Sherman’s first act of terror and war crime was the bombardment of Atlanta. After the bombing had started Sherman wrote to Confederate General John B. Hood, the commander of the forces in Atlanta, he “…was not bound by the laws of war to give notice of the shelling of Atlanta...” (United States, Series 1 - Volume 39 (Part II), 422). This act was a violation of General Order 100, Art. 19 and 22. These articles state that “Commanders, whenever admissible, inform the enemy of their intention to bombard a place, so that the noncombatants, and especially the women and children, may be removed before the bombardment commences…” and “…the distinction between the private individual belonging to a hostile country and the hostile country itself, with its men in arms. The principle has been more and more acknowledged that the unarmed citizen is to be spared in person, property, and honor as much as the exigencies of war will admit.”
The acts of terror and war crimes committed by Sherman’s army on their march to the sea are too extensive to list. Of these crimes Sherman wrote, “…no doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery and violence…" here he conceded to the acts committed by his men during the march (Sherman, 182-83). These acts were punishable under General Order 100, Art. 47. Sherman never prosecuted these men for their crimes therefore because all commanders are responsible for the troops under their control he became punishable under the same article. Without excusing these crimes we will progress to some of the crimes Sherman was directly responsible for. In a letter written to the commander of the cavalry forces Lieutenant General Wade Hampton on February 24, 1965, Sherman states, “General: It is officially reported to me that our foraging parties are murdered after capture and labeled “Death to all foragers.”…I have ordered a similar number of our prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner. I hold about 1,000 prisoners captured in various ways, and can stand it as long as you;…I find no civil authorities who can respond to calls for forage or provisions, therefore must collect directly of the people…” (United States, Series I- Vol. 47, 546). To harm, mistreat, or put to death along with numerous other things of prisoners, was expressly forbidden in General Order 100, Articles 58, 68, 71 and 75. To avoid debate it is conceded that Sherman could find no civil authorities from which to requisition supplies. However, Sherman expressly forbade his foragers to provide receipts for private property taken from civilians along the route of the march. Also, the foraging parties took far more property than Union forces needed, and no military necessity existed that justifies seizure or destruction in excess of the army's requirements (Sherman, 175-76). This was a direct violation of General Order 100, Art. 38. Any Courts Martial past or present would have convicted William Tecumseh Sherman.
Not only was Sherman aware of his crimes and terrorism but a letter to Lieutenant General U. S. Grant December 18, 1964, shows he reveled in it “…I do sincerely believe that the whole United States, North and South, would rejoice to have this army turned loose on South Carolina to devastate that State, in the manner we have done Georgia…” (United States, Series 1 – Vol. 44, 743) Yes, General William T. Sherman was a criminal and terrorist, but all you need do is read a history book to find out that William T. Sherman is generally only portrayed as a hero.