A Series of Colossal Mistakes
Why Sherman's Failure to Destroy the Augusta Powder Works Prolonged the Civil WarSeries:
Imprint: Savas Publishing
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- January 2023
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The Augusta works began operation in April 1862. From that moment until the last shot was fired, it was the single-most important military industry in the world. The Confederate high command considered the mammoth operation organized, built, and operated by Col. George Washington Rains to be quite safe in Georgia because it was deep inside its own territory. In reality, there was no place within the Confederacy to safely erect such an important operation, a fact that became painfully obvious when Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia in the spring of 1864. Even though he was fully aware of its importance to the Southern war effort—and had complete discretion to capture or level the place—the Union army commander decided instead to ignore the facility on at least three separate occasions while invading Atlanta, marching to the sea, and moving north into the Carolinas. Unbeknownst to Sherman and the Lincoln administration, except for relatively brief pause, the Augusta facility continued producing and shipping tons of gunpowder and other war materiel until weeks after Lee surrendered at Appomattox—even with many of the railroads destroyed.
This is not alternate “what-if” history. Savas uses indisputable records and facts to conclusively demonstrate that Sherman’s conscious choices during the Atlanta Campaign and thereafter prolonged the war for many months because he made the wrong strategic decision three times in a row. Instead of making the move that would have ended the war almost immediately, Sherman remained in character and maneuvered instead of taking decisive action. The result was the unnecessary death and maiming of tens of thousands of men and civilians. Although the records have always been available, no other historians or writers who have studied these campaigns discuss or even understand the overarching importance of the powderworks, and most do not even mention them.
The truth is that history is complicated, but prior writers have taken the easy way out in evaluating Sherman in Georgia. He could have easily destroyed the Works. There was no need to fight all the way to Atlanta and then invest the city for bloody weeks on end. The fall of the works would have made waging war absolutely impossible within a short period of time.
A Series of Colossal Mistakes, a new essay in the Savas Beatie Spotlight Series, may or may not convince you that Sherman made several egregious strategic blunders, but you will never again read about these campaigns without taking his decision-making into mind.