As the war was nearing its fourth year, new commanders took charge. These officers had proven themselves in battle and became
leaders of the armies. Ulysses S. Grant was appointed in May of 1864 as supreme commander of the Union army.
He knew the
way to win the war was not only to destroy Robert E. Lee's army, but also to destroy the South and take away the people's will to
keep fighting. He knew the South would have to be persuaded to surrender.
For this task, Grant appointed generals like Phil
Sheridan and Tecumseh Sherman to march through the South and destroy it.
The generals followed orders. General Sheridan
focused on the Shenandoah Valley by defeating Confederate armies and destroying the land.
Sherman marched his army south
leaving a path of destruction behind him. As Grant was battling Lee at places such as the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and
Petersburg, Sherman was marching to the Atlantic Ocean on his so called "March to the Sea".
The Union continued to move its
armies south, forcing Lee and the Southern people to retreat. While Sheridan destroyed the Shenandoah; Sherman burned
Atlanta, captured Savannah, and marched into South Carolina, where secession began.
Grant finally pushed Lee out of Peterburg,
captured Richmond, and burned it. This idea of pursuing your enemy non-stop and destroying everything in your path is called
total war. Grant and Sherman both practiced this destructive method. It proved successful.
Total war caused mass chaos in the
South, devastated most of it, and forced the defeat of the Confederacy.
Back | Next