Sherman's March to the Sea has become a metaphor for any event of mass destruction so overwhelming that it leaves its victims utterly vanquished and demoralized. This riveting History Channel documentary, largely consisting of expert reenactments of Sherman's legendary campaign, shows that that was indeed Sherman's goal--to leave the Confederacy in shreds, both literally and figuratively. While some claimed Sherman was a madman (something that some scholars echo even today), there is no disputing the fact that his several week journey from Atlanta to Savannah hastened the end of the Civil War, even as it fomented generations of resentment among southerners.
The documentary starts with the story of Sherman, as mentioned above thought by some to be mad, and his friend and superior officer Grant, whom many believed was a drunk, before they joined forces to try to bring an early end to the vicious internecine fighting. Both were at personal lows when, due to various intervening events, President Lincoln appointed Grant to be Supreme Commander and Sherman to be Grant's frontline commander. The personal relationship between the two Generals was an important factor in Sherman's heretofore unheard of strategy to forge ahead with no supply lines being approved.
Sherman's March maintains a high degree of interest as it intercuts between unusually well recreated events in Sherman's trek and expert commentary. The reenactments give both sides of the story, with Sherman's own words contrasted with those of, for example, southern women whose homes were invaded and, in their words, outright robbed by Sherman's troops (all part of Sherman's strategy to demoralize the South). There are also some fascinating first-person accounts from one of "Uncle Billy"'s (as Sherman was affectionately called) troops who kept a day by day diary of this momentous campaign.
This epoch of the Civil War provides a satisfying amount of both external, objective detail on the battle, as well as an unusually deep insight into Sherman's own psychology (and his use of psychological warfare) that should engage all history lovers, and especially those with an interest in the Civil War.
The unenhanced 1.78:1 image is crisp and well defined. One hopes that the History Channel, finally being broadcast in HD, will soon release its documentaries in enhanced versions with the growing dominance of widescreen televisions.
The standard stereo soundtrack is excellent, with some outstanding use of separation in the battle reenactments. The talking head segments, as well as the voiceovers, are all front and center and easily heard.
A surprisingly long (about 45 minute) special hosted by This Old House's Steve Thomas provides yet another aspect to Sherman's march. Filled with more archival images than the main documentary, the special investigates some of the engineering feats required for Sherman's armies to ultimately take Savannah, including such amazing accomplishments as the many pontoon bridges the troops built (sometimes in as little as 30 minutes). There's also a puff-piece on the making of the main documentary that was used to promote the piece on The History Channel.
This is one of the finest documentaries The History Channel has offered, and is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in this sad, though perhaps necessary, chapter of the Civil War.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet