He was especially interested in South Carolina, the first state to separate from the Union, because of the impact it would have on Southern morale. His force moved north through South Carolina, encountering very minor resistance from Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's men. After destroying much of Columbia and other major cities along the way, including Charlotte, Sherman stopped his campaign in Atlanta on September 2, 1864.
Sherman had no intention of staying in Georgia forever. He wanted to go eastward toward Richmond, Virginia, to bring havoc upon the Confederacy's capital city. But he needed to get back home to secure more supplies, so he ended up stopping in Atlanta for almost a year while he prepared the country for war by building fortifications around the city. During that time, he managed to earn the respect of both Union and Confederate soldiers because of his skill as a commander. In fact, after his death, many people called him "the Napoleon of the West."
However, despite his success in Georgia, Sherman knew that his army was not strong enough to take on Lincoln's forces head-on. So, he decided to use his knowledge of the North's political system to his advantage by launching an offensive strategy that would cripple the Confederacy's ability to resist by attacking its resources. On May 23, 1866, he began his famous "march to the sea" with 75,000 men.
General of the Union Army who fought in the western theater of the war and rose to command all forces west of the Appalachians. He was most known for his march to the sea campaign, in which he fought complete war across the heart of the Confederacy, including South Carolina, in order to destroy the Confederacy's resolve to resist. His campaign ended with the surrender of Atlanta which marked the end of the war in the east.
He has been called the "father of modern warfare" for his use of innovative tactics that combined open battle with relentless pursuit.
Sherman also played an important role in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, and the 15th Amendment, which gave black Americans the right to vote. The amendment's writer, Representative John Bingham of Ohio, called him "the greatest soldier America has ever had."
In 1974, General Sherman was chosen as one of twelve inaugural members of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. The commission was created to help prepare events to be held in 1975 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington.
Also in 1974, General Sherman was selected by President Ford as the first chairman of the United States Civil War Memorial Commission. The commission was formed to design a memorial for submission to Congress within five years of its creation.
General Sherman was seeking vengeance for the deaths of Union troops in South Carolina's prisoner of war camps. Because it was the first state to separate from the Union, South Carolina was considered as a major target. While in South Carolina, General Sherman failed to appropriately monitor his forces. This left the state vulnerable to Confederate attacks.
Sherman's visit to South Carolina was not well received. Many people in the state refused to help him find someone who would talk with him. Because of this, Sherman withdrew his army back to Georgia.
Grant noted in his memoirs that Sherman's plan was to assault Gen. Joseph Johnston's army in the South and conquer Atlanta and the railways, ultimately severing the Confederacy. Grant was scheduled to assassinate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Richmond, Virginia. If he had succeeded, it would have been a stunning victory for the Union.
Sherman began his march north from Savannah on October 15, 1864. His goal was to join with other Union armies under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman near Raleigh, North Carolina, thereby cutting off the last major supply line for Jefferson Davis's government in Richmond. By early November, Sherman's army was in sight of the city limits of Atlanta. He then decided not to attack the city right away because he needed time to recruit more soldiers and purchase equipment. Instead, he laid siege to the surrounding Confederate fortifications beginning on November 7. After several attempts by Johnston's army to break through the ring of steel around the city, both sides prepared for a long-term fight. During this time, Sherman made several attempts to capture or destroy much-needed supplies in warehouses and storage facilities inside the city walls. He also ordered the construction of a large wooden gun platform called a "mound of dirt" outside the city limits where Union artillery could bombard the town into submission.
After two months of continuous fighting, both sides were exhausted.
Sherman promoted him to colonel following the fall of Savannah, and he served in that role during the war's last Carolinas Campaign when Sherman proceeded north from Savannah to join Grant and the Army of the Potomac in Virginia and cut another gash through South and North Carolina. In February 1866, following the end of the Civil War, Sherman appointed Johnston commander of Georgia forces at the surrender at Appomattox Court House.
Johnston then joined Sherman in Atlanta for negotiations with General William T. Sherman over the conditions under which his men would be allowed to return home. The two generals reached an agreement on March 17th and Johnston surrendered a second time. He was given safe passage out of Georgia with his family and they were allowed to settle in Augusta, where Johnston lived out the rest of his life in retirement.
Following their victory in the Civil War, the people of Georgia elected John Sherman as governor. He also became one of the first members of the United States Senate from Georgia when it was formed in 1868. He held this position until his death in 1890 at the age of 76. A state cemetery was then established near his home in Georgia where he can be found today.
In 1937, a U.S. naval vessel was named for him. She was used by the Federal Government for drug enforcement activities in the Caribbean before being sold in 1969.