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.