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Monday, April 09, 2012

Was Gone With The Wind Right About Sherman?

I didn't know that much about General Sherman before reading Sherman: The Ruthless Victor.  Unlike many Americans, we didn't learn about him at school.  The little that I did know came from watching movies such as Gone With The Wind and the heart-wrenching Shenandoah. (They're both amongst my favorites!) According to this book, the version of Sherman presented in these movies is fairly correct.  Sherman was a ruthless, nasty person who really did let nothing get in the way of "total war." His hatred of the South apparently knew no bounds.

This is an interesting book. It discusses his traumatic childhood, his long-suffering wife, and his struggle to succeed in the army.  It also provides an account of important incidents in Sherman's life.  For example, I didn't realize that he worked as a banker or that he taught at Louisiana State Seminary and Military Academy).  He hated both of these occupations.

This book is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in the Civil War and General Sherman, however I didn't think that it was really a balanced account.  Sherman apparently had lots of friends and his students liked him so he seems to have had some good points, surprisingly.  The authors give him little credit for this.  They also judge him by the standards of today quite often. An example of this is when they argue that he was a racist.  This was certainly not unusual in those days.

They do attempt to explain why Sherman took such a ruthless attitude to the South.  There was mental illness in his family and Sherman regarded all Southerners as traitors.  Lincoln doesn't come out well either - he seemed to favor Sherman's extreme measures according to the authors.

The authors do come into their own when they discuss Sherman's legacy and how his war strategies influenced the Prussians and B. Liddell Hart.  Here they manage to be a bit more balanced in their views.

NB: This book was provided to me  free by Book Sneeze.  These opinions are entirely my own.

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