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War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta 1st Edition Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1594161001
ISBN-10: 1594161003
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Editorial Reviews


"Through the power of Margaret Mitchell's words and the film they inspired, the struggle for Atlanta became all that most folks needed to know about our nation's four-year bloodbath. Russell S. Bonds has courageously focused his sights on retelling the story in War Like The Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta. Through the depth of his research and his skills as both historian and storyteller, Bonds has given us what might have seemed impossible--a fresh, new, and impressive look back at Atlanta." --Robert Hicks, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Widow of the South

"This gripping story of the battles for Atlanta in 1864 provides new insights on a campaign that ensured Lincoln's reelection and the ultimate destruction of the Confederacy. Russell S. Bonds has an impressive ability to combine combat narrative with shrewd analyses of commanders' performances." --James M. McPherson, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

From the Publisher

In War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta, award-winning author Russell S. Bonds (Stealing the General) presents the epic story of what a Union observer called "the greatest event of the Civil War"--the struggle for the city of Atlanta and the terrible fate that then befell the town and its citizens. The title is taken from a letter that Union commander William Tecumseh Sherman wrote on the eve of his campaign into Georgia: "War, like the thunderbolt follows its laws," he said, "and turns not aside even if the beautiful, the virtuous and charitable stand in its path." Sherman's relentless fight for Atlanta secured the reelection of Abraham Lincoln, sealed the fate of the Southern Confederacy and set a precedent for military campaigns and war on civilian infrastructure that endures today.

Based on new research in diaries, letters (some previously unpublished), newspapers and other archival sources, War Like the Thunderbolt takes the reader across smoky battlefields--Bald Hill, Peachtree Creek, Ezra Church, and Jonesboro--and into the lives of fascinating characters, both the famous and the forgotten, including the fiery and brilliant Sherman, General John Bell Hood, the Confederacy's last hope to defend Atlanta, the Irishman-turned-Southern officer Patrick Cleburne, the diminutive young Indiana colonel, Benjamin Harrison, who would rise to become President of the United States, and ten-year-old diarist Carrie Berry, who bravely withstood and bore witness to the fall of the city. War Like the Thunderbolt, like its fictional counterpart Gone With the Wind, is also the story of the ordeal of Atlanta itself--the five-week artillery bombardment, the expulsion of its civilian population, and the infamous fire that followed. Beautifully written and authoritative, War Like the Thunderbolt is a stirring account of the battle and burning of the "Gate City of the South."


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing; 1st Edition edition (September 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594161003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594161001
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is not the book I expected. My expectations were 544 pages of front, flank & feints dealing with Sherman's maneuvers around the city. My expectations were a book long on battle details, Confederate army politics and the election of 1864. The Preface of my book could not start with filming the burning of Atlanta for "Gone With the Wind"! My expectations for this book and the author's insights are why one of us writes reviews and the other writes books!
Russell S. Bonds, the author of the excellent "Stealing the General", turns a military campaign into a history of Atlanta from the arrival of Sherman's armies to when they abandon the city. By placing the city in this critical role, he emphasizes how important Atlanta is in the Fall of 1864. Sherman vs. Hood or Hood vs. Johnston is not the major story. The major story is Atlanta trying to survive as part of the Confederacy, then as an occupied city and last as a desolate ruined shell. Starting with "Gone With the Wind", ties the popular understanding to the real events in 1864 and how we see them now.
This is a complete history of Atlanta from July to October 1864. The first 90 pages are a summary of the campaign coupled with an excellent introduction of Sherman, Johnston and Hood. This introduction is followed by about 260 pages of solid history that never losses Atlanta as the central character. The presentation of battles is on the division level, which works very well in this type of history. Each battle is covered, with maps in the proper places. The assessment of the results is fair to all parties. The problems of terrain, subordinate commanders exceeding orders or failing to follow orders, the wearing down of the men and refusal to properly plan are detailed.
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Format: Hardcover
Russell S. Bonds "War Like the Thunderbolt is a magnificent work, from the wonderfully rendered and useful frontispiece map to the heartfelt acknowledgments on the last page. But it is the magesterial glory of the pages between the covers of this finely crafted masterpiece of a book that vividly bring the true story of the Battle and Burning of Atlanta to life. Readers are drawn into the drama from the first sentence, as the Prologue delivers both foreshadowing of the events to come and a fascinating look at what made this subject one of the most popular films and novels of all time--"Gone With the Wind." Key characters Sherman, Johnston, and Hood are introduced to set up the chessboard, and the momentum builds. Battle scenes are interspersed with plenty of action and first hand accounts that almost make you smell the smoke, experience the ear-ringing din of battle, and feel the heartache of war's human toll. Even the meticulously researched footnotes provide absorbing reading. Bond's faithful and eloquent reportage sings and resonates with the power and prose of Shelby Foote's great works, and "War Like the Thunderbolt" may well serve as the definitive Atlanta counterpart to Foote's account of Gettysburg, "Stars in Their Courses."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Atlanta is the star of this engrossing, compelling story of the city during wartime and afterward. The writing is excellent, carrying the reader along effortlessly. The description of battles and maneuvers, while not the major focus, is clear and detailed enough to be highly informative, especially for readers who have not studied these battles and the siege carefully. Moreover, easily read maps aid in this part of the story. The major characters involved, including the leaders of the Union and Confederate armies, are graphically described without resorting to stereotypes. Interesting comments from various soldiers and citizens are interspersed throughout, but he city and its residents remain the major concern. Where the author ventures opinion about the events, there is always room for disagreement, though his opinions are not intrusive. For example, he opines that Sherman had no reason to think that shelling the city would result in military advantage.. Thinking back to Sherman's shelling of Jackson, MS in July 1864, when Joe Johnston was there, might lead one to argue the point. Johnston says he evacuated Jackson when he realized it was going to be pulverized by Sherman. But this is a minor point and such opinions have the possibility of adding interest if the reader is one who has developed his own opinions on these matters. This book is highly recommended, both for an introduction to Atlanta in 1864 and beyond, as well as for the experienced reader.
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't read Stealing the General. It came out about 4 or 5 years ago, and everyone in the publishing and bookstore business knew about it, because it blindsided everyone. No one had ever heard of Russell S. Bonds before, and the publisher, Westholme, is small and obscure. The book sold quite well for a publisher of that rank, put them on the map a bit, and made something of a name for Bonds. Stealing the General was about the famous incident called "The Great Locomotive Chase", which is interesting, but really a pretty insignificant incident in the larger scheme of things, considering the breadth and length of the Civil War. So what does Bonds do for an encore? He takes on one of the more epic confrontations of the war, when William T. Sherman attacked Atlanta and its Confederate defenders. Frankly, this book feels like it was written by someone much more experienced, much better known.

The Yankee campaign that ultimately captured Atlanta is in many ways one of the more important ones regarding the Civil War. As the author points out, most people get at least part of what they know of the Civil War from the movie Gone with the Wind, which takes place partially *during* the Atlanta campaign. Bonds starts the book out with the "second" burning of Atlanta, here in LA, when they recreated the event for the movie in 1939. He then moves pretty much effortlessly through the characters and events of 1864, introducing us to William T. Sherman, John Bell Hood and his predecessor Joseph E. Johnston, and their subordinates. He also spends a lot of time talking about the city of Atlanta itself, using diaries and reminiscences of its residents to recount everything from the events during the bombardment, occupation, burning, and rebuilding of the city.
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