General Sherman at War
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 A folksy, unpretentious view of the Civil War exploits of the crusty warrior who's become identified with the harsh rationalization and ruthless practice of total war. In the view of many, Coburn (English/Fort Lewis College) says, ``General Sherman was like Attila the Hun, but less cuddly.'' The author suggests, though, that the view of Sherman as barbarian is simplistic, and that the general was more interested in destroying property of potential military value to the Confederates than in taking civilian lives. Coburn also contends that, unlike many Civil War commanders who ordered suicidal frontal assaults, Sherman constantly sought to preserve the lives of his own men, and--with a few lapses, like the murderous repulse of Union forces at Kennesaw Mountain--succeeded in doing so. In a colorful, fast-paced account, the author tells of Sherman's march of destruction from Atlanta to the sea, but he argues that the general's march from Savannah to Goldsboro, North Carolina, though less well known, was more destructive, more arduous, and strategically more important. Despite the studied destructiveness of his tactics, Sherman professed to like and admire the South (he headed a Louisiana military school at war's outbreak, and he'd urged his southern friends to desist from secession), and he was actually branded a traitor by Secretary of War Stanton for extending overly generous surrender terms to General Johnston's army. After the war, Sherman garnered new fame as the leader of America's Indian-fighting constabulary and as the author of one of the Civil War's most penetrating memoirs. Despite an incongruous informality (Coburn refers to Sherman throughout as ``Cump,'' a childhood nickname used by only a few intimates): a generally superb account of the lively personality and impressive, if sometimes disturbing, military achievements of one of the Civil War's most important strategists. (Sixteen illustrations, six maps--not seen) (Military Book Club Main Selection)

Pub Date: May 31st, 1993
ISBN: 0-7818-0156-7
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993


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