Joseph Glatthaar, The March to the Sea and Beyond (1985)
Joseph T. Glatthaar, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, provides interesting accounts of the common Union soldier that marched with Union General William Sherman through the South towards the end of the war. Glatthaar’s work takes a different view, by going with the perspective of the common soldier, instead of the elite generals, like William Sherman or Henry Slocum to tell the story of Sherman’s March. The study by Glatthaar also differs in another way from the previous studies conducted by scholars as Glatthaar focuses on social history, instead of the common military aspects of Sherman’s March.
Glatthaar breaks down his study into a wide variety of subjects. He focuses on the makeup of the army, what soldiers thought of the causes of the war, blacks, Southern whites, camp life, foraging, destruction and pillaging, to name a few. Throughout his book, Glatthaar does little to make a historical argument beyond presenting the different actions of soldiers, and why they carried out their actions. Glatthaar shows, though, that the thoughts and beliefs of the common soldier fell in line with the views held by their superiors. The significance of Glatthaar’s work comes as he provides a plethora of information on some of the less studied aspects of Sherman’s March. He introduces a broad array of primary sources from many Union soldiers. Overall, Glatthaar’s work provides a great resource on Sherman’s March. He focuses on all three states in the march, Georgia, South Carolina, and the often ignored North Carolina, and moves beyond the typical military interpretations, as he provides a social view, from the common soldier.
Ever since Sherman and his army embarked upon their march to the coast of Georgia and, later, through the Carolinas, the two campaigns earned the dubious distinction as the most controversial of the Civil War and possibly in American military history. My objective, however, is neither to condemn nor condone the behavior of Sherman and his men. As I see it, my job is not to cast moral judgments upon the conduct of others; rather, it is to ascertain exactly what they did and understand why they did it. I only hope that I have abided by that rule at all times. In this respect, any failures or errors in the book are the responsibility of the author.
In this study I have quoted heavily from my sources. My contention here is that, in studying soldiers and their attitudes, the way they expressed themselves was very much a part of their attitudes. To strip the ideas from the manner in which an individual presented them would be. In many cases, an injustice to both the soldier and the reader.
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