Total War Before Sherman: Patrick Cleburne at the Battle of Ringgold Gap (pt. 1)

Many lost cause proponents of the Civil War often criticize the so called “barbarity” of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign and subsequent “March to the Sea.” Often these people ignore the numerous historical accounts which prove most of the Sherman atrocity stories as myth. These same people also turn a blind eye to Confederates such as Stonewall Jackson, who argued for total war as early as 1861. Neo-Confederates never bother to analyze the actions of notable Confederates who did in fact wage total war, sometimes on southern people. This is largely because they are so wrapped up in their own lost cause ideology that they already believe what they think they know is factual. With that in mind, here is an interesting opportunity for all.

Are Patrick Cleburne’s actions at the Battle of Ringgold Gap (Nov. 1863) an example of total war on the southern people. Bare in mind, Cleburne positioned his command in Ringgold Gap and turned his guns towards the town.


  1. In a whole bunch of respects, the idea of total war popped up throughout the conflict. Heck, I’d even consider Lee’s multiple foreys into Maryland and Pennsylvania to be “total war” in theory, because they were based on getting the populaces of those respective states involved in the fight either politically or militarily. And what about Confederate armies’ rounding up of runaway slaves and freed people? The war’s black partipants faced total war on a daily basis.

    • Good point jarret. In the original draft of this post I included lee’s northern marches including some the destruction of property his men committed. I decided to narrow the post into something I had the source material for.

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