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Sherman: A Soldier'S Passion For Order Hardcover – October 23, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 635 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; English Language edition (October 23, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029201357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029201350
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This comprehensively researched, ably written biography depicts Wiliam Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) as unable to accept disorder and uncertainty because of an unstable childhood, reinforced by economic failure in post-Jacksonian America. The Civil War offered the general both an ultimate challenge and an ultimate opportunity. He was, however, anything but a prophet of total war for its own sake, shows Marszalek, a history professor at Mississippi State University. Sherman's objective was not to destroy the South, but to convince southerners to abandon the struggle. Attacking Confederate pride and property, as in the March to the Sea, was a step towards restoration of national harmony and integrity. Marszalek exaggerates the uniqueness and the intensity of Sherman's "passion for order," for few professional soldiers accept disorder as a desirable social norm. Sherman's approach to fighting the Civil War can be alternatively interpreted as a common-sense response to an evolving reality. Nevertheless, this provocative volume stands as an outstanding modern study of one of this country's great public figures.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Sherman taught America that "War is hell" as he swept through Georgia and the Carolinas to destroy the Confederates' will to resist. The roots of Sherman's philosophy of total war and of his enigmatic personality have fascinated historians since the Civil War, when Sherman was thought both insane and brilliant. Now, in Marszalek's ( Grover Cleveland, Greenwood Pr., 1988) full and fascinating biography, we get the whole man--a warrior who hated killing but carried war to civilians; a foster son craving paternal approval who led hardened men; a writer and talker who preferred action to words. Marszalek finds the key to Sherman in his search for order, both in a private life troubled by uncertain financial prospects and relations and in a civil war, and later Indian wars, where old West Point verities did not apply. That Sherman was a troubled soul who sought to make his family appreciate his trials and triumphs is evident in the small cache of Sherman letters published for the first time in Joseph Ewing's Sherman at War (Morningside, 1992). The new letters notwithstanding, Marszalek's psychobiographical musings about Sherman's inner self doubtless will cause some historians to blush. But the rich historical contextual material on everything from Western finances, Indian wars in Florida and the West, and Civil War military policy make Marszalek's Sherman real and powerful. Highly recommended.
- Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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William Tecumseh Sherman was an unusually good soldier.
Michael E. Fitzgerald
Those interested in learning about the most complex of the Civil War Generals would do well to read this book.
Michael J. Berquist
Thoroughly researched and beautifully written by Dr. Marzalek.
Chris Wheeler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By T. Parry on May 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order, by John F. Marszalek, is a model biography of possibly the greatest general to emerge from the Civil War. Marszalek gives a very even-handed account of the general's rise from relative obscurity to command the second largest army in America, becoming a hero to most, and the equivalent of Satan to some in the process. Unlike Longacre's biography of John Buford, Marszalek did not labor under a shortage of primary information about his subject. With such a luxury, Marszalek follows the development of Sherman the man, and shows how particular events shaped his future views on warfare and towards the South. Most notably, the author points out his experience in the Seminole War as the basis for Sherman's ideas on war against populations. He also describes Sherman's time spent in the South, and how his friendliness towards its people led to leniency towards them after the war concluded. It would appear that Marszalek was somewhat influenced by B.H. Liddell Hart's Strategy, when describing Sherman's military campaigns. Hart states that he believed Sherman was the best Civil War general because he promoted the "indirect" approach to warfare. On many occasions, Marszalek refers to Sherman's "psychological outflanking" of the enemy and winning military victories without fighting battles-the very essence of Hart's tract. At the same time, the author insists that Sherman was driven by his need to have order in a chaotic world. This is in fact the theme of the entire book, and Marszalek does an admirable job of showing that Sherman fought the war in the manner he did in order to provide order (Union) the quickest way possible. Marszalek stretches his analysis of Sherman's desire for order into his post-war life.Read more ›
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Q. Publius VINE VOICE on September 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Marszalek has studied Sherman for years, and his biography reflects a comprehensive knowledge of the sources on Sherman. Sherman was a highly complex and intelligent person, fourth academically in his class at West point, though a prankish student who finished sixth in his overall graduating class because of demerits. If you don't know much about Sherman, if you only know he said war is hell and marched through Georgia, this is a good book for you. Sherman's army assignments before the Civil War were mostly in the South, and he loved it, but he hated secession, though he did not oppose slavery. Under Grant's wing he became an excellent general. He believed in a hard war but a soft peace, and opposed the conduct of reconstruction after the war. The only reservation I have is the author may overpsychologize his approach to Sherman: the passion for order theme runs throughout the book. But the book's quality is saved by the mountain of details the author relates about Sherman's life and other's views of him, and by a highly readable writing style. As one of the most important generals in the Civil War and in the history of the U.S. Army, and an important influence on modern concepts of total war, William Tecumseh Sherman (aka "Cump") is well deserving of study, and this biography is well worth reading.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
John Marszalek has woven together the threads of Sherman's life better than any previous biographer. There have been great Sherman biographies in the past, Lloyd Lewis' brilliant 1932 offering comes to mind. But Marszalek benefits from new scholarship and a fresh approach in unearthing the passions and limitations of the brilliant and erratic Sherman.
All areas of Sherman's life are explored in depth. The author doesn't stint the reader on details of Sherman's chaotic childhood, the influence of his stepfather or his years at West Point. Marszalek understands the important of Sherman's tortured marriage to Ellen and the consequences that this miserable marriage had upon Sherman. Can anyone blame him for repeatedly cheating on her when her attitudes towards sex approached that of a nun? Especially interesting are the tid-bits on Sherman's lengthy affair with Vinnie Ream, all quite engrossing.
Marszalek strikes a nice balance between Sherman's private life and his military endeavors. The reader never has a sense that the man is sacrificed or buried in minutiae of the battlefield. Sherman was an enigmatic, sometimes baffling man and its hard to get a firm grasp on him personally or emotionally. Marszalek has produced a fine biography and one which will stand as the definitive look at Sherman for many years.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Berquist on February 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
William Tecumseh Sherman was one of the great figures of the Civil War, a visionary whose views on tactics and strategy reshaped the way observers looked at warfare. It's hard not to admire the touchy, angry general. Sherman's armies marched hundreds, if not thousands, of miles across the south, devastated the south's ability to make war, and defeated tens of thousands of Confederate troops. His strategy for the Atlanta campaign and his March to the Sea were brilliant. Few Civil War generals appreciated the destructive power of weaponry of the era, or realized that total warfare was the only way to vanquish the South and end the war. After the war Sherman angrily fought off attempts to draft him into political life, remaining true to his ideals as a soldier.
But it is hard to reconcile the brilliant general with his racist views on African-Americans and his prickly personality that alienated as many people who respected Sherman's keen sense of warfare. "A Soldier's Passion For Order" makes that attempt and does it quite well. Those interested in learning about the most complex of the Civil War Generals would do well to read this book.
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