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.From Publishers Weekly:
Resigning after the Mexican War from an army that offered too little scope for his ambitions, William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) moved restlessly from jobs as banker to lawyer to educator. Returning to the Union uniform in 1861, he stood out from the beginning as a man of action, energy and something more. University of Georgia emeritus historian Kennett (Marching Through Georgia) makes a strong case in this well-balanced analytical biography that Sherman was a narcissistic personality, driven to avert criticism by constantly increasing his level of achievement. Fear that he could not deal with the pressures of independent command in Kentucky drove Sherman in 1861 into a spectacular attack of acute anxiety. Yet his limited performance in the final stages of the Vicksburg campaign and later at Chattanooga, Kennett suggests, reflected discomfort at playing an increasingly subordinate role to U.S. Grant. Given full command in the West in 1864, Sherman rose to the challenge. Kennett regards the Atlanta campaign as the work of an unusually gifted captain, and the "march to the sea" as an attempt to force Georgia to leave the war and "secede from secession." The aim proved illusory, but its pursuit secured Sherman's place as one of America's most controversial military figures. (He went on to renown as an after-dinner speaker and author of acclaimed memoirs.) Unprovable at this distance, Kennett's layman's psychoanalysis offers fresh perspectives on a man and a general who many contemporaries judged, but none really knew. (June)Forecast: Psychobiography has fallen out of favor, and nothing in particular is compelling a reexamination of Sherman at this point. Yet moderate review attention, garnered by Kennett's solid historical reputation and his use of new archival material, should lead to moderate sales.
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