's no such thing as a purely military strategy. So it would be wrong to speak of Têt in purely military terms. The offensive was three things at the same time: military, political, and diplomatic. The goal of the war was de-escalation. We were looking to de-escalate the war. Thus, it would have been impossible to separate our political strategy from our military strategy. The truth is that we saw things in their entirety and knew that in the end, we had to de-escalate the war. At that point, the goal of the offensive was to try to de-escalate the war.
Q: And did the de-escalation succeed?
Giap: Your objective in war can either be to wipe out the enemy altogether or to leave their forces partly intact but their will to fight destroyed. It was the American policy to try and escalate the war. Our goal in the '68 offensive was to force them to de-escalate, to break the American will to remain in the war....
We did this by confronting them with repeated military, as well as political and diplomatic victories. By bringing the war to practically all the occupied towns, we aimed to show the Americans and the American people that it would be impossible for them to continue with the war. Essentially, that's how we did it.
Q: You are familiar with those famous pictures of April 1975, of American helicopters flying away from the American Embassy. What do those pictures mean to you?
Giap: It was as we expected. It marked the end of the American neo-colonial presence in our country. And, it proved that when a people are united in their fight for freedom, they will always be victorious.
When I was young, I had a dream that one day I'd see my country free and united. That day, my dream came true. When the political bureau reunited Hanoi with Laos, there were first reports of evacuation. Then the Saigon government capitulated. It was like turning the page on a chapter of history. The streets in Hanoi were full of people.
The pictures of the helicopters were, in one way, a concrete symbol of the victory of the People's war against American aggression. But, looked at another way, it's proof that the Pentagon could not possibly predict what would happen. It revealed the sheer impossibility for the Americans to forecast the outcome. Otherwise, they would have planned things better, wouldn't they.
The reality of history teaches us that not even the most powerful economic and military force can overcome a resistance of a united people, a people united in their struggle for their international rights. There is a limit to power. I think the Americans and great superpowers would do well to remember that while their power may be great, it is inevitably limited.... Since the beginning of time, whether in a socialist or a capitalist country, the things you do in the interests of the people stand you in good stead, while those which go against the interest of the people will eventually turn against you. History bears out what I say.
We were the ones who won the war and the Americans were the ones who were defeated, but let's be precise about this. What constitutes victory? The Vietnamese people never wanted war; they wanted peace. Did the Americans want war? No, they wanted peace, too. So, the victory was a victory for those people in Vietnam and in the USA who wanted peace. Who, then, were the ones defeated? Those who were after aggression at any price. And that's why we're still friends with the people of France and why we've never felt any enmity for the people of America....
Q: Who invented the idea of People's war? Whose idea was it originally?
Giap: It was originally a product of the creative spirit of the people. Let me tell you the legend of Phu Dong...which everyone here knows well. It's a legend set in prehistoric times. The enemy was set to invade, and there was a three-year-old boy called Phu Dong who was growing visibly bigger by the minute. He climbed on to an iron horse and, brandishing bamboo canes as weapons, rallied the people. The peasants, the fisherman, everyone answered his call, and they won the war. It's just a legend and like popular literature, the content is legendary, but it still reflects the essence of the people's thinking. So, popular warfare existed even in legends, and it remained with us over the centuries.
Q: Why do you think Vietnam is almost the only country in the world that has defeated America? Why only Vietnam?
Giap: Speaking as a historian, I'd say that Vietnam is rare. As a nation, Vietnam was formed very early on. It is said that, in theory, a nation can only be formed after the arrival of Capitalism -- according to Stalin's theory of the formation of nations, for instance. But, our nation was formed very early, before the Christian era. Why? Because the risk of aggression from outside forces led all the various tribes to band together. And then there was the constant battle against the elements, against the harsh winter conditions that prevail here. In our legends, this struggle against the elements is seen as a unifying factor, a force for national cohesion. This, combined with the constant risk of invasion, made for greater cohesion and created a tradition -- a tradition that gave us strength.
The Vietnamese people in general tend to be optimistic. Why? Because they've been facing up to vicissitudes for thousands of years, and for thousands of years they've been overcoming them.
Q: What was the contribution of Marxism and Leninism to your theory of a People's War?
The People's War in Vietnam pre-dated the arrival of Marxism and Leninism, both of which contributed something when they did arrive, of course.
When the USSR collapsed, we predicted that 60 to 80 percent of our imports and exports budget would be eliminated because we depended upon aid from the USSR and other socialist countries. So people predicted the collapse of Vietnam. Well, we're still hanging on and slowly making progress. I was asked what I thought of Perestroika, so I answered that I agreed with the change and thought it was necessary in political relations. But Perestroika is a Russian word, made for the Russians. Here we do things the Vietnamese way. And we make the most of our hopes and the hopes of those in Russia, China, the USA, Japan, Great Britain -- but we try to assimilate them all.
As I mentioned, the Vietnamese people have an independent spirit, stubborn people, I suppose, who do things the Vietnamese way. So now the plan is to mobilize the entire population in the fight against backwardness and misery. While there are the problems of war and the problems of peace, there are also concrete laws, social laws, great laws, which retain their value whether in peace or war. You have to be realistic. You have to have a goal. You have to be a realist and use reality as a means of analyzing the object laws which govern things. To win, you have to act according to these laws. If you do the opposite, you're being subjective and you're bound to lose. So, we learn from the experience, both good and bad, of Capitalism. But, we have our own Vietnamese idea on things. I'd like to add that we are still for independence, that we still follow the path shown us by Ho Chi Minh, the path of independence and Socialism. I'm still a Socialist but what is Socialism? It's independence and unity for the country. It's the freedom and well-being of the people who live there. And, it's peace and friendship between all men.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Painted portrait of William Tecumseh Sherman by G.P.A. Healy (1866). Stretcher: 158.8 × 95.3 × 3.8 cm (62.5 × 37.5 × 1.5 in) Frame: 175.6 × 114.3 × 7.6 cm (69.1 × 45 × 3 in). Influenced perhaps by Sherman's reputation for severe tactics in the field, artist G. P. A. Healy once noted that he found the Union general a forbidding portrait subject at first. But as the posing progressed, he found the general quite friendly
William Tecumseh Sherman Portrait by Mathew Brady, c. 1864
William Tecumseh Sherman and staff. Library of Congress description: "Gen. U. S. T. Sherman and staff". Standing, left to right: Oliver Otis Howard, William Babcock Hazen, Jefferson Columbus Davis, Joseph Anthony Mower; Seated, left to right: John Alexander Logan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Henry Warner Slocum. Photograph taken between June 1, 1862 and 1865
William Tecumseh Sherman as a major general in May 1865. The black ribbon of mourning on his left arm is for President Lincoln. Portrait by Mathew Brady
A black and white profile photograph mostly of William Tecumseh Sherman's head. The photograph is from his later years and he is in civilian evening dress. Published November 1907 in Carl Schurz, “Reminiscences of a Long Life: Lincoln's Reëlection and the Close of the War,” McClure's Magazine, Vol. 30, November, 1907, p. 97
Birthplace: Lancaster, OH
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, MO
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Marched to the Sea
Military service: US Army (1840-53); Union Army (1861-65); US Army (1865-83)
William Tecumseh Sherman (February 8, 1820 – February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched earth" policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States. Military historian B. H. Liddell Hart famously declared that Sherman was "the first modern general".
Sherman was born in 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio, near the shores of the Hocking River. His father Charles Robert Sherman, a successful lawyer who sat on the Ohio Supreme Court, died unexpectedly in 1829. He left his widow, Mary Hoyt Sherman, with eleven children and no inheritance. After his father's death, the nine-year-old Sherman was raised by a Lancaster neighbor and family friend, attorney Thomas Ewing, a prominent member of the Whig Party who served as senator from Ohio and as the first Secretary of the Interior. Sherman was distantly related to American founding father Roger Sherman and grew to admire him.
Sherman's older brother Charles Taylor Sherman became a federal judge. One of his younger brothers, John Sherman, served as a U.S. senator and Cabinet secretary. Another younger brother, Hoyt Sherman, was a successful banker. Two of his foster brothers served as major generals in the Union Army during the Civil War: Hugh Boyle Ewing, later an ambassador and author, and Thomas Ewing, Jr., who would serve as defense attorney in the military trials against the Lincoln conspirators.
Sherman's unusual given name has always attracted considerable attention. Sherman reported that his middle name came from his father having "caught a fancy for the great chief of the Shawnees, 'Tecumseh.'" Since an account in a 1932 biography about Sherman, it has often been reported that, as an infant, Sherman was named simply Tecumseh. According to these accounts, Sherman only acquired the name "William" at age nine or ten, after being taken into the Ewing household. His foster mother, Maria Ewing, who was of Irish ancestry, was a devout Catholic. In the Ewing home, Sherman was baptized by a Dominican priest, who named him William for the saint's day: possibly June 25, the feast day of Saint William of Montevergine. But, scholars believe this colorful account may be myth. Sherman wrote in his Memoirs that his father named him William Tecumseh; Sherman was baptized by a Presbyterian minister as an infant and given the name William at that time. As an adult, Sherman signed all his correspondence – including to his wife – "W.T. Sherman." His friends and family always called him "Cump".
Sherman did not adhere to any organized religion for the latter part of his adult life, although his wife, Ellen Ewing Sherman, was a devout Catholic and their son Thomas became a Catholic priest. According to his son, Sherman attended the Catholic Church until the outbreak of the Civil War but not thereafter. He was buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri after his death.
Senator Ewing secured an appointment for the 16-year-old Sherman as a cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he roomed and became good friends with another important future Civil War General, George H. Thomas. There Sherman excelled academically, but he treated the demerit system with indifference. Fellow cadet William Rosecrans would later remember Sherman at West Point as "one of the brightest and most popular fellows" and "a bright-eyed, red-headed fellow, who was always prepared for a lark of any kind". About his time at West Point, Sherman says only the following in his Memoirs:
"At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office, and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these. In studies I always held a respectable reputation with the professors, and generally ranked among the best, especially in drawing, chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy. My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which reduced my final class standing from number four to six."
Upon graduation in 1840, Sherman entered the Army as a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery and saw action in Florida in the Second Seminole War against the Seminole tribe. He was later stationed in Georgia and South Carolina. As the foster son of a prominent Whig politician, in Charleston, the popular Lt. Sherman moved within the upper circles of Old South society.
While many of his colleagues saw action in the Mexican-American War, Sherman performed administrative duties in the captured territory of California. Along with fellow Lieutenants Henry Halleck and Edward Ord, Sherman embarked from New York on the 198-day journey around Cape Horn aboard the converted sloop USS Lexington. Due to the confined spaces aboard-ship, Sherman grew close to Halleck and Ord, and in his Memoirs references a hike with Halleck to the summit of Corcovado, notable as the future spot of the Cristo Redentor statue. After their arrival in California, Sherman and Ord reached the town of Yerba Buena two days before its name was changed to San Francisco. In 1848, Sherman accompanied the military governor of California, Col. Richard Barnes Mason, in the inspection that officially confirmed the claim that gold had been discovered in the region, thus inaugurating the California Gold Rush. Sherman, along with Ord, assisted in surveys for the sub-divisions of the town that would become Sacramento.
Sherman earned a brevet promotion to captain for his "meritorious service", but his lack of a combat assignment discouraged him and may have contributed to his decision to resign his commission.
In 1850, Sherman was promoted to the substantive rank of Captain and married Thomas Ewing's daughter, Eleanor Boyle ("Ellen") Ewing, in a Washington ceremony attended by President Zachary Taylor and other political luminaries. (Thomas Ewing was serving as the first Secretary of the Interior at the time.). Like her mother, Ellen Ewing Sherman was a devout Roman Catholic, and the Shermans' eight children were reared in that faith. In 1864, Ellen took up temporary residence in South Bend, Indiana, to have her young family educated at the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary's College. In 1874, with Sherman having become world famous, their eldest child, Marie Ewing ("Minnie") Sherman, also had a politically prominent wedding, attended by President Ulysses S. Grant and commemorated by a generous gift from the Khedive of Egypt. (Eventually, one of Minnie's daughters married a grandson of Confederate general Lewis Addison Armistead!). Another of the Sherman daughters, Eleanor, was married to Alexander Montgomery Thackara at General Sherman’s home in Washington, D.C., on May 5, 1880. To Sherman's great displeasure and sorrow, one of his sons, Thomas Ewing Sherman, joined the religious order of the Jesuits in 1878 and was ordained as a priest in 1889.
In 1853, Sherman resigned his captaincy and became manager of the San Francisco branch of a St. Louis-based bank. He returned to San Francisco at a time of great turmoil in the West. He survived two shipwrecks and floated through the Golden Gate on the overturned hull of a foundering lumber schooner. Sherman suffered from stress-related asthma because of the city's brutal financial climate. Late in life, regarding his time in real-estate-speculation-mad San Francisco, Sherman recalled: "I can handle a hundred thousand men in battle, and take the City of the Sun, but am afraid to manage a lot in the swamp of San Francisco." In 1856, during the vigilante period, he served briefly as a major general of the California militia.
Sherman's San Francisco branch closed in May 1857, and he relocated to New York on behalf of the same bank. When the bank failed during the financial Panic of 1857, he closed the New York branch. In early 1858, he returned to California to wrap-up the bank's affairs there. Later in 1858, he relocated to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he tried his hand at law practice and other ventures without much success.
In 1859, Sherman accepted a job as the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy (which later became Louisiana State University) in Pineville, Louisiana, a position he sought at the suggestion of Major D. C. Buell and secured because of General George Mason Graham. He proved an effective and popular leader of that institution, which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU). Colonel Joseph P. Taylor, the brother of the late President Zachary Taylor, declared that "if you had hunted the whole army, from one end of it to the other, you could not have found a man in it more admirably suited for the position in every respect than Sherman."
On hearing of South Carolina's secession from the United States, Sherman observed to a close friend, Professor David F. Boyd of Virginia, an enthusiastic secessionist, almost perfectly describing the four years of war to come:
"You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it... Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail!"
In January 1861, as more Southern states were seceding from the Union, Sherman was required to accept receipt of arms surrendered to the State Militia by the U.S. Arsenal at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Instead of complying, he resigned his position as superintendent and returned to the North, declaring to the governor of Louisiana, "On no earthly account will I do any act or think any thought hostile ... to the ... United States."
After the war, General Sherman donated two cannons to the institution. These cannons had been captured from Confederate forces and had been used to start the war when fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. They are still currently on display in front of LSU's Military Science building.
Immediately following his departure from Louisiana, Sherman traveled to Washington, D.C., possibly in the hope of securing a position in the army, and met with Abraham Lincoln in the White House during inauguration week. Sherman expressed concern about the North's poor state of preparedness but found Lincoln unresponsive.
Thereafter, Sherman became president of the St. Louis Railroad, a streetcar company, a position he would hold for only a few months. Thus, he was living in border-state Missouri as the secession crisis came to a climax. While trying to hold himself aloof from controversy, he observed firsthand the efforts of Congressman Frank Blair, who later served under Sherman, to hold Missouri in the Union. In early April, he declined an offer from the Lincoln administration to take a position in the War Department as a prelude to his becoming Assistant Secretary of War. After the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Sherman hesitated about committing to military service and ridiculed Lincoln's call for 75,000 three-month volunteers to quell secession, reportedly saying: "Why, you might as well attempt to put out the flames of a burning house with a squirt-gun." However, in May, he offered himself for service in the regular army, and his brother (Senator John Sherman) and other connections maneuvered to get him a commission in the regular army. On June 3, he wrote that "I still think it is to be a long war – very long – much longer than any Politician thinks." He received a telegram summoning him to Washington on June 7.
Sherman was first commissioned as colonel of the 13th U.S. Infantry regiment, effective May 14, 1861. This was a new regiment yet to be raised, and Sherman's first command was actually of a brigade of three-month volunteers. With that command, he was one of the few Union officers to distinguish himself at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, where he was grazed by bullets in the knee and shoulder. The disastrous Union defeat led Sherman to question his own judgment as an officer and the capacities of his volunteer troops. President Lincoln, however, was impressed by Sherman while visiting the troops on July 23 and promoted him to brigadier general of volunteers (effective May 17, 1861, with seniority in rank to Ulysses S. Grant, his future commander). He was assigned to serve under Robert Anderson in the Department of the Cumberland in Louisville, Kentucky, and in October succeeded Anderson in command of the department. Sherman considered his new assignment to violate a promise from Lincoln that he would not be given such a prominent position.
Having succeeded Anderson at Louisville, Sherman now had principal military responsibility for a border state (Kentucky) in which Confederate troops held Columbus and Bowling Green and were present near the Cumberland Gap. He became exceedingly pessimistic about the outlook for his command, and he complained frequently to Washington, D.C., about shortages while providing exaggerated estimates of the strength of the rebel forces. Very critical press reports appeared about him after an October visit to Louisville by the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, and in early November, Sherman insisted that he be relieved. He was promptly replaced by Don Carlos Buell and transferred to St. Louis, Missouri. In December, he was put on leave by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, commander of the Department of the Missouri, who considered him unfit for duty. Sherman went to Lancaster, Ohio, to recuperate. Some scholars believe that, in Kentucky and Missouri, Sherman was in the midst of what today would be described as a nervous breakdown. While he was at home, his wife Ellen wrote to his brother, Senator John Sherman, seeking advice. She complained of "that melancholy insanity to which your family is subject." Sherman later wrote that the concerns of command “broke me down," and he admitted contemplating "suicide." His problems were compounded when the Cincinnati Commercial described him as "insane"!
By mid-December, Sherman was sufficiently recovered to return to service under Halleck in the Department of the Missouri. (In March, Halleck's command was redesignated the Department of the Mississippi and enlarged to unify command in the West). Sherman's initial assignments were rear-echelon commands, first of an instructional barracks near St. Louis and then command of the District of Cairo. Operating from Paducah, Kentucky, he provided logistical support for the operations of Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to capture Fort Donelson. Grant, the previous commander of the District of Cairo, had recently won a major victory at Fort Henry and been given command of the ill-defined District of West Tennessee. Although Sherman was technically the senior officer at this time, he wrote to Grant, "I feel anxious about you as I know the great facilities [the Confederates] have of concentration by means of the River and R Road, but have faith in you — Command me in any way."
After Grant captured Fort Donelson, Sherman got his wish to serve under Grant when he was assigned on March 1, 1862, to the Army of West Tennessee as commander of the 5th Division. His first major test under Grant was at the Battle of Shiloh. The massive Confederate attack on the morning of April 6, 1862, took most of the senior Union commanders by surprise. Sherman had dismissed the intelligence reports received from militia officers, refusing to believe that Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston would leave his base at Corinth. He took no precautions beyond strengthening his picket lines, refusing to entrench, build abatis, or push out reconnaissance patrols. At Shiloh, he may have wished to avoid appearing overly alarmed in order to escape the kind of criticism he had received in Kentucky. He had written to his wife that, if he took more precautions, "they'd call me crazy again".
Despite being caught unprepared by the attack, Sherman rallied his division and conducted an orderly, fighting retreat that helped avert a disastrous Union rout. Finding Grant at the end of the day sitting under an oak tree in the darkness and smoking a cigar, Sherman felt, in his words, "some wise and sudden instinct not to mention retreat". In what would become one of the most notable conversations of the war, Sherman said simply: "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" After a puff of his cigar, Grant replied calmly: "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though." Sherman proved instrumental to the successful Union counterattack of April 7, 1862. At Shiloh, Sherman was wounded twice—in the hand and shoulder—and had three horses shot out from under him. His performance was praised by Grant and Halleck and after the battle, he was promoted to major general of volunteers, effective May 1, 1862.
Beginning in late April, a Union force of 100,000 moved slowly against Corinth, under Halleck's command with Grant relegated to second-in-command; Sherman commanded the division on the extreme right of the Union's right wing (under George H. Thomas). Shortly after the Union forces occupied Corinth on May 30, Sherman persuaded Grant not to leave his command, despite the serious difficulties he was having with Halleck. Sherman offered Grant an example from his own life, "Before the battle of Shiloh, I was cast down by a mere newspaper assertion of 'crazy', but that single battle gave me new life, and I'm now in high feather." He told Grant that, if he remained in the army, "some happy accident might restore you to favor and your true place." In July, Grant's situation improved when Halleck left for the East to become general-in-chief, and Sherman became the military governor of occupied Memphis.
The careers of both officers ascended considerably after that time. In Sherman's case, this was in part because he developed close personal ties to Grant during the two years they served together in the West. During the long and complicated campaign against Vicksburg, one newspaper complained that the "army was being ruined in mud-turtle expeditions, under the leadership of a drunkard [Grant], whose confidential adviser [Sherman] was a lunatic."
Sherman's military record in 1862–63 was mixed. In December 1862, forces under his command suffered a severe repulse at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, just north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Soon after, his XV Corps was ordered to join Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand in his successful assault on Arkansas Post, generally regarded as a politically motivated distraction from the effort to capture Vicksburg. Before the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863, Sherman expressed serious reservations about the wisdom of Grant's unorthodox strategy, but he went on to perform well in that campaign under Grant's supervision.
The historian John D. Winters in The Civil War in Louisiana (1963) describes Sherman:
"... He had yet [before Vicksburg] to display any marked talents for leadership. Sherman, beset by hallucinations and unreasonable fears and finally contemplating suicide, had been relieved from command in Kentucky. He later began a new climb to success at Shiloh and Corinth under Grant. Still, if he muffed his Vicksburg assignment, which had begun unfavorably, he would rise no higher. As a man, Sherman was an eccentric mixture of strength and weakness. Although he was impatient, often irritable and depressed, petulant, headstrong, and unreasonably gruff, he had solid soldierly qualities. His men swore by him, and most of his fellow officers admired him."
After the surrender of Vicksburg to the Union forces under Grant on July 4, 1863, Sherman was given the rank of brigadier general in the regular army, in addition to his rank as a major general of volunteers. Sherman's family came from Ohio to visit his camp near Vicksburg; his nine-year-old son, Willie, the Little Sergeant, died from typhoid fever contracted during the trip.
While traveling to Chattanooga, Sherman departed Memphis on a train that arrived at the Battle of Collierville, Tenn., while the Union garrison there was under attack on October 11, 1863. General Sherman took command of the 550 men and successfully defended against an attack of 3,500 Confederate cavalry.
Command in the West was unified under Grant (Military Division of the Mississippi), and Sherman succeeded Grant in command of the Army of the Tennessee. During the Battle of Chattanooga in November, under Grant's overall command, Sherman quickly took his assigned target of Billy Goat Hill at the north end of Missionary Ridge, only to discover that it was not part of the ridge at all, but rather a detached spur separated from the main spine by a rock-strewn ravine. When he attempted to attack the main spine at Tunnel Hill, his troops were repeatedly repulsed by Patrick Cleburne's heavy division, the best unit in Braxton Bragg's army. Sherman's effort was overshadowed by George Henry Thomas's army's successful assault on the center of the Confederate line, a movement originally intended as a diversion. Subsequently, Sherman led a column to relieve Union forces under Ambrose Burnside thought to be in peril at Knoxville. In February 1864, he led an expedition to Meridian, Mississippi, to disrupt Confederate infrastructure.
Despite this mixed record, Sherman enjoyed Grant's confidence and friendship. When Lincoln called Grant east in the spring of 1864 to take command of all the Union armies, Grant appointed Sherman (by then known to his soldiers as "Uncle Billy") to succeed him as head of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which entailed command of Union troops in the Western Theater of the war. As Grant took overall command of the armies of the United States, Sherman wrote to him outlining his strategy to bring the war to an end concluding that "if you can whip Lee and I can march to the Atlantic I think ol' Uncle Abe will give us twenty days leave to see the young folks."
Sherman proceeded to invade the state of Georgia with three armies: the 60,000-strong Army of the Cumberland under George Henry Thomas, the 25,000-strong Army of the Tennessee under James B. McPherson, and the 13,000-strong Army of the Ohio under John M. Schofield. He fought a lengthy campaign of maneuver through mountainous terrain against Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee, attempting a direct assault only at the disastrous Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. In July, the cautious Johnston was replaced by the more aggressive John Bell Hood, who played to Sherman's strength by challenging him to direct battles on open ground. Meanwhile, in August, Sherman "learned that I had been commissioned a major-general in the regular army, which was unexpected, and not desired until successful in the capture of Atlanta."
Sherman's Atlanta Campaign concluded successfully on September 2, 1864, with the capture of the city, abandoned by Hood. After ordering almost all civilians to leave the city in September, Sherman ordered in November that all military and government buildings be burned, although many private homes and shops were burned as well. This was to set a precedent for future behavior by his armies. Capturing Atlanta was an accomplishment that made Sherman a household name in the North and helped ensure Lincoln's presidential re-election in November. In the summer of that year, it had appeared likely that Lincoln would be defeated; in August, the Democratic Party nominated as its candidate George B. McClellan, the former Union army commander. Lincoln's defeat might well have meant the victory of the Confederacy, as the Democratic Party platform called for peace negotiations based on the acknowledgment of the Confederacy's independence. Thus the capture of Atlanta, coming when it did, may have been Sherman's greatest contribution to the Union cause!
During September and October, Sherman and Hood played cat-and-mouse in north Georgia (and Alabama) as Hood threatened Sherman's communications to the north. Eventually, Sherman won approval from his superiors for a plan to cut loose from his communications and march south, having advised Grant that he could "make Georgia howl". This created the threat that Hood would move north into Tennessee. Trivializing that threat, Sherman reportedly said that he would "give [Hood] his rations" to go in that direction as "my business is down south." However, Sherman left forces under Maj. Gens. George H. Thomas and John M. Schofield to deal with Hood; their forces eventually smashed Hood's army in the battles of Franklin (November 30) and Nashville (December 15–16). Meanwhile, after the November elections, Sherman began a march with 62,000 men to the port of Savannah, Georgia, living off the land and causing, by his own estimate, more than $100 million in property damage. Sherman called this harsh tactic of material war "hard war", often seen as a species of total war. At the end of this campaign, known as Sherman's March to the Sea, his troops captured Savannah on December 21, 1864. Sherman then dispatched a famous message to Lincoln, offering him the city as a Christmas present.
Sherman's success in Georgia received ample coverage in the Northern press at a time when Grant seemed to be making little progress in his fight against Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. A bill was introduced in Congress to promote Sherman to Grant's rank of lieutenant general, probably with a view towards having him replace Grant as commander of the Union Army. Sherman wrote both to his brother, Senator John Sherman, and to General Grant vehemently repudiating any such promotion. According to a war-time account, it was around this time that Sherman made his memorable declaration of loyalty to Grant:
"General Grant is a great general. I know him well. He stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always."
While in Savannah, Sherman learned from a newspaper that his infant son Charles Celestine had died during the Savannah Campaign; the general had never seen the child.
For the next step, Grant initially ordered Sherman to embark his army on steamers to join the Union forces confronting Lee in Virginia. Instead, Sherman persuaded Grant to allow him to march north through the Carolinas, destroying everything of military value along the way, as he had done in Georgia. He was particularly interested in targeting South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, for the effect it would have on Southern morale. His army proceeded north through South Carolina against light resistance from the troops of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Upon hearing that Sherman's men were advancing on corduroy roads through the Salkehatchie swamps at a rate of a dozen miles per day, Johnston "made up his mind that there had been no such army in existence since the days of Julius Caesar."
Sherman captured the state capital of Columbia, South Carolina, on February 17, 1865. Fires began that night and by next morning, most of the central city was destroyed. The burning of Columbia has engendered controversy ever since, with some claiming the fires were accidental, others a deliberate act of vengeance, and still others that the retreating Confederates burned bales of cotton on their way out of town. Local Native American Lumbee guides helped Sherman's army cross the Lumber River through torrential rains and into North Carolina. According to Sherman, the trek across the Lumber River, and through the swamps, pocosins, and creeks of Robeson County "was the damnedest marching I ever saw." Thereafter, his troops did little damage to the civilian infrastructure, as North Carolina, unlike its southern neighbor, which was seen as a hotbed of secession, was regarded by his men to be only a reluctant Confederate state, because of its position as one of the last to join the Confederacy. Sherman's last important engagement was a victory over Johnston's troops at the Battle of Bentonville, March 19–21. He soon rendezvoused at Goldsborough, North Carolina, with Union troops awaiting him there after the capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington.
In late March, Sherman briefly left his forces and traveled to City Point, Virginia, to consult with Grant. Lincoln happened to be at City Point at the same time, allowing the only three-way meetings of Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman during the war.
Following Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House and Lincoln's assassination, Sherman met with Johnston at Bennett Place in Durham, North Carolina, to negotiate a Confederate surrender. At the insistence of Johnston and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Sherman conditionally agreed to generous terms that dealt with both political and military issues. Sherman thought these terms were consistent with the views Lincoln had expressed at City Point, but the general had no authority to offer such terms from General Grant, newly installed President Andrew Johnson, or the Cabinet. The government in Washington, D.C., refused to approve the terms and the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, denounced Sherman publicly, precipitating a long-lasting feud between the two men. Confusion over this issue lasted until April 26, 1865, when Johnston, ignoring instructions from President Davis, agreed to purely military terms and formally surrendered his army and all the Confederate forces in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, becoming the largest surrender of the American Civil War. Sherman proceeded with 60,000 of his troops to Washington, D.C., where they marched in the Grand Review of the Armies on May 24, 1865 and were then disbanded. Having become the second most important general in the Union army, he thus had come full circle to the city where he started his war-time service as colonel of a non-existent infantry regiment!
Though he came to disapprove of slavery, Sherman was not an abolitionist before the war, and like many of his time and background, he did not believe in "Negro equality." He declined to employ black troops in his armies. His military campaigns of 1864 and 1865 freed many slaves, who greeted him "as a second Moses or Aaron" and joined his marches through Georgia and the Carolinas by the tens of thousands.
The fate of these refugees became a pressing military and political issue. Some abolitionists accused Sherman of doing little to alleviate the precarious living conditions of the freed slaves.To address this issue, on January 12, 1865, Sherman met in Savannah with Secretary of War Stanton and with twenty local black leaders. After Sherman's departure, Garrison Frazier, a Baptist minister, declared in response to an inquiry about the feelings of the black community:
"We looked upon General Sherman, prior to his arrival, as a man, in the providence of God, specially set apart to accomplish this work, and we unanimously felt inexpressible gratitude to him, looking upon him as a man that should be honored for the faithful performance of his duty. Some of us called upon him immediately upon his arrival, and it is probable he did not meet [Secretary Stanton] with more courtesy than he met us. His conduct and deportment toward us characterized him as a friend and a gentleman."
Four days later, Sherman issued his Special Field Orders, No. 15. The orders provided for the settlement of 40,000 freed slaves and black refugees on land expropriated from white landowners in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Sherman appointed Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton, an abolitionist from Massachusetts who had previously directed the recruitment of black soldiers, to implement that plan. Those orders, which became the basis of the claim that the Union government had promised freed slaves "40 acres and a mule", were revoked later that year by President Andrew Johnson.
Although the context is often overlooked, and the quotation usually chopped off, one of Sherman's most famous statements about his hard-war views arose in part from the racial attitudes summarized above. In his Memoirs, Sherman noted political pressures in 1864–1865 to encourage the escape of slaves, in part to avoid the possibility that "'able-bodied slaves will be called into the military service of the rebels.'" Sherman thought concentration on such policies would have delayed the "successful end" of the war and the "liberat[ion of] all slaves." He went on to summarize vividly his hard-war philosophy and to add, in effect, that he really did not want the help of liberated slaves in subduing the South:
"My aim then was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I did not want them to cast in our teeth what General Hood had once done at Atlanta, that we had to call on their slaves to help us to subdue them. But, as regards kindness to the race ..., I assert that no army ever did more for that race than the one I commanded at Savannah."
General Sherman's record as a tactician was mixed, and his military legacy rests primarily on his command of logistics and on his brilliance as a strategist. The influential 20th century British military historian and theorist B. H. Liddell Hart ranked Sherman as one of the most important strategists in the annals of war, along with Scipio Africanus, Belisarius, Napoleon Bonaparte, T. E. Lawrence, and Erwin Rommel. Liddell Hart credited Sherman with mastery of maneuver warfare (also known as the "indirect approach"), as demonstrated by his series of turning movements against Johnston during the Atlanta Campaign. Liddell Hart also stated that study of Sherman's campaigns had contributed significantly to his own "theory of strategy and tactics in mechanized warfare", which had in turn influenced Heinz Guderian's doctrine of Blitzkrieg and Rommel's use of tanks during the Second World War. Another World War II-era student of Liddell Hart's writings about Sherman was George S. Patton, who "'spent a long vacation studying Sherman's campaigns on the ground in Georgia and the Carolinas, with the aid of [LH's] book'" and later "'carried out his [bold] plans, in super-Sherman style'".
Sherman's greatest contribution to the war, the strategy of total warfare—endorsed by General Grant and President Lincoln—has been the subject of much controversy. Sherman himself downplayed his role in conducting total war, often saying that he was simply carrying out orders as best he could in order to fulfill his part of Grant's master plan for ending the war.
Like Grant, Sherman was convinced that the Confederacy's strategic, economic, and psychological ability to wage further war needed to be definitively crushed if the fighting were to end. Therefore, he believed that the North had to conduct its campaign as a war of conquest and employ scorched earth tactics to break the backbone of the rebellion, which he called "hard war".
Sherman's advance through Georgia and South Carolina was characterized by widespread destruction of civilian supplies and infrastructure. Although looting was officially forbidden, historians disagree on how well this regulation was enforced. The speed and efficiency of the destruction by Sherman's army was remarkable. The practice of bending rails around trees, leaving behind what came to be known as Sherman's neckties, made repairs difficult. Accusations that civilians were targeted and war crimes were committed on the march have made Sherman a controversial figure to this day, particularly in the South.
The damage done by Sherman was almost entirely limited to the destruction of property. Though exact figures are not available, the loss of civilian life appears to have been very small. Consuming supplies, wrecking infrastructure, and undermining morale were Sherman's stated goals, and several of his Southern contemporaries noted this and commented on it. For instance, Alabama-born Major Henry Hitchcock, who served in Sherman's staff, declared that "it is a terrible thing to consume and destroy the sustenance of thousands of people", but if the scorched earth strategy served "to paralyze their husbands and fathers who are fighting ... it is mercy in the end."
The severity of the destructive acts by Union troops was significantly greater in South Carolina than in Georgia or North Carolina. This appears to have been a consequence of the animosity among both Union soldiers and officers to the state that they regarded as the "cockpit of secession". One of the most serious accusations against Sherman was that he allowed his troops to burn the city of Columbia. In 1867, Gen. O.O. Howard, commander of Sherman's 15th Corps, reportedly said, "It is useless to deny that our troops burnt Columbia, for I saw them in the act." However, Sherman himself stated that "[i]f I had made up my mind to burn Columbia I would have burnt it with no more feeling than I would a common prairie dog village; but I did not do it ..." Sherman's official report on the burning placed the blame on Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton III, who Sherman said had ordered the burning of cotton in the streets. In his memoirs, Sherman said, "In my official report of this conflagration I distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and confess I did so pointedly to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was in my opinion a braggart and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina." Historian James M. McPherson has concluded that:
"The fullest and most dispassionate study of this controversy blames all parties in varying proportions—including the Confederate authorities for the disorder that characterized the evacuation of Columbia, leaving thousands of cotton bales on the streets (some of them burning) and huge quantities of liquor undestroyed ... Sherman did not deliberately burn Columbia; a majority of Union soldiers, including the general himself, worked through the night to put out the fires."
In this general connection, it is also noteworthy that Sherman and his subordinates (particularly John A. Logan) took steps to protect Raleigh, North Carolina, from acts of revenge after the assassination of President Lincoln.
After the fall of Atlanta in 1864, Sherman ordered the city's evacuation. When the city council appealed to him to rescind that order, on the grounds that it would cause great hardship to women, children, the elderly, and others who bore no responsibility for the conduct of the war, Sherman sent a response in which he sought to articulate his conviction that a lasting peace would be possible only if the Union were restored, and that he was therefore prepared to do all he could do to quash the rebellion:
"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war.[...] I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success. But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter."
Literary critic Edmund Wilson found in Sherman's Memoirs a fascinating and disturbing account of an "appetite for warfare" that "grows as it feeds on the South". Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara refers equivocally to the statement that "war is cruelty and you cannot refine it" in both the book Wilson's Ghost and in his interview for the film The Fog of War.
But when comparing Sherman's scorched-earth campaigns to the actions of the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899–1902)—another war in which civilians were targeted because of their central role in sustaining an armed resistance—South African historian Hermann Giliomee declares that it "looks as if Sherman struck a better balance than the British commanders between severity and restraint in taking actions proportional to legitimate needs". The admiration of scholars such as Victor Davis Hanson, B. H. Liddell Hart, Lloyd Lewis, and John F. Marszalek for General Sherman owes much to what they see as an approach to the exigencies of modern armed conflict that was both effective and principled.
In May 1865, after the major Confederate armies had surrendered, Sherman wrote in a personal letter:
"I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers ... tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation."
In June 1865, three months after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, General W. T. Sherman was given his first postwar command, originally called the Military Division of the Mississippi and later the Military Division of the Missouri. After changes, his command covered territory west of the Mississippi and east of the Rocky Mountains. On July 25, 1866, Congress created the rank of General of the Army for Grant and then promoted Sherman to lieutenant general. When Grant became president in 1869, Sherman was appointed Commanding General of the United States Army and promoted to General of the Army. After the death of John A. Rawlins, Sherman also served for one month as interim Secretary of War. His tenure as commanding general was marred by political difficulties, and from 1874 to 1876, he moved his headquarters to St. Louis, Missouri in an attempt to escape from them. One of his significant contributions as head of the Army was the establishment of the Command School (now the Command and General Staff College) at Fort Leavenworth.
One of Sherman's main concerns in postwar commands was to protect the construction and operation of the railroads from attack by hostile Indians. Sherman's views on Indian matters were often strongly expressed. He regarded the railroads "as the most important element now in progress to facilitate the military interests of our Frontier." Hence, in 1867, he wrote to Grant that "we are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of [the railroads]." After the 1866 Fetterman Massacre, Sherman wrote Grant that "we must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women and children." After George Armstrong Custer's defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Sherman wrote that "hostile savages like Sitting Bull and his band of outlaw Sioux ... must feel the superior power of the Government." He further wrote that "during an assault, the soldiers can not pause to distinguish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age." Despite his harsh treatment of the warring tribes, Sherman spoke out against the unfair way speculators and government agents treated the natives within the reservations.
In 1875 Sherman published his memoirs in two volumes. According to critic Edmund Wilson, Sherman
"...had a trained gift of self-expression and was, as Mark Twain says, a master of narrative. [In his Memoirs] the vigorous account of his pre-war activities and his conduct of his military operations is varied in just the right proportion and to just the right degree of vivacity with anecdotes and personal experiences. We live through his campaigns [...] in the company of Sherman himself. He tells us what he thought and what he felt, and he never strikes any attitudes or pretends to feel anything he does not feel."
Shoulder strap insignia, introduced by Sherman in 1872 for his use as General of the Army
On June 19, 1879, Sherman delivered an address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy, in which he may have uttered the famous phrase "War Is Hell". On April 11, 1880, he addressed a crowd of more than 10,000 at Columbus, Ohio: "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell." In 1945, President Harry S. Truman would say: "Sherman was wrong. I'm telling you I find peace is hell."
Sherman stepped down as commanding general on November 1, 1883, and retired from the army on February 8, 1884. He lived most of the rest of his life in New York City. He was devoted to the theater and to amateur painting and was much in demand as a colorful speaker at dinners and banquets, in which he indulged a fondness for quoting Shakespeare. During this period, he stayed in contact with war veterans, and through them accepted honorary membership into the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and the Irving Literary Society. Sherman was proposed as a Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1884, but declined as emphatically as possible, saying, "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected." Such a categorical rejection of a candidacy is now referred to as a "Shermanesque statement."
Sherman died in New York City on 14 February 1891. On 19 February, there was a funeral service held at his home, followed by a military procession. General Joseph E. Johnston, the Confederate officer who had commanded the resistance to Sherman's troops in Georgia and the Carolinas, served as a pallbearer in New York City. It was a bitterly cold day and a friend of Johnston, fearing that the general might become ill, asked him to put on his hat. Johnston famously replied: "If I were in [Sherman's] place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat." Johnston did catch a serious cold and died one month later of pneumonia!
General Sherman's body was then transported to St. Louis, where another service was conducted on 21 February 1891 at a local Catholic church. His son, Thomas Ewing Sherman, a Jesuit priest, presided over his father's funeral mass. Sherman is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. Major memorials to Sherman include the gilded bronze equestrian statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the main entrance to Central Park in New York City and the major monument by Carl Rohl-Smith near President's Park in Washington, D.C. Other posthumous tributes include the naming of the World War II M4 Sherman tank and the "General Sherman" Giant Sequoia tree, the most massive documented single-trunk tree in the world.
Around 1868, Sherman began to write a "private" recollection for his children about his life before the Civil War, identified now as his unpublished "Autobiography, 1828–1861". This manuscript is held by the Ohio Historical Society. Much of the material in it would eventually be incorporated in revised form in his memoirs.
In 1875, ten years after the end of the Civil War, Sherman became one of the first Civil War generals to publish a memoir. His Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. By Himself, published by D. Appleton & Co., in two volumes, began with the year 1846 (when the Mexican War began) and ended with a chapter about the “military lessons of the [civil] war” (1875 edition: Volume I; Volume II ). The memoirs were controversial, and sparked complaints from many quarters. Grant (serving as President when Sherman’s memoirs first appeared) later remarked that others had told him that Sherman treated Grant unfairly but "when I finished the book, I found I approved every word; that ... it was a true book, an honorable book, creditable to Sherman, just to his companions — to myself particularly so — just such a book as I expected Sherman would write."
In 1886, after the publication of Grant’s memoirs, Sherman produced a "second edition, revised and corrected" of his memoirs with Appleton. The new edition added a second preface, a chapter about his life up to 1846, a chapter concerning the post-war period (ending with his 1884 retirement from the army), several appendices, portraits, improved maps, and an index (1886 edition: Volume I, Volume II). For the most part, Sherman refused to revise his original text on the ground that "I disclaim the character of historian, but assume to be a witness on the stand before the great tribunal of history" and "any witness who may disagree with me should publish his own version of [the] facts in the truthful narration of which he is interested." However, Sherman did add the appendices, in which he published the views of some others.
Subsequently, Sherman shifted to the publishing house of Charles L. Webster & Co., the publisher of Grant’s memoirs. The new publishing house brought out a "third edition, revised and corrected" in 1890. This difficult-to-find edition was substantively identical to the second (except for the probable omission of Sherman's short 1875 and 1886 prefaces).
After Sherman died in 1891, there were dueling new editions of his memoirs. His first publisher, Appleton, reissued the original (1875) edition with two new chapters about Sherman’s later years added by the journalist W. Fletcher Johnson (1891 Johnson edition: Volume I, Volume II). Meanwhile, Charles L. Webster & Co. issued a "fourth edition, revised, corrected, and complete" with the text of Sherman’s second edition, a new chapter prepared under the auspices of the Sherman family bringing the general’s life from his retirement to his death and funeral, and an appreciation by politician James G. Blaine (who was related to Sherman's wife). Unfortunately, this edition omits Sherman’s prefaces to the 1875 and 1886 editions (1891 Blaine edition: Volume I, Volume II).
In 1904 and 1913, Sherman’s youngest son (Philemon Tecumseh Sherman) republished the memoirs, ironically with Appleton (not Charles L. Webster & Co.). This was designated as a "second edition, revised and corrected". This edition contains Sherman’s two prefaces, his 1886 text, and the materials added in the 1891 Blaine edition. Thus, this virtually invisible edition of Sherman's memoirs is actually the most comprehensive version.
There are many modern editions of Sherman’s memoirs. The edition most useful for research purposes is the 1990 Library of America version, edited by Charles Royster. It contains the entire text of Sherman’s 1886 edition, together with annotations, a note on the text, and a detailed chronology of Sherman’s life. Missing from this edition is the useful biographical material contained in the 1891 Johnson and Blaine editions.
Many of Sherman's official war-time letters (and other items) appear in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Some of these letters are rather personal in nature, rather than relating directly to operational activities of the army. There also are at least five published collections of Sherman correspondence:
- Sherman's Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860–1865, edited by Brooks D. Simpson and Jean V. Berlin (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999) – a large collection of war-time letters (November 1860 to May 1865).
- Sherman at War, edited by Joseph H. Ewing (Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1992) – approximately thirty war time letters to Sherman's father-in-law, Thomas Ewing, and one of his brothers-in-law, Philemon B. Ewing.
- Home Letters of General Sherman, edited by M.A. DeWolfe Howe (New York: Charles Scribner's Son, 1909) – edited letters to his wife, Ellen Ewing Sherman, from 1837 to 1888.
- The Sherman Letters: Correspondence Between General Sherman and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, edited by Rachel Sherman Thorndike (New York: Charles Scribner's Son, 1894) – edited letters to his brother, Senator John Sherman, from 1837 to 1891.
- General W.T. Sherman as College President, edited by Walter L. Fleming (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1912) – edited letters and other documents from Sherman's 1859–1861 service as superintendent of the Louisiana Seminary of Learning and Military Academy.
Some of the artistic treatments of Sherman's march are the Civil War era song "Marching Through Georgia" by Henry Clay Work; Herman Melville's poem "The March to the Sea"; Ross McElwee's film Sherman's March; and E. L. Doctorow's novel The March.
At the beginning of Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind, first published in 1936, the fictional character Rhett Butler warns a group of upper-class secessionists of the folly of war with the North in terms very reminiscent of those Sherman directed to David F. Boyd before leaving Louisiana. Sherman's invasion of Georgia later plays a central role in the plot of the novel. Charles Beaumont in the Twilight Zone episode "Long Live Walter Jameson" has the lead character (a history professor) comment on the burning of Atlanta that the union soldiers did it unwillingly at the behest of a Sherman described as sullen and brutish. The presentation of Sherman in popular culture is now discussed at book-length in Sherman's March in Myth and Memory (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), by Edward Caudill and Paul Ashdown.
There are only a few Generals of the US Army who are honored on a US postage stamp, and even fewer who are so honored more than once or twice. William Tecumseh Sherman is one of those generals. The first postage stamp to honor Sherman was released to the public by the US Post Office on March 21 of 1893, a little more than two years after his death. The engraving of this issue was modeled after a photograph of Sherman taken by Napoleon B. Sarony in 1888 just three years before his death. Two years later the post office released the second Sherman issue of 1895, and a third, again later in 1895, both almost identical to the first issue with slight changes in the framework design and color. Sherman appeared again in the US Army issue of 1937, a commemorative postage stamp honoring Generals Sherman, Grant and Sheridan. The last stamp issue (to date) to honor Sherman was released in 1995, a 32-cent stamp. Sherman has been honored on US postage for a total of five issues, more than most US Presidents!
Father: Charles R. Sherman (judge, b. 26-Sep-1788, d. 24-Jun-1829, typhus)
Mother: Mary Hoyt
Brother: Charles Taylor Sherman (b. 1811)
Sister: Mary Elizabeth Sherman (b. 1812)
Brother: James Sherman (b. 1814)
Sister: Amelia Sherman (b. 1816)
Sister: Julia Ann Sherman (b. 1818)
Brother: Lampson Parker Sherman (b. 1821)
Brother: John Sherman (b. 1823)
Sister: Susan Denman Sherman (b. 1825)
Brother: Hoyt Sherman (b. 1827)
Sister: Frances Beecher Sherman ("Fanny", b. 1829)
Wife: Ellen Boyle Ewing (m. 1-May-1850, d. 28-Nov-1888)
Daughter: Maria Ewing Sherman ("Minnie", b. 1851)
Daughter: Mary Elizabeth Sherman ("Lizzie", b. 1852)
Son: William Ewing Sherman ("Willie", b. 1854, d. 1863)
Son: Thomas Ewing Sherman ("Tom", b. 1856)
Daughter: Eleanor Mary Sherman ("Ellie", b. 1859)
Daughter: Rachel Ewing Sherman (b. 1861)
Son: Charles Celestine Sherman (b. 1864, d. 1864)
Son: Philemon Tecumseh Sherman ("Cump", b. 1867)
Quote by William T. Sherman:
A battery of field artillery is worth a thousand muskets.
William Tecumseh Sherman
An Army is a collection of armed men obliged to obey one man. Every change in the rules which impairs the principle weakens the army.
William Tecumseh Sherman
But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.
William Tecumseh Sherman
Courage - a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it.
William Tecumseh Sherman
Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.
William Tecumseh Sherman
Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.
William Tecumseh Sherman
He belonged to that army known as invincible in peace, invisible in war.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I intend to make Georgia howl.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices today than any of you to secure peace.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I make up my opinions from facts and reasoning, and not to suit any body but myself. If people don't like my opinions, it makes little difference as I don't solicit their opinions or votes.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I will accept no commission that would tend to create a rivalry with Grant. I want him to hold what he has earned and got. I have all the rank I want.
William Tecumseh Sherman
I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for mercy.
William Tecumseh Sherman
If forced to choose between the penitentiary and the White House for four years, I would say the penitentiary, thank you.
William Tecumseh Sherman
If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.
William Tecumseh Sherman
If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.
William Tecumseh Sherman
If the people raise a great howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity seeking.
William Tecumseh Sherman