Not so long ago, in a discussion on Iraq the question came up of what various people would have predicted at the outset of the US Civil War. It seemed to me that all with the possible exception of Sherman, would have grossly underestimated the length and bloodiness of the war, and that all would have predicted easy victory for their side. Of course, rather than speculate, I should have checked Wikipedia. Fortunately, William Tecumseh Sherman was the featured article yesterday, and includes Sherman’s judgement.
You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing!
Sherman continued, with an accurate analysis of the eventual outcome
You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it …
Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earthâ€”right at your doors.
You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.
More famous, and even more appropriate today is his statement at the end of the war
I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fightingâ€”its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers … it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.