AMERICAN GENERAL by John S.D. Eisenhower


The Life and Times of William Tecumseh Sherman
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A sympathetic look at the Union general with an eye toward correcting inaccuracies in the record.

The late historian Eisenhower (Soldiers and Statesmen: Reflection on Leadership, 2012, etc.), son of the president and a general and West Point graduate in his own right, does a service in presenting this solid, useful biography of William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), the great general and comrade of Ulysses S. Grant. In his unadorned prose, Eisenhower conveys the stalwart, no-nonsense nature of this dedicated soldier who engineered the modern concept of “total war” and, like Grant, was not afraid to fight. Born in Lancaster, Ohio, Sherman was sent to live with a foster family, the Ewings, when his prominent father died. He stayed loyal to the first woman he loved, daughter Ellen Ewing, and later married her. Like fellow Ohioan and West Point graduate Grant, Sherman floundered during peacetime, resisting his in-laws’ pressure to take up family employment. He was dismayed at the disintegration of the Union and believed presciently that the Civil War would be won in the West, specifically in terms of who controlled the Mississippi. Under Gen. Winfield Scott, Sherman’s brigade at the battle of Bull Run suffered high casualties, and he expected to be “cashiered.” Instead, he was promoted and vindicated himself at Shiloh, despite his periodic depression that rendered him temporarily “unbalanced.” Under Grant, Sherman found his “niche,” and Eisenhower depicts their warm friendship as they protected each other through the key battles of Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Kennesaw Mountain and Atlanta. Grant gave Sherman total credit for the revolutionary concept of a “march to the sea.” The author tempers criticism of Sherman’s supposed ruthlessness with accounts of his fairness toward civilians and his saving of Savannah.

A readable, evenhanded work that would be appropriate for younger readers as well.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-47135-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: NAL/Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2014


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