A highly detailed history of a fierce encounter during General Sherman's march north in the spring of 1865. Hughes (History/Univ. of North Carolina) describes Sherman's tough, battle-seasoned veterans, pumped with victory and foraging off the land, as they moved through North Carolina to link up with General Grant in Virginia and corner General Lee and his decimated Army of Northern Virginia. Sherman's long march through the South had sapped the Confederacy's will to keep fighting and destroyed the resources they needed to do so. Overconfident, the Union forces walked into an ambush at Bentonville. General Joseph E. Johnston's adroit use of his outnumbered forces was successful at first; his surprise attacks through the swampy terrain along the Union army's flanks threatened at first to collapse their line, but the Confederates were eventually worn down by Sherman's counterattacks. Conspicuous bravery was commonplace. Soldiers in both armies, worn down by hunger and lack of sleep, sensing that the war was finally drawing to its close, kept fighting The author gives brief biographies of leading officers and stories of enlisted men who dignified this desperate fight with their suffering and courage. In time both commanders realized that Johnston could not win and Sherman could not lose. Some rebels, realizing this, simply walked away and went home. Hughes provides a thorough account of this great (and bloody) tactical struggle between two skilled soldiers. Despite his fearsome reputation, Hughes shows, Sherman usually tried to avoid bloody battles and to preserve the lives of his men by strategic maneuvers, and he did so again, successfully, at Bentonville. A month later the war was over. This prodigiously researched book should stand for many years as the definitive account of one of the war's last battles.
Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996
Page Count: 360
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996
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