In 1864, General William T. Sherman wrote to a fellow Union officer that the “false political doctrine that any and every people have a right to self-government” was the cause of the war that had been raging in America since 1861. The general was forgetting, or ignoring, that this very “doctrine” had led the American colonists to declare their independence from Great Britain in the previous century.
In the same letter, Sherman referred to state’s rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of the press as “nonsense” and “trash.”
Devoted to the union and a powerful central government, he was willing to wage total war against fellow Americans who were fighting for independence and self-determination, and in the winter of 1865, many of the men who followed General Sherman cooperated with him in his intention to “smash South Carolina all to pieces” with malevolent glee. One South Carolina gentleman, a resident of Fairfield District, when asked if he had been visited by “rough men” (meaning Sherman’s soldiers), answered that he had been visited by “a legion of devils, not by men.”
After the city of Columbia, South Carolina, was sacked and burned by Sherman’s troops on February 17, 1865, one of its citizens, J. J. McCarter, recorded the following observation in his journal: