In 1861, the American Civil War had started. The war was fought between the northern states called the Union and the southern states called the Confederacy. The Confederacy no longer wanted to be a part of USA and one of the major reasons was that they supported slavery. The Union thought that the southern states had no right to leave the Union and it was basically against slavery.
Until early 1863, the war was almost even. Both sides had won many battles and lost some. In fact, the Confederacy seemed to be stronger until early 1863. But then the same year, the Union army was able to win many important victories against the Confederate army and the tide turned in favor of the Union. By 1864, the Confederacy had weakened so much that the Union armies had now entered Confederate territories and were taking control of Confederate cities. This is when the Sherman’s March to the sea took place.
Major General William Tecumseh Sherman led a Union army of around 100,000 men to capture the city of Atlanta. This was a very important city of the Confederacy. General Sherman marched on the city in July, 1864 and after defeating a Confederate army under General John Hood, he was able to take control of the city on September 2, 1864.
After capturing Atlanta, General Sherman decided to move his Union army towards the city of Savannah. This was another very important city of the Confederacy, especially since it had a port. General Sherman and his Union army left Atlanta and started to march towards Savannah on November 15, 1864. This was a very risky move because on the way, the Union army could not receive any supplies and the area they were marching into was enemy territory.
The Union army solved this problem by living off the land on the way, taking food from farmers and whatever else was available along the way including livestock. At the same time, the Union army burned mills, industries, infrastructure and property along the way. They also destroyed telegraph poles and freed any slaves they encountered on their way. This destroyed the economic support of the Confederate and disrupted the transportation network in the south.
The Union army reached the port city of Savannah in December, 1864. After a brief fight, the Union army gained control of Savannah on December 21, 1864. General Sherman wrote to President Abraham Lincoln that he had taken the city of Savannah from Confederate forces as a Christmas gift to the president.
The success of Sherman’s March proved crucial to the Union and at the same time, crippled the Confederacy. The Confederate army now had much smaller area under its control and a large part of the south had been looted and destroyed so that the economy of the southern states could no longer afford a costly war with the Union.