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Practical LiberatorsUnion Officers in the Western Theater during the Civil War$
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Kristopher A. Teters

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469638867

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638867.001.0001

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William T. Sherman and His Officers

William T. Sherman and His Officers

The Reluctant Emancipators

Chapter:
(p.133) Chapter Six William T. Sherman and His Officers
Source:
Practical Liberators
Author(s):

Kristopher A. Teters

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638867.003.0007

From beginning to end, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman remained a reluctant liberator who never saw emancipation as a moral imperative. He had opposed the Emancipation Proclamation at the time it was issued, but by late 1863, Sherman had come to accept the end of slavery as a necessary and inevitable consequence of the war. But even if emancipation made some pragmatic sense, Sherman harbored deep racial prejudices, despised abolitionists, and worried that emancipation issues were looming too large in the Union war effort. During his famed marches in Georgia and the Carolinas, Sherman tried to carry out emancipation on a strictly military basis to benefit the army. He and his officers willingly took in slaves that they could use and discouraged all others. Yet thousands of black refugees had still joined Sherman’s columns. Regardless of what army officers thought, many slaves viewed them as liberators and would not pass up an opportunity to gain freedom. So ironically, the general who was probably least interested in assuming the mantle of a liberator led an army that freed thousands. For many, Sherman’s results mattered more than intentions.

Keywords:   Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, Twenty-First Wisconsin, March to the Sea, Georgia, Carolinas, reluctant liberator, emancipation, refugees, military basis

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