Home front and battle front merged in 1865 when General William T.
Sherman occupied Savannah and then marched his armies north through
the Carolinas. Although much has been written about the military
aspects of Sherman's March, Jacqueline Campbell reveals a more
complex story. Integrating evidence from Northern soldiers and from
Southern civilians, black and white, male and female, Campbell
demonstrates the importance of culture for determining the limits
of war and how it is fought.
Sherman's March was an invasion of both geographical and
psychological space. The Union army viewed the Southern landscape
as military terrain. But when they brought war into Southern
households, Northern soldiers were frequently astounded by the
fierceness with which many white Southern women defended their
homes. Campbell argues that in the household-centered South,
Confederate women saw both ideological and material reasons to
resist. While some Northern soldiers lauded this bravery, others
regarded such behavior as inappropriate and unwomanly.
Campbell also investigates the complexities behind African
Americans' decisions either to stay on the plantation or to flee
with Union troops. Black Southerners' delight at the coming of the
army of "emancipation" often turned to terror as Yankees plundered
their homes and assaulted black women.
Ultimately, When Sherman Marched North from the Sea
into question postwar rhetoric that represented the heroic defense
of the South as a male prerogative and praised Confederate women
for their "feminine" qualities of sentimentality, patience, and
endurance. Campbell suggests that political considerations underlie
this interpretation--that Yankee depredations seemed more
outrageous when portrayed as an attack on defenseless women and
children. Campbell convincingly restores these women to their role
as vital players in the fight for a Confederate nation, as models
of self-assertion rather than passive self-sacrifice.