SHERMAN'S MARCH by Cynthia Bass


Email this review


This first novel examines General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea from the perspectives of a Union captain, a Southern widow, and Sherman himself. The general issued Special Order Number 120 in November 1864, instructing the Union army to move across Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah, ""forage liberally on the country,"" and ""enforce a devastation more or less relentless."" Bass looks at the effect on the Confederate people through the eyes of Annie Saunders Baker. Though familiar with ""every burning, every hanging, every torture, every rape"" inflicted by the North, Annie is caught alone and unprepared by troops who arrive to ""forage"" but become intoxicated by their power and burn her house down. She becomes a refugee and, in an unlikely twist, finds the excitement of ""throwing it all away, of starting anew...Hey: it didn't sound so bad."" Captain Nicholas J. Whiteman, a Yankee soldier with a conscience who believes his general is a genius, refuses to take food from a poor woman and makes friends with a Confederate soldier. His version of the march proves it is not all fun and games. Finally, Sherman lends his own voice -- actually, two voices. The first provides vivid descriptions of wartime experiences like visiting a field hospital where the air has the sickening smell of ""lemonade left to steep in the sun"" and the blood ""has the color and ooze of raisins."" The second revises popular history, as when Sherman insists that he never said, ""War is Hell,"" but rather ""there is many a boy...who looks on war as all glory. But boys, it is all hell."" He concedes later, ""It's hard to become immortal without being misunderstood. Look at Christ."" A clunky mÉlange of fact and fiction. Special order? Cease and desist.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Viilard/Random House