The Final Year
In Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln has finally found the strong general he has been searching for for the East . Like Robert E. Lee, Grant is a fighter. Both generals know that the longer the war goes on, the more likely it is that Northerners will tire of supporting it. Grant is anxious to fight it out as quickly as possible. So he attacks, and attacks, and attacks. At one point the explains his tactics this way: "President Lincoln … said he did not care to know what I wanted to do…. He wished me to beat Lee; how I did it was my own matter. Here then [was] the basis of all plans…. First to use the greatest number of troops practicable against … the enemy. And second; to hammer continuously at the … enemy and his resources, until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him."
By 1864, the battles are all taking place on Confederate soil. For ten weary months, Grant lays siege to Petersburg, Virginia. Then General William Tecumseh Sherman marches the U.S. Army of the West from Tennessee to Georgia and on to the Carolinas. That army's march is one of the most famous in military history. Sherman says, "War is the remedy our enemies have chosenand I say let us give them all they want."
Like Grant at Vicksburg, Sherman breaks the rules he had learned when he was a cadet at West Point. When he marches east he leaves his supply linessomething a general is never supposed to do. The Northerners slash, burn, and destroy the countryside. They slaughter livestock, steal crops, and feast on their takings. There are no halfway measures with General Sherman; he believes in "total war." He wants to destroy the South's ability to make war and to feed its people . His strategy is cruel, but effective. Eliza Andrews was a Southern woman in Sherman's pathway. She wrote: "There was hardly a fence left standing all the way from Sparta to Gordon. The fields were trampled down and the road was lined with carcasses of horses, hogs, and cattle that the invaders, unable either to consume or carry away with them, had wantonly shot down, to starve out the people and prevent them from making their crops. The stench in some places was unbearable. The dwellings that were standing all showed signs of pillage ... while here and there [were] lone chimney stacks."