During Gen. Sherman’s infamous march to the sea, he cut a black swath 50 miles wide of destruction, stealing and burning. Sherman himself said he wanted to teach the Southerners a lesson. Gen. Sherman was nothing if not direct. Of course, his methods caused considerable resentment.
One of Sherman’s Corps Commanders, Maj.-Gen. Oliver O. Howard, a pious man, encountered his share of angry Southerners. In Savannah, one woman was seen to leave the sidewalk to walk in the muddy street, so as to avoid walking under the U.S. flag. The flag was hung above Howard’s headquarters. This act counted as defiance in occupied Savannah. A guard brought the woman before Gen. Howard.
The general told her he understood she had refused to walk under his flag. “I did,” the lady replied. “Am I not at liberty to walk in the sand if I prefer it to the sidewalk?”
“Yes, but you intentionally avoided my flag.” The general paused. “I’ll make you walk under it.”
“You cannot make me. You may have me carried under it, but then it will be your act, not mine.”
“I’ll send you to prison.”
“Send me if you will. I know you have the power.”
The general paused.
“I’ll have the flag hung in front of your door, so that you can’t go out without walking under it.”
“Then I’ll stay home and send the servants. They won’t mind.”
With that, Gen. Howard realized she had won.
Russell S. Bonds, War Like a Thunderbolt (Pennsylvania: Westholme Publ. 2009), p. 372