One might think there is no need to retell the story of Sherman's brutal assaults against Southern noncombatants and...

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MERCHANT OF TERROR: General Sherman and Total War

One might think there is no need to retell the story of Sherman's brutal assaults against Southern noncombatants and property, but a recent laudatory biography (James M. Merrill's William Tecumesh Sherman, 1971) reminds us that he still has his apologists -- and Walters does quite a good job of narrative. Though Sherman was ""notorious as a poor disciplinarian,"" Walters says it is ridiculous to claim that he couldn't have controlled his troops' plunder. He was deliberately ""one of the first of the modern generals to revert to the idea of the use of military force against the civilan population of the enemy."" Walters grants Sherman a sincere regard for the Union, but finds him otherwise repugnant with his ""singular lack of modesty""; the moral revulsion is based not so much on the lack of a basic humaneness but on Sherman's defiance of a civilized code of war. The exposure of prisoners to the fire of their own forces and the arrest of Confederate mill-workers are only two examples of Sherman's inexcusable conduct, less well known than the ravages of the march to the sea. Why Lincoln and Grant countenanced the anti-civilian policy is not established by this book, but it remains a notable polemic against the man most personally responsible for the South's postwar hatred of the North.

Pub Date: July 9, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1973