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Hard Warrior – Pt 1

Quick quiz. Who wrote the following?

In short, although military necessity could reasonably have been invoked to justify a considerable portion of the damage done to Southern property, Union forces overstepped the limit. They did so because the severity of total war led them to make a virtue of unrestraint; to suppose, as Sherman did, that “the crueler war is, the sooner it will be over.” True, they did not deliberately kill noncombatants, and perhaps that formed a kind of restraint. But in 1865 an invading army could readily distinguish between textile worker and mill, farmer and crop. They did not need to kill to eliminate the Southern economy or inflict on Southern civilians much gratuitous hardship. Eighty years later, when the invaders flew in four-engined bombers, such distinctions could not so easily be made, and then the same rationales behind the Federal policy re-emerged to justify the obliteration bombing of thousands. Wedded to the technology of mass destruction, the belief that “War is hell” produced a conflagration greater than Sherman ever imagined.

A. James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)

B. Charles Royster, author of The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans (1991)

C. Mark Grimsley, author of The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (1995)

D. Michael Fellman, author of Citizen Sherman: A Life of William T. Sherman (1995)

E. Harry S. Stout, author of Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War (2006)

F. Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction (2007).

To those familiar with the historiography about the Civil War as a “hard,” “destructive,” or “total” war (depending on preference), the possible responses, from most to least likely, are Stout, Fellman, Royster, McPherson, Grimsley, and Neely.

But the correct answer is Grimsley. However, the passage appears neither in The Hard Hand of War nor the dissertation on which it is based, but rather a 10,000-word “extended essay” — a sort of M.A. thesis — I wrote for the Master’s program in War Studies at Kings College London. That was in 1985, and the title of the essay was “The Erosion of Noncombatant Immunity During the American Civil War.” (click link to access it in PDF format).

Part 1 – Part 2Part 3 – Part 4 (coming)

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