In the crowded battlefield of Civil War commanders, William Tecumseh Sherman stands apart. Others are often summed up in a few words: the stubborn, taciturn Grant; the gentlemanly, gifted Lee; the stomping, cursing Sheridan; and the flamboyant, boyish Stuart. But the enigmatic Sherman still manages to elude us. Probably no other figure of his day divides historians so deeply-leading some to praise him as a genius, others to condemn him as a savage.
Now, in Sherman, Lee Kennett offers a brilliant new interpretation of the general's life and career, one that embraces his erratic, contradictory nature. Here we see the making of a true soldier, beginning with a colorful view of Sherman's rich family tradition, his formative years at West Point, and the critical period leading up to the Civil War, during which Sherman served in the small frustrated peacetime army and saw service in the South and California, and in the Mexican War Trying to advance himself, Sherman resigned from the army and he soon began to distinguish hiniself as a general known for his tenacity, vision, and mercurial temper. Throughout the spirited Battles of Bull Run and Shiloh, the siege of Vicksburg, and ultimately the famous march to the sea through Georgia, no one displayed the same intensity as did Sherman.
From the heights of success to the depths of his own depression, Sherman managed to forge on after the war with barely a moment of slowing down. Born to fight, he was also born to lead and to provoke, traits he showed by serving as commanding general of the army, cutting a wide swath through the western frontier, and finally writing his classic -- and highly controversial -- memoirs. Eventually Sherman would die famous, well-to-do, and revered -- but also deeply misunderstood.
By drawing on previously unexploited materials and maintaining a sharp, lively narrative, Lee Kennett presents a rich, authoritative portrait of Sherman, the man and the soldier, who emerges from this work more human and more fascinating than ever before.
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Lee Kennett is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Georgia and the author of Marching Through Georgia: The Story of Soldiers and Civilians During Sherman's Campaign and G.I.: The American Soldier in World War II He lives in Pleasant Garden, North Carolina.
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