Library of Congress

What the Gettysburg Address is to American political history, Major General William Sherman’s 1864 letter to the City Council of Atlanta is to American military history. It should be required reading for civilians and military professionals alike. Sherman’s gritty prose bridges the wild spirit of the frontier warfare of America’s past with its industrialized, idealistic future. Defining an “American way of war” has taken on a new urgency. As we consider our nation’s wars, present and future, Sherman’s letter is an underrated masterpiece.

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Photo by Mathew Brady (1823–1896)

Throughout the summer of 1864, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman commanded three Union armies in a series of battles across northwest Georgia with Atlanta as the objective. On Sept. 1, the Confederate army evacuated Atlanta, and the Union occupied the city the following day.

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