‘William Tecumseh Sherman,’ by James Lee McDonough

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Eric Calistri

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New Sherman Bio reviewed in the New York Times by Thomas Ricks.

William Tecumseh Sherman,’ by James Lee McDonough


By THOMAS E. RICKSJUNE 15, 2016


19RICKS-master768-v2.jpg

Sherman’s march to the sea, November and December 1864.CreditFelix Octavius Carr Darley/J. P. Finch,1883, via Library of Congress
WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN
In the Service of My Country, a Life
By James Lee McDonough
Illustrated. 816 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $39.95.

Historians cannot get enough of William Tecumseh Sherman, and no wonder. As multiple biographies have noted over the last 30 years, he is a particularly modern figure — high-strung, quotable, irritable, irreligious, prone to bouts of anxiety and depression. One earlier Sherman biographer, the British military writer Basil Liddell Hart, called him “the first modern general.”

But Sherman was also very much a man of his time. He managed to witness a good part of the key events of the 19th century in the United States, from the gold rush to the building of the transcontinental railroad to the near extermination of the Native American tribes. A lifelong lover of good theater (he once stomped out of a poor performance of “Hamlet” in occupied Nashville), he became a New Yorker at the end of his life, purchasing a house at 75 West 71st Street.

Most of all, he played a major and strategic role in the Civil War. In looking back at that conflict, Sherman uttered one of the most memorable phrases in American history — “War is all hell.” Alone among American generals, his name is enshrined in an adjective in our political vocabulary. That word, “Shermanesque,” remains today the best summary of an absolute and nonnegotiable refusal to run for president.

Of course, his 1864 movement across central Georgia also is remembered by his name — Sherman’s march. Yet this most famous of his actions is probably his least understood, or perhaps most misrepresented. He did not conduct “total war.” Nor did he use violence indiscriminately. To the contrary, his march across Georgia and then into South Carolina was a targeted use of violence against wealthy Confederate die-hards in the rural South who had been largely untouched by the war. It was to these plantation owners that Sherman intended to bring “the hard hand of war,” and he did so with audacity and courage.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/books/review/william-tecumseh-sherman-by-james-lee-mcdonough.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0
 

KansasFreestater

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Thanks so much for the link, Eric. The review is a great piece. This section
"was actually a politically shrewd general, probably more so than 99 percent of our top officers today"
made me think of two things: Sherman's letter to a Louisiana friend just after South Carolina seceded [scroll down to the "Reaction to Secession" paragraph], predicting the ruin of the South, and his letter to Halleck in 1863 about the four broad classes of Southerners. Love him or hate him, agree or disagree with some of his views, but Sherman had insight and foresight -- and an ability to articulate them -- that are sadly lacking in most of our leaders today.
 
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KansasFreestater

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From the review:

he believed that holding Kentucky and Tennessee, and their rivers, was the key to winning the war. Another example: He knew that taking Atlanta at a time when Grant was stalemated in Virginia would help Lincoln win re-election in 1864.
I'd always credited Grant with these ideas. Sounds like he and Grant truly were partners.

McDonough is especially good in showing the role that Sherman played that year and the next in supporting Grant both militarily and emotionally. The deep trust that grew between the two became a major asset to the Union

OK, now you've got me. I had firmly resolved to put a brake on my ACW reading addiction, and that I sure didn't need another book on Sherman. Now I'm not so sure.... :help:
 
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KansasFreestater

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I have a particular admiration for people who can write a really good book review. I used to write some reviews myself, and I think it is one of the most challenging forms there are. So I noted the reviewer's name, Thomas Ricks, which sounded vaguely familiar. Did y'all notice that bio line at the bottom of the article, where it says he's working on a book about Winston Churchill and George Orwell? Talk about intriguing! So add one more (non-ACW) book to the reading list.... Does this sound fascinating, or what?
http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2013/12/06/the-men-who-made-the-20th-century/ideas/nexus/
 

KansasFreestater

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19RICKS-master768-v2.jpg

Sherman’s march to the sea, November and December 1864.CreditFelix Octavius Carr Darley/J. P. Finch,1883, via Library of Congress
WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN
In the Service of My Country, a Life
By James Lee McDonough
Illustrated. 816 pp. W.W. Norton & Company. $39.95.
That is a remarkable picture. Do you suppose it captures a real scene -- all that destruction in one place, at one time -- or is it a composite of events, fashioned by the artist into one overwhelming image?
 
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AndyHall

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So I noted the reviewer's name, Thomas Ricks, which sounded vaguely familiar. Did y'all notice that bio line at the bottom of the article, where it says he's working on a book about Winston Churchill and George Orwell? Talk about intriguing!
Tom Ricks is a former Washington Post military affairs reporter who's probably best known for his book, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005, a No. 1 best-seller and Pulitzer Prize finalist. He's been writing more historically-themed work since, like 2013's The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today.
 
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