He relates well his close relationship with other officers such as Halleck, Ord and especially Grant - Grant stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk and now we stand by each other. And the man who made Georgia howl knew the brutality of war all too well - I am tired and sick of war.
Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. He was also generous to a fault. Willing giving to any of his former troopers who came in later years to his door - But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter. And rare for a successful general, he held no political ambitions - If forced to choose between the penitentiary and the White House for four years, I would say the penitentiary, thank you.
As a Cincinnati native, I enjoyed the references to the area, such as when he drops his daughter off at Notre Dame Academy in Reading, Ohio and his planning with Grant the campaign at the Burnet House. The campaign that would finally win the war. An amazing life of a colorful man told in his own words. What could be better? Many of my friends saw that I was reading this book and automatically replied with "Ugh!becksgf.com/wp-content/19.php
William Tecumseh Sherman: Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman (LOA #51)
He was an excellent writer and brought me into the scenes in which he lived. Secondly, this was super clean! I think of military as a cussing hole, but I came across next to no curse words a few uses of God's name in vain when he was quoting others. Thirdly, Sherman copied many letters and telegrams, so the opinion I Many of my friends saw that I was reading this book and automatically replied with "Ugh!
Thirdly, Sherman copied many letters and telegrams, so the opinion I formed of Sherman was not made by him presenting himself as an upstanding citizen who never did wrong. Through his letters I got a good picture of who he was and what his view were. Yes, I did find that he was somewhat aloof to the humanity of the army, but then there were times when he did reach out to protect and prevent cruelty from happening.
I did not at all find him to be the "monster" that many historians portray him to be. Fourthly, this was a very political read in other words, many times went over my head. It was fascinating to see the brain-work behind the tactics that Sherman and Grant used for their side of the War. Fifthly, this covers not only the Civil War, but more or less Sherman's life as a soldier--starting with his work in California and ending at his resignation.
Sixth, I did enjoy this read. There were many gems of helpful information throughout these pages and it gave me an overall good view of the war sometimes for both sides, as letters were shared between enemies. I can't say that I would read it again because of it's massive page count, but I don't regret spending my time reading it. Civil War buffs; military history buffs; those that love great memoirs. It's important to admit bias up front, and I will tell you that I went into this with a strong sense of near-adulation. Sherman has long been my greatest hero among American generals.
I have surely been getting a very different sense of perspective at the same time, because Shelby Foote's trilogy is in the master bathroom, opposite the toilet where it belongs, because it's a huge volume and it fits neatly on the flat hamper there, and because my spouse and I can only read so much of that man Fo It's important to admit bias up front, and I will tell you that I went into this with a strong sense of near-adulation.
I have surely been getting a very different sense of perspective at the same time, because Shelby Foote's trilogy is in the master bathroom, opposite the toilet where it belongs, because it's a huge volume and it fits neatly on the flat hamper there, and because my spouse and I can only read so much of that man Foote before our gag reflex kicks in.
Sherman's memoir is remarkable. He was one of those rare beings, both a soldier and an incredible scholar, one in the mold of Lewis and Clark, perhaps. He headed a military academy in Louisiana when the South seceded, and after giving a moving farewell speech to his students--the man gives a sense of being capable of really creating personal bonds, while at the same time knowing that if he has to say goodbye forever, he'll do it--and went to Washington to seek orders.
Sherman is an outstanding writer, and his voice comes through loud and clear. I confess my affection for him is marred slightly by his horrific perspective probably not unusual among Caucasians of the time period, but this guy never did anything halfway toward the American Indian. I decided enough was enough, and skipped forward to the Civil War. My husband, whom I will call Mr. Computer, was also reading it, as we had accidentally procured two copies, and he did the same.
The opening years of the war are incredibly frustrating to study. McClellan had been a big-deal general during the war against Mexico, and he was initially placed in charge, while Grant and Sherman lingered in the background out west, each having left the military under a cloud, Grant for his drinking during the Mexican war, and Sherman as having been perceived as crazy. Today I think a nice bottle of Xanax or Valium would've done wonders for the man in peace time years, because I believe he merely suffered from anxiety, and there's a lot of that out there! By reading Sherman, one does not get an account of the whole Civil War; he can't rightfully provide such a thing, because this is a memoir, so he writes about the places he went and the battles in which he took part.
He is lavish in his praise of competent or even excellent officers, and takes pains to mention as many as possible by name, sending them down in history as heroes alongside himself. His most famous contribution, the 3-campaigns-in-one march of some miles, from the siege of Atlanta, to its invasion, and his willingness to tell the truth and avoid the senseless pussyfooting of his predecessors, who had stupidly believed that by firing over the heads of the Confederates, they could scare them into submission, is an inspiration. He understood that in order to win a war and have it be over, the gloves must come off, and ugly things had to be done.
He limited his attacks to Confederate soldiers until the local population began to sabotage his efforts, at which point, without hesitation, he burnt local homes, measure for measure. Inside the city, he endeavored to destroy any and all infrastructure that would aid the enemy, since Confederate weapons, clothing, and food were nearly all warehoused in this city.
He personally supervised the destruction of the railroads that would otherwise keep supplies moving between Atlanta and the field, and cut his own supply line, a gutsy move unheard of previously. He soon learned not to trust Cavalry to destroy the railroads, because they'd just tear the tracks off, and someone else would put them back on. Sherman supervised the heating of the rails till they were white-hot and pliable, and created a tool for bending them around the trunks of trees, or into knots when no trees were nearby, so that no one would ever use them again.
Sherman has an unfairly tainted reputation regarding the Black people of the South, perhaps because he discouraged newly-freed families from following his train. The issue was a logistical one; he had enough food for his soldiers, thanks to their resourcefulness in foraging, and he welcomed single Black men to assist in noncombatant ways in order to free up his soldiers.
He was not willing to arm his Black enlistees, and was pleasantly surprised when he found others had successfully done so later. But when someone from Washington came down and privately interviewed former slaves to see who they trusted and who they didn't, they gave their unilateral trust to Sherman. This is the proof for me, that although he was later unsure they were ready for the ballot before they became literate with which I disagreed , he treated them with kindness and they revered him, viewing him alongside President Lincoln, as their liberator.
Grant was so eager to have Sherman back to help him fight Lee across the Potomac that he nearly boarded him and all his men onto ships once he reached the sea. Sherman talked him out of it, saying that he must go THROUGH the Carolinas in order for those insulated in die-hard South Carolina to see the might of the American army, and understand that resistance truly was futile.
William Tecumseh Sherman: Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman | Library of America
The newspapers of the South printed lies, saying that the South was winning its quest for separation, and Sherman felt that personal experience was the only thing that would really convince those who had first seceded, who had fired on Fort Sumter, and perhaps since they started all this, it was appropriate that they not be spared the privations that the people of Georgia, who were much less enthusiastic toward the Confederacy, had experienced.
Grant was smart enough to listen to him, and let him follow what he considered the best course of action. Lincoln was a true friend and leader who knew when to stop delegating. Again and again, lies came to him about Grant, that he was drinking again, etc. I mention this, not as a digression but because Grant and Sherman were hand in glove. This partnership, this blending of mind and purpose, is part of what made victory possible.
Sherman and his men fought their way through woods, swamps, over quicksand, through areas previously considered impenetrable, and unlike many high-ranking officers, he gave himself no perks that he did not share with his men, apart from the rare invitation to dinner with a Union family.
At the very end of his memoir, he devotes perhaps 20 or 30 pages to what constitutes effective leadership, and one thing I was struck by is that he believes a commanding officer should ride up front, because the men leading it have pride in the fact that they are leading, and that disorder and bad behaviors are limited to the rear. In short, he is safer with the men in front, and he has to see what is ahead to draw the correct conclusions about what should be done next. He sleeps on the ground, just like his men.
At one moving point, he and his men sought refuge from a storm by sleeping in a church, and some of the soldiers found carpets and made him a little bed up by the altar. Sherman told them to give that bed to their division leader, because he was used to sleeping hard. After Lincoln's assassination by a Confederate sympathizer, and attempts upon the lives of Seward, Secretary of War, and others, newly-minted President Johnson suddenly knocked Sherman's legs from beneath him.
Such lack of appreciation for a man who gave his all to the Union took my breath away. Apparently Secretary of War Stanton, who replaced Steward once he was injured, was filled with paranoia and behaved both irrationally and unfairly. This was primarily his doing, and Sherman knew it. Upon reaching Washington DC, each leading general paraded with his army before a massive crowd, and Sherman had his rightful place on the review stand once he reached it.
He passed down the line, shaking hands along the line of others who'd been seated there At this point, he states that he publicly brushed past the outstretched hand offered him, thus returning the public insult that had been dealt him in the press.
He snubbed the guy in as public a manner as possible, and I once again wanted to cheer. And he was right. It can't be over until someone has the courage to wage real war. His frankness and his affection for his troops, even though he knew some of them would fall, or maybe even more so because of it, was deeply moving, and I came away feeling that I had read one of the best memoirs ever. One more thing I'd add, for those who get the edition that I read: This was originally a two volume set.
It's less expensive to buy just one book, but it remains two volumes under one cover. Put together with Foote's less-apt and rabidly pro-Confederate trilogy, this was a meal, yet I don't regret reading them together, since it provided two perspectives and I am finishing Burke Davis's book on Sherman's march to the sea, a smaller volume with a third perspective that is closer to Sherman's own. But if you ask me who I believe when facts collide: View all 7 comments. Jan 24, Nostromo rated it it was amazing. Ok, this book approaches 1, pages in length - yet read faster than most books I've read.
The letters in the book are awesome - folks could just write well back in the s. Although long, the writing is concise, informative, interesting and compelling. I literaly could not put it down and awoke several nights and read till dawn. I loved this book and recommend it to most anyone, not just civil war buffs.
In fact his tales of California in the s is Extaordinary book. In fact his tales of California in the s is fascinating as well as the civil war stuff. I learned a lot about the civil war, General Sherman, America in the s and the human condition. I guess I was most impressed with how commanders make decisive or don't make decisions with little information. Today we have a plethora of information - probably too much. But Sherman and his contemporaries were making key - win or lose - decisions based on fragments of information.
The pressure must have been extreme. The march to the sea Atlanta to Savannnah is remarkable. To cut tether from your supply chain and plunge into enemy territory is an enormous gamble. Sherman himself states that if successful, all will share the fruits of his victory, but if the undertaking fails, he alone will bear the massive burden. I read Grant's autbiography years ago and I agree with an earlier reviewer of Sherman's book on this site, that it is even better and more readable.
Oct 26, Curtis rated it it was amazing. Inside the mind of one of the greatest military thinkers in history. If nothing else, read the section portraying the letters between Sherman and General Hood. Sherman's arguments in favor of the Federal point of view are brilliant. Oct 30, Keith Schnell rated it really liked it.
Sherman, having been a college professor as one of his myriad prewar careers, seems to have realized this, and included within it hundreds of pages of personal correspondence, most of it with other prominent generals and politicians and covering events as disparate as the California gold rush and the burning of Atlanta. Only after some reflection does one realize that this is because nearly all histories of the war are taken more or less directly from this book, and that its lack of new information is rather a testament to its completeness.
Sherman apparently wrote this book by referring to his contemporary diaries, rather than his memory ten or more years after the fact and, whether he meant it to or not, this shows in the way that his attitude towards the war, the political situation and the people of the South changes as his narrative goes on. Initially an apolitical and somewhat timid man; a professional military manager whose short time in the Army had been spent administering the occupation of gold-rich California and accepting the abject surrender of various starving Indians; Sherman undergoes a number of transformative experiences over the course of the war that gradually render him morally harder, more ruthless, vengeful, and more than a little shell shocked and fed up with the insanity of war that laid waste to his peaceful family life, and with those who had brought the war to his country.
When describing his early campaigns in Kentucky and Tennessee, Sherman includes documents emphasizing how much he cared about in retrospect relatively minor property damage caused by a small number of his Soldiers, and graciously offering to help bring the perpetrators to justice in the name of good order and discipline. By the last third of the book, Sherman is pasting in letters to local dignitaries in which he literally and very explicitly threatens to execute every single white person in Alabama, so help him, and to confiscate their land and give it to whatever Yankees can stand the climate.
For this is very much a political memoir, written in the early s, for a national audience that was still very much traumatized by a war that was proportionately as lethal for Americans as he First World War was for Europeans a half-century later. The national mood, as Reconstruction drew to a close, was unquestionably one of reconciliation, which looked to bind North and South in common nationalism by minimizing both the violence and the moral righteousness that had been characteristic of the war years.
Grant, he had a very significant interest in playing to the national mood of reconciliation and downplaying the havoc wrought on the South during the winter of To this end, Sherman deployed what is quite possibly the driest sense of humor in the history of North America, Viz: We struck up such an acquaintance that we corresponded for some years, and as I passed his plantation during the war, in , I inquired for him, but he was not at home. In all likelihood, he knew full well that the American Soldier, given authorization to steal by his chain of command, will in the blink of an eye and with tremendous initiative and aggression make off with anything and everything not securely bolted to bedrock, and seems to have implicitly trusted that his readers — the ones to whom his honesty mattered — would understand the literary wink and nudge.
Overall the picture of Sherman that one gains from his memoirs is just that — a man who, despite his lack of involvement in politics or prewar interest in the main questions of the conflict, was extremely intelligent and understood very clearly what was going on in a way that most of his contemporaries did not. Jan 18, Rick rated it really liked it. This is a terrific book. Sherman was undoubtedly the greatest Union general of the Civil War, and also among the most earnest about the necessity of preserving the Union.
In fact, the greatest impression that I got from his memoirs was just how single-minded he actually was about ensuring that the United States, as originally compacted, would endure.
Obviously, in his memoirs - written long after-the-fact - he would have taken care to present this impression, knowing well by then of its historic This is a terrific book. Obviously, in his memoirs - written long after-the-fact - he would have taken care to present this impression, knowing well by then of its historical importance.
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But the many and lengthy contemporaneous letters presented throughout the book document that this was no mere posturing - the man was a true believer at the time that the events occurred. There is a lot of talk of his being the first "modern general," the first to resort to "total war" in his efforts to break the Confederacy. I know that he is reviled in the South, even to this day. But the sense one gets from his book is that he was just trying to end the war, by whatever means necessary, and the only way he could see to accomplish that was through his destruction of the South's very capability to wage war.
He was not conquering territory; his aim was to eliminate the war-making industry that supported the Confederate military. He accomplished this, and in the process he also destroyed much of the South's willingness to continue to wage war. Brutal, yes, without a doubt. Also yes, because it's clear that his campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas not only ended the deeper South's capacity to wage war, but also put pressure on Lee in Virginia as Sherman emerged in North Carolina during March and April With Sherman to his south, and Grant to his north, Lee had to feel that he was check-mated, and we all know the rest.
Sherman simply did what an effective general is supposed to do, given the circumstances. Sherman provides running commentary throughout much of the two volumes of his memoirs, and also myriad military data, including schedules and tables of troop strength, casualties, prisoners and other items, but the greatest sections are the letters, of which there are many. To most readers, obviously, the Civil War years are of primary significance, and particularly the period from summer to the end. His recollections and letters from earlier years are interesting, in that you get a sense of American society as it existed in the antebellum era, but most will want to read the general's thoughts and letters as they developed during the war.
The letters themselves are the true historical treasures here. The writing in these letters is remarkable - remember that this was an age in which letter writing was by far the most common means of communication the telegraph had only recently been invented, and in fact the war itself was the means by which it was greatly expanded throughout the country.
Sherman's letters, both outgoing and incoming, are amazing in their literacy and their ability to communicate the very essence of the day. The letters between Sherman and General Hood, for example, in which they argue back and forth - vociferously - over the fate of the residents of Atlanta, are alone well worth the time spent with this book. As well are the numerous letters from President Lincoln, General Grant, and maybe most famously, Sherman's letter to Atlanta's mayor and city councilmen, in which he declared: War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war.
They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride. We don't want your negroes, or your horses, or your houses, or your hands, or any thing that you have, but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States.
That we will have, and, if it involves the destruction of your improvements, we cannot help it Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them, and build for them, in more quiet places, proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down, and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta. I'd been planning to read this 1, pager for a while. Sherman has interested me for at least a decade, and I usually stop by his statue in D.
Opined that Indians should have been left in FL. Louis, about as far west as anyone could get and still be connected to the U. Louis, argues the book is a memoir so should be a complete history of the Civil War and should disagree with thoughts and experiences of others --got fooled into eating a hot pepper, which he had not seen before going to CA --was in CA for the gold rush, from the first day through the height of the rush.
Describes soldiers and sailors deserting to prospect for gold. Admitted to bar based on "general intelligence" --was the first superintendent dean of what became LSU and was professor of engineering. Was living in Louisiana when the Civil War broke out. He felt a large majority of Louisianans were opposed to secession. He also felt it was only about slavery and he does not mention "states rights. Turned it down, which irritated people in D. Did this lead to the first battle of Bull Run? The need for the north to attack before it lost troops who'd been in for 3 months?
Lost his artillery and his men were routed. He observed neither side was particularly well organized. Aubrey was the "Skimmer of the Plains" --"viz. Did not believe in creature comforts for officers --"No one can practice law as an attorney in the United States without acknowledging the supremacy of the Government. The chapter on Sherman's view for military organization is excellent. The rest is almost entirely focused on political intrigue between Stanton and Johnson, but is too narrowly focused on Sherman's POV to be intelligible to those not intimately familiar with the history.
I always like the concept of an unreliable narrator in literature. I don't read much non-fiction, but I thought to hear the first person perspective of a general most southerners regard as a monster would offer the same feeling as fiction books where you cant quite trust every thing the narrator says. This book does deliver on that. Every passage where he explains what his men did to Georgia is regarded as nonchalant and necessary by Sherman, while history remembers this bit of the Civil War as I always like the concept of an unreliable narrator in literature.
Every passage where he explains what his men did to Georgia is regarded as nonchalant and necessary by Sherman, while history remembers this bit of the Civil War as some of the most gruesome wartime actions. Sherman definitely downplays all the atrocities his men did commit, but frames the stuff he admits to as necessary evils. He cites examples of times when the Confederates committed similar acts.
He mentions destroying civilian farms, but said the men needed sustenance to keep the union together. The really interesting passages are all framed that way. If you're looking for a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat this isnt one. There is a lot of military positioning talk, what cities where next, what armies and reinforcements were a few miles away. I would have liked to hear more about the relationships Sherman built with his fellow generals, as well. This is hinted at, and is even kind of funny at times, but it never goes into the depth that I would have liked.
Were Sherman's actions justified? I still don't know. He sure thought so. It did keep the Union together but in doing so Sherman, a very highly decorated general before the Civil War, will forever be remembered for the actions of this short campaign. He accomplished his goal, but at what cost? Three aspects of the book interested me. It's an eyewitness account of life, particuarly but not only, military life, in the United States in the period before the Civil War, by a fellow who had his eyes open. The stuff on life early California and Florida alone is almost enough to justify reading the book.
It also details the slide toward war of the United States as personal experience. Finally, it's a detailed account by the man who ran it of the project of deliberately destroying the economy Three aspects of the book interested me. Finally, it's a detailed account by the man who ran it of the project of deliberately destroying the economy of the South, to deprive the South of the means to wage war and to make them thoroughly sick of it. In my view, Sherman was an intelligent, relatively open, warm human being who was given the job of destroying an area about the size of France and who carried it out thoroughly because he believed it was necessary.
One small detail as a sample, the Union forces hunted down and killed blood hounds they encountered in vengeance because they had been used by the Southerners to hunt for their slaves. Mar 29, Bob Mayer rated it really liked it. Not quite as well written at Grant's memoirs. It is interesting to read this side by side with that book though to see the contrast between the two men. Also, how their paths veered after the war. Aug 15, Karl rated it it was amazing.
His writing is extremely clear and, despite the book running longer than pages, very concise given the amount of material covered. Like most memoirs, Sherman revisits all the great controversies of his life and why he was right and pure in his motives while his detractors were mistaken and occasionally malicious. The mistakes that Sherman admits are usually on minor points of judgment or preference such as failing to order a general assault when opportunity presented itself or misjudging the character of subordinate officers.
Sherman was mediocre as a tactician, he never understood how to utilize cavalry, and yet he consistently out-generaled his adversaries. When Europeans came to study the American Civil War, they would usually focus their attention on Sherman, who thought and fought differently. Sherman demonstrated how an industrialized nation can push a large army deep into enemy territory using purpose-built railroads and coordinated operation with naval forces. This feat was closely studied by Herbert Kitchener and replicated almost exactly in his conquest of the Sudan.
It was later a stratagem employed to great effect on the eastern front of WWI. Yet, for all the ingenuity he had in establishing it, Sherman was content to sacrifice his road of resupply. Nowhere is he more alive than in the pages of his illuminating and uncompromising Memoirs. This Library of America series edition is printed on acid-free paper and features Smyth-sewn binding, a full cloth cover, and a ribbon marker.
This volume is available for adoption in the Guardian of American Letters Fund. Subscribers can purchase the slipcased edition by signing in to their accounts. Discount offer available for first-time customers only. With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.
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