Skip to main content

Rebutting Sherman

March 2023
1min read

Much as we may admire General Sherman’s military skills, it would be a mistake to endorse his crabby, self-serving attacks on the press (“The New Sherman Letters,” July/August).

After an initial shakedown period the hundred-odd war correspondents for the North accepted reasonable restraints on where they might go and what they might report. Even in the war’s early days, their lapses of security never cost the Union a major battle, much less a campaign. Some of them were killed, and a larger number captured. A few reporters brought in valuable intelligence gathered in forays between the lines, and one —Henry Wing—brought an anxious Lincoln the first news that Grant’s army was safe after the Battle of the Wilderness.

And why were the correspondents there? Because, in the words of the New York World (February 27, 1862), “This is a people’s war. … They have a right to know how their war is conducted.” No military bureaucrat would ever willingly admit to mismanagement. It was much easier to hide incompetence behind a veil of “security.” Reporters know this, and as one of them put it, their duty was not just to “applaud valor and merit” but also “to point out abuses and blunders that would not otherwise be reached.” Those were good words in the 186Os. And they still are.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "November 1987"

Authored by: The Editors

For the children and grandchildren of a poor boy from Pennsylvania, childhood was magic

Authored by: Bernard A. Weisberger

While New York families were spending fortunes inherited from fathers and grandfathers, the Chicago rich had to start from scratch, both making and lavishly spending money within one generation

Authored by: Martin Mayer

One hundred years ago many thoughtful people predicted the decline and disappearance of capitalism. What happened to make their prophecy wrong?

Authored by: Marvin Gelfand

A knowledgeable and passionate guide takes us for a walk down Wall Street, and we find the buildings there eloquent of the whole history of American finance

Authored by: The Editors

Charles Sheeler found his subject in the architecture of industry. To him, America’s factories were the cathedrals of the modern age.

Authored by: Beverly Rae Kimes

The Florida Speed Carnivals at Daytona lasted less than a decade, but they saw American motoring grow from rich man’s sport to national obsession

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.