Not realizing that the rest of his men had halted their charge when they got to the full Union brigade behind the skirmishers, Forrest charged the brigade single-handedly, and soon found himself surrounded. A Union infantryman fired a musket ball into Forrest's spine with a point-blank musket shot, nearly knocking the cavalry man out of the saddle.
I'd always heard tales of Sherman the beast but Sherman the man comes through in these pages. Early in the Civil War he's considered insane or a fool by many for believing it will take the Union over 200,000 men to defeat the Confederacy. War is hell. 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. 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 1864 campaign at the Burnet House.
Through his letters I got a good picture of who he was and what his view were. Fourthly, this was a very political read (in other words, many times went over my head). 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 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. I mention this, not as a digression but because Grant and Sherman were hand in glove. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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).
I loved this book and recommend it to most anyone, not just civil war buffs. I learned a lot about the civil war, General Sherman, America in the 1800s and the human condition. 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.
Shermans Memoirs, being the first-person testimony of one of the major players in the American Civil War, are themselves a valuable primary document. One consequence of this is that, if the reader has studied American history in any depth at all, Shermans Memoirs where they describe his actual campaigns initially come off as derivative and boring. 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. Thus, Shermans description of his March to the Sea gives the impression that he did only the minimum possible damage to the most clearly identified military resources, and writes off several suspicious urban fires that occurred just after his Army arrived as mere accidents that he did his best to avoid, which were probably the work of fleeing rebel soldiers. 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.
Sherman was undoubtedly the greatest Union general of the Civil War, and also among the most earnest about the necessity of preserving the Union. 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. 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 1865. 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. 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." All should read this last letter in its entirety, as it is a letter from a man who finds no comfort in causing death and destruction to his fellow Americans, who openly wishes to instead become their protector, but whose deeper and more profound conviction is that the Union must remain whole, and that war must stop.
Interesting notes: --middle name does come from the Indian leader who Sherman's father admired --his graduating class at West Point was fewer than 50 men --first posted to rounding up Indians in Florida, got quartermaster duty right away, indicating high level of trustworthiness. --almost killed as a child in a riding accident, scarring his face --badly dislocated (and broke) his arm, leading to a leave of several months --grew up in The West as son of an attorney (in Ohio) --introduction written from St. Louis, about as far west as anyone could get and still be connected to the U.S. following the Civil War --second introduction, 10 years later, still in St. 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. --fought at the first battle of Bull Run. Lost his artillery and his men were routed. 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." --learned what a "corduroy road" is --of Lincoln, "Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other." --used the word "bugbear" --did not believe there was lost "Confederate Gold" (don't tell Blueberry) --"pusillanimous" means timid --praised Wisconsin regiments as equal to an ordinary brigade due to superior organizing --"antiscorbutic" means a food that prevents scurvy --"Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster." The post-war portion of the book is too short.
Some of the highlights for me were his time in California during the Mexican-American War (for which there is a fine book Eagles and Empire: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle for a Continent). At the onset of the Civil War, Sherman left his post as superintendent of the school, but was slightly reluctant to rejoin the army since he felt that the Union wasn't committing the resources necessary to do the job. He had some contentious issues with various other generals, and especially Secretary of War (calling things like it is, not "Defense") Stanton. That being said, it can not be ignored that William Tecumseh Sherman did not have enlightened views about African-Americans. Due to this, his autobiography is an extraordinary read for anyone with interest in American History and especially the Civil War.
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. 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. 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 served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (186165), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched earth" policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States. When Grant became president, Sherman succeeded him as Commanding General of the Army (186983).