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William Sherman's march through Georgia in the fall and winter of 1864 is sometimes described as the beginning of total war. Having captured the important commercial and railroad center of Atlanta earlier in the year, Sherman decided to march a force of 62,000 men to Savannah. Unlike most armies, Sherman's force did not have supply lines, but rather lived off the land. They confiscated meat and produce that they needed (and much they did not) from Georgia's farmers along the way, and according to Sherman, ate better than they had done at any point during the war. Along the way, Sherman's men demolished railroad tracks, destroyed bridges, burned plantations, and generally made war on the Georgia countryside. By bringing the war to the civilians of Georgia, Sherman hoped to shorten the fighting. The effect was devastating, as Sherman's troops burned and plundered a wide swath across Georgia. After they reached Savannah, they turned north and exacted even more vengeance on South Carolina, the first state to secede. Along the way, they picked up thousands of African-Americans, who took the opportunity to leave their plantations and follow Sherman's men. The march was economically, strategically, and especially psychologically devastating to the Confederacy. Sherman's march was very risky and highly controversial, but it was certainly effective.
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