The Man Behind the Sherman Tank


You May Have Heard of the Sherman Tank

  • The United States produced over 50,000 Sherman tanks during WWII
  • The tanks, classified as a medium tank, were made to be quicker, lighter, and more agile than the larger, stronger German tanks; the Panzer
  • The Sherman tank was supplied to all the countries of the Allied Powers and thus had to be built and sent over seas quickly
  • Although smaller and weaker, the Sherman tank held a sheer numerical advantage over the Panzers (50,000 Shermans to 9,000 Panzers)

Who was General Sherman?

General William Tecumseh Sherman, or Uncle Billy as his soldiers called him, was arguably the greatest Union general of the Civil War – even though you probably have never heard of him. Like the Sherman tanks, he utilized the agility and quickness of his army to ravage Georgia and the Carolinas, delivering the Confederacy to Lincoln and the Union.

General Sherman has gone down in the annals of U.S. history as one of its most controversial military figures. In his campaign through Georgia he implemented his total war strategy, which included speedily advancing through Georgia to the Atlantic at any cost, something he called hard war. To Sherman war is hell and he demonstrated that he had every intention of wreaking havoc upon the southern states. In Shermans March to the Sea it is estimated that he caused over $100 million in property damage and ordered Atlanta to be burned to the ground after its capture. This was the precedent set forth by Shermans army during their penetration into the South.

Knowing no boundaries, Sherman and his army implemented scorched earth tactics upon the Confederate South; destroying the infrastructure of the Confederacy, dismantling their economy and livelihoods. The Sherman necktie, the act of bending train tracks around trees, was used to disrupt communication and transportation in the South. Shermans army was attributed with burning the city of Columbia in South Carolina to the ground. His army was in the business of destroying anything and everything that the South used to support their daily lives and on his march he burned fields, factories, buildings, and other resourceful targets for the Confederacy.

Just like the Sherman tanks rampaged through Western Europe in World War II, General Sherman rampaged through the South with the ice cold efficiency. Being extremely mobile and devastating, Shermans army left a path of destruction through Georgia and the Carolinas, which ultimately broke the Confederate infrastructure and inevitably won the Civil War.

Fun Facts

  • General Sherman was given the middle name Tecumseh after a Shawnee rebel warrior who fought until his death to defend his land against the United States
  • Congress wanted to replace General Grant with General Sherman following the Atlanta Campaign, but Sherman declined the promotion
  • General Sherman was proclaimed a second Moses or Aaron by the slaves in the South for liberating them; many of whom joined Shermans campaign
  • The Sherman tank was collaboratively manufactured by Ford and Chrysler and tested at General Motors Proving Ground

What General Sherman did after the War

  • After Ulysses S. Grant was elected President in 1869, Sherman became the Commanding General of the United States Army
  • General Sherman established the Command School at Fort Leavenworth
  • As Commanding General, Sherman was responsible for protecting the railroads against hostile Indians. In doing so he implemented his total war tactics and not only attacked the Indians, but also targeted their main resource – the buffalo
  • Upon seizing 400,000 acres of land throughout the Carolinas and Georgia, Sherman enacted Special Field Orders, No. 15, in which it was stated that the freed slaves would be given 40 acres of land. After the Civil War came to an end, this order came to be known as the 40 acre and a mule act to aid in the reconstruction of the South
  • General Shermans scorched earth and total warfare tactics set a precedent in U.S. military and diplomacy for years to come, especially in WWII under Erwin Rommel

Although Sherman believed that war is hell and demonstrated every intention of ruining the livelihoods of the South in order to squash the secession, Sherman displayed that he was a most avid supporter of rebuilding and protecting the South after the war was over. In his letter to the Confederacy, Sherman wrote,

I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success. But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

Not only were General Shermans tactics used in military terms, under Rommel in WWII, but his type of diplomacy was adopted by Truman in decimating Japan and then aiding in the reconstruction of the country. The United States is truly indebted to the tactics and diplomacy employed under General Sherman. His strategies and tactics enabled many of this countrys future generals and leaders to be successful in both war and peace.