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Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman Hardcover – July 1, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 297 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Sherman remains one of the most celebrated and controversial military icons in American history. Adored by his Union troops during the Civil War as Uncle Billy, he was despised by Southerners as the monster who mercilessly waged war upon the civilian population in Georgia and the Carolinas. Praised by some for his effective campaigns against the Plains Indians, he was condemned by others as a proponent of genocide. O’Connell, an author, analyst, and professor of history, views Sherman’s controversial legacy as a reflection of the contradictions and complexities within his character. By nature and inclination, he despised the pretensions and affectations of the wealthy, but he mixed with them freely and aspired to match their financial success. He claimed to hate politicians and journalists, yet he talked incessantly in their presence, and his off-the-cuff remarks often served to distort his true views. Despite the apparently wanton destruction of Sherman’s March, he actually kept tight discipline over his troops. This is a well-written and revealing reexamination of the character and career of an undeniably great American. --Jay Freeman


“A superb examination of the many facets of the iconic Union general who emerged as Ulysses S. Grant’s most trusted battlefield commander. [Robert L.] O’Connell’s biography of Sherman brings to life an enigmatic, fascinating figure who emerged a brilliant strategist and a master of maneuver, and whose victories in 1864 helped to ensure Abraham Lincoln’s re-election and ultimately turned the tide of the Civil War.”—General David Petraeus, Politico
“Sherman’s standing in American history is formidable. . . . It is hard to imagine any other biography capturing it all in such a concise and enlightening fashion.”National Review

“A sharply drawn and propulsive march through the tortured psyche of the man.”The Wall Street Journal
“[O’Connell’s] narrative of the March to the Sea is perhaps the best I have ever read.”—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

“William Tecumseh Sherman is one of the great characters in American history—protean, highly effective, cunning, outrageous, and in every way memorable. He has found just the right biographer in Robert L. O’Connell. Fierce Patriot is a surprising, clever, wise, and powerful book.”—Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World
“For those who think they know a lot about William Tecumseh Sherman, this book will be a revelation. Those who are meeting him for the first time will be equally mesmerized.”—Thomas Fleming, author of A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War
“To his family and friends he was Cump; to his soldiers he was Uncle Billy; to generations of Southern whites he was the devil incarnate. But to biographer Robert L. O’Connell, William T. Sherman was the quintessential nineteenth-century American: full of energy, constantly on the move, pragmatic, adaptable, determined to overcome all obstacles, a nationalist and patriot who teamed with Grant and Lincoln to win the Civil War and launch America as a world power. This readable biography offers new insights on Sherman as a husband and father as well as a master strategist and leader.”—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
“A fascinating dissection of the multifaceted lives of William Tecumseh Sherman—military genius, brilliant organizer, inspired observer, and occasionally wayward husband. Sherman, O’Connell reminds us, was as brilliantly unpredictable on the battlefield as he was off it.”—Victor Davis Hanson, The Hoover Institution, author of The Soul of Battle and Ripples of Battle
“William Tecumseh Sherman has to be our premier grand strategist, who set unexpectedly bold boundaries, not just for war but for peace, and kept to them. In Fierce Patriot, Robert L. O’Connell has fashioned a remarkable, and remarkably original, portrait of one of the people who truly defined America.”—Robert Cowley, founding editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
“William Tecumseh Sherman was the most fiery, complicated, and inconsistent of America’s great generals. In Robert L. O’Connell’s aptly titled Fierce Patriot, he brings this conflicted American hero vividly to life. For both the Civil War buff and the general reader, Fierce Patriot offers new and arresting insights into this remarkable figure and his impact on the world in which he lived.”—Charles Bracelen Flood, author of Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400069726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069729
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (297 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected this because I was interested in learning more about Sherman. I expected a solid and informative book. This turned out to be much more than that. It is first-rate.

First, it is always interesting. The author has a lightness in style and an uusual ability to organize and summarize topics. To pick a few examples; he explains the developments in rifles and the resulting impacts on how commanders positioned troops and soldiers adapted in a compact way that is striking and very clear. Again and again, this skill enlivens the flow of the narrative without disrupting it. I can't recall a book on military history that made the details of campaigns and battles so easy to follow.

The core of the book is, of course, the presentation of Sherman's career and personality. The writer made a unusual choice that I think works very well; he separates the military phase of his life as the first and main part of the book and addresses his later career and the very complex psychodramas of relationships within his family circle in other ones. This helpfully unclutters the flow of the narrative, though it is quite arguable that it obscures interactions and is selective in choosing events.

Sherman comes across as not particularly self-aware, limited in his empathy and insight, and in many ways not an interesting character. But he was the opposite of this in his growth as a commander. The resulting portrayal abstracts the key historical threads of his life very vividly and convincingly, without neglecting the personal dimensions and resonances.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In his new book, "Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman" (2014), Robert O'Connell writes of his subject: "Not unexpectedly, [Sherman] has already sired a string of biographies. All deserve some credit for having attempted to capture such a lollapalooza of a life. Yet many share a staccato, even frenetic quality as they jump from topic to topic, racing to keep up with one frenetic life story."

This brief quotation captures a great deal both about Sherman (1820 -- 1891) and about the book. O'Connell develops the paradoxes of Sherman's character which resist easy summation. O'Connell shows the "Uncle Billy" of popular renown, in his own time and ours, but he also shows how this character was a construct by a highly theatrical Sherman. His account is strongly but critically admiring of Sherman. O'Connell frequently refers to various of his actions as "good Billy, bad Billy". O'Connell also writes in a colloquial, punchy style that makes the book a delight to read and highly accessible for a complex subject.

In addition to the free-wheeling writing style, O'Connell's biography of Sherman is idiosyncratic in its organization. O'Connell concluded that writing a straightforward chronological biography of Sherman would be "bound to create confusion." He found that "three separate story lines, each deserving independent development" emerged from Sherman's life. Accordingly, O'Connell arranges his book topically rather than chronologically in three large sections. The organization produces a clear, well-flowing narrative of Sherman's accomplishments and life but at a cost. First, the book includes a substantial degree of repetition.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this story. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Sherman beyond the boundaries of the Civil War years. The tone of the book is informal and conversational. As others have said, the book is broken down into three parts based on different aspect of Sherman's life and relationships. Unfortunately this type of narrative organization causes the author to cover the same time period and many of the same events more than once. This aspect of the book could have been done better. For the military history buff looking for an in depth analysis of Sherman's battle plans and the events that informed his decision making, that is not the focus of this book. This book is more of a human interest story and covers Sherman's life from birth to death, like a normal biography. If all you've ever read or learned in school is about Sherman the Union General, then this book should be very interesting to you. I learned three significant and interesting things about Sherman. One of these things is an actual fact, the type of fact that is fun to share with others. The other two things were what I believe to be well researched assertions. I will not give away these aspects of the book but I can say that I'll be doing additional reading and research of my own to see if I reach the same conclusions as the author. I would like to share this thought provoking quote from the book that perhaps has some modern relevance, "During the last stages of Sherman's March to the Sea, desertions from the Army of Northern Virginia skyrocketed to the point that Longstreet's Corps had more pickets in the rear than in the front, as soldiers bolted to protect their homes or at least their families. The Confederacy was an idea, and Sherman trampled all over it relentlessly--it's symbols, institutions, it's pride--bled the life out of it, and replaced it with hopelessness. That's the way to win." Enjoyable book!
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