Should LSU Honor Gen. William “War Is Hell” Sherman? Not No, but Hell No!

By Joe Darby

Dear reader, you’re going to see a little bit different side of me in this week’s column. You’re going to see manifested some anger, disgust and pride, which I almost always try to keep out of my weekly scribblings.

What set me off was a news story in which some folks are proposing that LSU name its beautiful Parade Ground near the Campanile in honor of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, known for his brutal treatment of Southern civilians during the Civil War.

Among the boosters of the idea are James Carville, the mean spirited pit bull Democratic activist and former Bill Clinton advisor, as well as Jonathan Earle, dean of LSU’s Honors College. I can’t say anything disparaging about Earle because I know nothing of the man, but I do question his judgment. I could say lots that’s disparaging about the obnoxious Carville, but I don’t want to waste much time on him.

Carville and Earle made their proposal recently on campus, on the occasion of a talk by Civil War scholar James Lee McDonough, a Sherman biographer.

So now, we have liberal activists not only trying to demolish any statue, monument or other memorial to Confederate leaders, but who seek to impose upon this area a tribute to a man notorious for his harsh treatment of Southerners.

They say the honor is called for because Sherman was the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy in Pineville, which later moved to Baton Rouge and became Louisiana State University. Carville told the gathering on campus that Sherman “really liked” Louisiana and was in turn liked by the state’s citizens. Uh, yeah, James, but that was before he completely despoiled and ravaged a big part of the South.

Author McDonough said Sherman “…loved the South. He had friends in the South…”

Oh yeah? Tell that to the thousands of civilians — women, children and old men — in Georgia and the Carolinas, whose homes he burned, whose crops he destroyed and whose livestock he slaughtered, all so that those people could starve during the winter of 1864.

When asked why he was being so cruel, his answer was “War is hell.” He was right and he was pretty much the devil with the pitchfork, poking his defenseless victims in the belly.

Sherman wasn’t the only Union general to use such tactics. Gen. Philip Sheridan did the same in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, as did Gen. Nathaniel Banks right here on the Red River in Louisiana, after Confederate Gen. Dick Taylor kicked his behind at Mansfield.

But Sherman’s bummers, as his soldiers were called, were among the most brutal of their kind. So I say that just because someone had a one-time connection to an area does not mean that area owes him or her any particular honor. Hitler was born in Vienna. Should that city have a monument to him?

No, no, I’m not comparing Sherman to Hitler, but just making a point about personal connections.

It should also be remembered that Sherman was no friend to African Americans. His tactics of destroying food sources hurt all Southerners in that region, black and white, slave and free. Many slaves naturally flocked to his armies, hoping for a safe haven and liberation, but he did not welcome the black refugees at all.

It is also my opinion, after having read about the Civil War for the last 60 years or so, that Sherman’s military skills were greatly overrated. He wasn’t overly effective in the Vicksburg campaign, his soldiers failed at Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga and it took him forever to take Atlanta from a greatly outnumbered Confederate army led by the timid Joe Johnston, although the mountainous terrain did work against him. As for his march to the sea, when his bummers were preparing for the starvation of Southern women and old men, he faced only token opposition.

No sir, Misters Carville, Earle and McDonough. LSU should never honor such a man as William T. Sherman. He doesn’t deserve it and he never will. Never.

8 thoughts on “Should LSU Honor Gen. William “War Is Hell” Sherman? Not No, but Hell No!

  1. I deplore slavery and wish that our wonderful country had never been a part of it. Slavery is shameful. I also agree there are bad sides to some of our historic figures. They were flawed humans (as all humans are) living in very challenging times. However, do we really need to place a monument in Louisiana to a man who did everything in his power to destroy the people of the south and just create division today among people (note the time we are spending to debate this issue)?

    I understand many difficult decisions must be made during wartime, and ultimately I guess I am glad there was an intervention to keep our nation whole and end slavery (I just hate so many people on both sides had to suffer and die – war is indeed hell), but spending money on this type of monument today? Can we not come up with something better to do with our time and resources right now? Maybe none of the Civil War leaders should have ever been memorialized on either side (don’t scream…. I am not advocating tearing down existing monuments…. they are part of our history good or bad), but instead of spending money on an unwanted monument, how about giving the money to a worthy African American cause in Louisiana or the South, helping feed the poor of any color, helping with education or medical needs, building better infrastructure, giving a donation that is going serve a real purpose and really help some person or people?

    I love history, and I am a proponent of the truth. I don’t think history should be rewritten or spun in a way to suit someone’s current view of the world. We learn many valuable lessons from history. I just think it is ridiculous to spend resources and time on this type of monument, especially at this particular time in history. We need to move onward and upward. We have much bigger problems to solve in Louisiana and our country in general today than spending money on an unnecessary, controversial monument.

  2. I would like to start by pointing out that, as one of the other commenters say, that I “had family on both sides” of the Civil War as well. Regardless, if we apply the logic of the Mr. Darby as expressed in his opinion on this issue, then no person who is arguably “bad” should ever get a monument. With this standard in mind, then I suppose that the Editor would agree that all monuments to Confederates should likewise be removed. After all, they fought to maintain a system where millions of slaves here against their will were on a daily basis (with the apparent blessing of the state governments) exploited, murdered, abused and raped. The articles shares great concern for the “thousands of civilians” in Carolina or Georgia, but does not express much concern for the millions of slaves.
    You can’t have it both ways: If Sherman does not get the suggested recognition, then all monuments to Bobby Lee, Jeff Davis, Beauregard, etc should come crashing down as did the CSA.
    If Sherman is known for his “brutal treatment,” then what of the “brutal treatment” of the slaves by that evil system then in place that Sherman helped destroy which so many Confederate “heroes” sought to uphold and continue??
    I’m guessing that you care about as much for General Sherman as many others care for General Robert E. Lee…
    I’m also guessing your view would be different if you attempted to reverse roles with one of the slaves toiling in the fields who’s labor sustained someone else’s lifestyle and who never knew whether he would be separated from his family or not due to the whims of his “master.”
    The Civil War may never have happened had the slave states not fought to hold on to this evil and damnable institution.
    Thank God for the Yankees who risked life and limb to liberate millions of exploited Americans!

    • I am fully aware of the evils of slavery and I deplore the fact that the institution was ever allowed in this country. That does not change the fact that Sherman deliberately inflicted cruelty and starvation on thousands of civilians. There were many effective Union generals, many of whom I respect and admire for their military abilities, who did not go out of their way to punish non-combatants. And when one learns about the character of Robert E. Lee, one will learn that he took up arms not so much to save slavery but to prevent his “country,” that is Virginia, from being invaded by a federal army. He left the Union army only reluctantly but felt it was his bounden duty to defend his homeland. Many other Confederates felt the same. So to me, Sherman is still a bad guy and his name should never be associated with the honorable Parade Ground at LSU, over which I marched as an ROTC cadet more than 50 years ago. Thanks for you comments, Joe Darby.

      • “Sherman deliberately inflicted cruelty and starvation on thousands of civilians.”
        Here is a quote from Sherman’s letter to the Mayor of Atlanta prior to his taking the city:
        “I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds of thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands upon thousands of families of rebel soldiers left in our hands, and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You depreciate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds of thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance.”

        But more to the point, what did Sherman do in the South that Jimmy Doolittle didn’t do with the 8th Air Force over Europe, or what Curtis Lemay did with the 20th Air Force over Japan and Vietnam/Cambodia? It seems that many understand when the US Army brings total war to foreign lands, but deprecate it when they bring it to their own land.

        Sherman was our first modern general, and as such understood ‘total war’. The purpose of which is to take away the enemy’s ability to field an effective army – and thus end the war.

        I’ll close with one more quote from Sherman’s letter to Atlanta (as he’s begging them to evacuate the infirmed, women and children from the city):
        “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.”

  3. I agree. I had family on both sides, Norris in Kentucky Union and Hornsby in Louisiana Confederate, plus a whole ‘nother local Civil War thing in the Ozarks that my family played the main role. That being the Cox family. I even have my Metoyer ancestors who wanted to fight for the Cause, however, denied. Lucky for me, huh? Perhaps here is an idea, name it the Sons of Confederate Veterans Parade Ground. Springfield, MO has had a KKK Adopt-A-Highway for decades, plus a National Socialist Movement Adopt-A-Highway. They go out there and clean it up too. But I’m sure ISIS or some group would protest it.

  4. Wonderful article. I have studied the Civil War most of my life and couldn’t agree with you more. It’s sad how history gets twisted over generations.

  5. What a wonderful, AND TRUTHFUL account of this “person” who I will not call a man. It is not a small wonder that people want to erase history of what the War of Northern Aggression was all about. As in the movie with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise years ago, when asked a question, and Nicholson character replied in court, “The TRUTH? You don’t want to HEAR THE TRUTH”….
    Certain elements of our society DO NOT want to hear the truth.

    An excellent example of the TRUTH, is Saint Abraham Lincoln, who piously sits in the big statue in Washington like a God. Well, let me tell a TRUE STORY about Saint Abe.
    Shortly after the War began Grant wrote a letter to his Secretary of War. He stated that the Southerners were determined in their cause, and the only way to break their spirit would be to destroy everything and kill their women and children. His Secretary of War passed the letter up to Saint Lincoln……The reply that came back was, “Do WHATEVER IT TAKES”
    Abraham Lincoln sanction the killing of WOMEN and CHILDREN….
    FACT..FACT…these memos are in the Library of Congress.

    Do you think I would want to glorify Lincoln?

    Great story my friend and I enjoyed this story in particular, especially since I am a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; however, even if I were not, the words that you speak are the TRUTH…and as Jack Nicholson stated in the movie, “A Few Good Men ”

    “The Truth? You Can’t Handle the Truth”….

    • “Abraham Lincoln sanction the killing of WOMEN and CHILDREN….
      FACT..FACT…these memos are in the Library of Congress.”

      Who do you think died in the fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo? Hundreds of thousands of women and children were burned to death by our air forces in WWII. FACT.

      “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.”
      – WT Sherman

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