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History professor helps debunk some of the myth on History Channel program.
It's one of the enduring images of the Civil War: the South consumed in flames by Union General William T. Sherman's slash-and-burn march to the sea.
However, tales of the destructiveness of Sherman's campaign through Georgia and the Carolinas tend to be somewhat exaggerated, says TCU History Professor Steven Woodworth. But Woodworth is helping set the record straight. He recently lent his expertise to "Sherman's March," a History Channel production that premiered in late April.
"It's not a huge thing, but it's nice," said Woodworth, who wrote Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865, which chronicles a branch of Sherman's army. "A number of people have contacted me to say they saw me in the show. Maybe it's my 15 minutes of fame."
The show's producers flew Woodworth and other leading Sherman scholars to Washington, D.C. for a lengthy interview. Excerpts from Woodworth's interview are interspersed throughout the 94-minute program.
Woodworth said he considers "Sherman's March" a high-quality presentation with a few shortcomings. Although it makes good use of top scholars, the program at times sensationalizes events through misleading visuals and narration, he said.
"Maybe I would give it a B-plus overall, which is pretty good," Woodworth said. "They got an awful lot right. I just would feel some reservations in some ways that it was presented in a sensationalistic way that made the march appear a bit more destructive than it really was."
Woodworth said it's common for television programs to provide viewers with "a subtle distortion of reality." Add in a dramatic historical event that has attained an almost-mythical status, and it's easy to see why the producers were tempted to go beyond the plain facts.
"Legend exaggerates it, but the scholars did a good job of debunking things," Woodworth said. "But they couldn't completely keep the legend from seeping out."
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