A fast-paced look at the military career of Grant’s most trusted, effective subordinate, the latest from the publisher’s handy Great Generals Series.
Woodworth (History/Texas Christian Univ.; Nothing But Victory, 1861-1865, The Army of the Tennessee, 2005, etc.) quickly dispenses with William Tecumseh Sherman’s Ohio boyhood and his time at West Point, where he proved a popular, intellectually superior cadet, while accumulating a raft of demerits. After a series of pedestrian postings—he discontentedly sat out the Mexican War in California, from where he officially reported to the government the discovery of gold in 1849—he left the army at his wife’s insistence. Only modestly successful as a businessman, he happily presided over the Louisiana Military Seminary at the outbreak of the Civil War. After distinguishing himself at the Union disaster of Bull Run and disgracing himself in command of the Department of the Cumberland, Sherman teamed with Grant to form a brilliant partnership, from Shiloh to Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta and, of course, the famed March to the Sea that made “Georgia howl.” Although Grant favored direct attack on the enemy’s army, and Sherman the destruction of communications, transportation and means of equipping and supporting that army, Grant relied on his lieutenant’s coolness in combat, his special talent as a defensive commander and his skillful handling of personnel to execute the grand plan of defeating the Confederacy. Although he addresses “Uncle Billy’s” shortcomings as a commander, Woodworth focuses on Sherman’s refinement of maneuver warfare—the practice of avoiding the enemy’s strength, concentrating on his weakness, turning the opponent and forcing him to choose between retreat or fighting at a disadvantage. The author briefly summarizes Sherman’s postwar career, but the spotlight remains on the big battles and Sherman’s superb generalship.
A crisp assessment of a warrior who perfected the doctrine of striking at the enemy’s economic resources and will to resist, making the South so sick of war “that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”