From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Trudeau, a prize-winning Civil War historian (Gettysburg
), addresses William T. Sherman's march to the sea in the autumn of 1864. Sherman's inclusion of civilian and commercial property on the list of military objectives was not a harbinger of total war, says Trudeau. Rather, its purpose was to demonstrate to the Confederacy that there was no place in the South safe from Union troops. The actual levels of destruction and pillage were limited even by Civil War standards, Trudeau says; they only seemed shocking to Georgians previously spared a home invasion on a grand scale. Confederate resistance was limited as well. Trudeau praises Sherman's generalship, always better at operational than tactical levels. He presents the inner dynamics of one of the finest armies the U.S. has ever fielded: veteran troops from Massachusetts to Minnesota, under proven officers, consistently able to make the difficult seem routine. And Trudeau acknowledges the often-overlooked contributions of the slaves who provided their liberators invaluable information and labor. The march to the sea was in many ways the day of jubilo, and in Trudeau it has found its Xenophon. 16 pages of b&w photos, 36 maps. (Aug.)
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It’s still impolitic in Georgia to mention General William T. Sherman, so synonymous with wanton destruction is his fabled march from Atlanta to Savannah of November-December 1864. A historian of several Civil War campaigns, Trudeau avers that such popular beliefs about Sherman’s plan to vanquish the South require a corrective in the form of a day-by-day chronicle. That approach certainly reveals that Sherman’s orders allowed his subordinate officers and their soldiers leeway about what to burn and what to spare, so that the marching routes were not turned completely into swaths of utter desolation. But his 60,000 men were hardly invited guests, and through their expropriation of Southern food and forage, deliberate destruction of railroads, and defeat of all military opposition, they proved Sherman’s strategic message that resistance was futile. But the Confederates offered it often if ineffectively, by which Trudeau develops a secondary myth-busting theme, that Sherman’s march was not a lark but a complex and risky military operation. Maps of daily marching routes let Civil War buffs follow the action in this detailed narrative. --Gilbert Taylor