During his march through Georgia from Tennessee, Sherman actually took considerable pains to avoid killing civilians, although he certainly had no qualms about destroying their livelihood and all their property down to bare earth. Compared to the campaigns of other notorious 'scorched earth' commanders such as Ghengis Khan, or to the atrocities committed by armies such as the mercenary forces of the Thirty Years' War, Sherman's march to the sea was not exceptionally brutal.

It is certainly the case that Southerners were outraged by Sherman's March, and with very good reason. His actions were in fact outrages. However, it is very difficult to fight a war without doing outrageous things, and the fact remains that Sherman's march did not cross the line from massive willful destruction of property to willful massacres against the civilian population, as so many other scorched earth campaigns have.