This post is a week old, I meant to comment on it sooner but was too busy.
Shelby Foote wrote a huge 3 volume history of the civil war so he was certainly an expert on the subject but there was one thing he said that I could never really agree with. He maintained that the war produced 2 real geniuses, Abraham Lincoln and Nathan Bedford Forrest, Now I'm with him all the way with Lincoln, he was a genius on many levels but Forrest is a different story. He was a great tactical commander but his post war career casts a long shadow over him.
For me the other genius of the war apart from Lincoln was Sherman, take a look at the following quote (also included in the article)
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! 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 Earth — 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.
It's the last 2 sentences that get me, he calls it perfectly, its 5 years into the future and a bunch of people have to die before it comes true but he sees it clearly and tries to warn them.
I don't have Shelbys' knowledge on the subject so my analogies will only be skin deep but I liken Shermans 'Total War' approach to Atlanta and NC as being similar to what happened to Japan in WW2. They were beaten but the die hards didn't know it and a whole lot more people were going to die before the fighting really stopped. There had to be a statement, there had to be an unquestionable show of force that put to an end any lingering thought that the war was still winnable. They needed to be shown they were utterly defeated, only then could peace really become viable. If not the die hards would muster again and who know when things could re-erupt.