General Sherman’s Neckties,
During the American Civil War Major General William Tecumseh Sherman would introduce total warfare to the Confederacy. After experiencing years of bloody stalemate and defeat after defeat under the leadership of incompetent commanders, Sherman understood that to end the war quickly he had to hit the South hard and fast. During his Atlanta campaigns and subsequent march to the sea Sherman would order to destruction of factories, arsenals, telegraph lines, plantations, and most importantly railroads. Railroads became of prime importance during the Civil War as the prime transportation method of men and supplies. Compared to the North the South had few railroads, making them that much more important. Gen. Sherman would make the destruction of railroads a top priority. The problem with railroads is that you can’t just uproot the rails and ties, then call it a days work. The enemy can easily just take them and spike them back into place. Furthermore Sherman’s army needed to stay on the move and could not spend much time in destroying railroads.
Sherman himself created an ingenious and efficient method for effectively destroying the rails. Once the soldiers uprooted the ties and rails, they would stack the wooden ties in a pile with the rails on top. The ties were set on fire to create a large hot bonfire. Once the ties were heated to the point that they were red hot and malleable, they were taken and bent around a tree in the shape of a necktie or bowtie. The rails could not be bent back into shape, they were completely unusable. Furthermore since they were essentially fused to a tree they could not be taken and recycled into other goods.
Sherman’s neckties were just one example of how Sherman waged war on the Southern economy and infrastructure. Sherman probably did more damage to the Confederacy than the past three years of warfare combined. The area from eastern Tennessee through Georgia to the Atlantic coast was the industrial and agricultural heart of the Confederacy, and Sherman devastated it. The Confederacy was finished from that point on, and it would take decades for the South to recover from the damage.