Tecumseh Sherman's War Crime

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Sherman’s March to the Sea: America’s War Crime Between November 15 and December 21, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman led 60,000 Union troops on a 285-mile march from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia. The purpose of the march was to strike fear into Georgia’s civilian population and lower the moral on the Confederate home front (History). This “March to the Sea” left a scar through the heart of Georgia and impacted life in the South for decades. Sherman’s actions were war crimes, but were the best thing under the circumstances. Per Duhaime’s Law Dictionary, a war crime is “excessive brutality during war, in contravention of an international treaty or convention” (Duhaime). One such convention would be the Geneva Conventions. Per the Geneva…show more content…
On July 19, 1864, William Tecumseh Sherman order the bombardment of Atlanta, Georgia. Sherman’s orders were as follows “No consideration must be paid to the fact they are occupied by families, but the place must be cannonaded.” (Davis). Sherman’s artillery began their shelling of Atlanta on July 20, and within a few days, Confederate newspapers began reporting of civilian casualties within Atlanta. Sherman maintained the stance that no innocent civilians still lived in Atlanta, and he continued the indiscriminate bombardment of Atlanta (Davis). The bombardment of Atlanta violated war crimes portion of the Geneva Convention. Firstly, the bombardment violates the “Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly;” clause (Geneva Convention). Most obviously, the Geneva Convention prohibitions the, “Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives;” (Geneva Convention). Sherman’s shelling of Atlanta was a useless destruction of homes and property and was detrimental to the civilians living in Atlanta, making it a definite crime of…show more content…
For example, before Sherman left to resume his march to Savannah, he ordered the destruction of the railroad depots, factories, shops, and warehouses of Atlanta. The order did not stop there, it also called for the destruction of the downtown and business sections of Atlanta (Davis). The destruction did not stop at Atlanta. The march carried on, and Sherman and his men terrorized the Georgia countryside. Under orders from Sherman, his men destroyed all sources of food and forage and left behind a starving and demoralized people (Georgia). Sherman and his men destroyed the food stores the people of Georgia had saved for the winter months, leaving a path of scorched-earth and hungry civilians. The Geneva Convention lists this as a war crime, “Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions;”. The carnage and destruction left by Sherman and his men left a scar that took decades for Georgia to recover from. The willful destruction of food storages, and the following starvation of civilians are clear examples of war crimes. It is now established that Sherman’s actions do constitute a war crime, but
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