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The Confederacy's Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville (Modern War Studies) (Modern War Studies (Paperback)) Paperback – October 18, 1993
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"A blockbuster. . . . Narrative history at its best."—Edwin C. Bearss, chief historian, National Park Service "Civil War history superbly reported by a master storyteller. Thoroughly researched, rich in drama and detail, rendered in vivid colors with flesh-and-blood characters—just as it occurred."—Rod Gragg, author of Confederate Goliath: The Battle of Fort Fisher "By far the best book written on Hood's Tennessee campaign. Sword's description of the Confederate tragedy at Franklin is superb; it could serve as a model for painting combat in words."—Albert Castel, author of Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 "A masterful combination of historical fact and human interest . . . both brilliantly informative and deeply moving."—Richard Wheeler, author of Sherman's March "This is the fullest, most judicious narrative produced to date on the mortal wounding of the Confederacy's second principal army. The book also ranks among the best narratives of Union activities in that climactic campaign for control of Tennessee."—James Robertson in the Richmond News Leader "The best book ever written on the campaign. There is no way anyone can write a better one."—Thomas Y. Cartwright, Curator, The Carter House, Franklin, Tennessee
About the Author
Wiley Sword is the author of Shiloh: Bloody April.
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Top Customer Reviews
Sword's narrative is a bit choppy at the start; there are some distracting non sequiturs. But once he hits his stride, when the Army if Tennessee crosses the Tennessee River, it really is great narrative writing. His description of the fighting at Franklin reads almost as a stream of conscious narrative of those hideous five hours. Sword took me as close as I've been gotten to what it must have felt like to be there. And he masterfully tells the story of what was going where Hood -- always the center of the story, even when his name isn't mentioned -- was not, e.g., Murfreesboro and Shy's Hill.
I was tempted to give this masterpiece only four starts because I read the Kindle version, which contains not a single map. Other than the fascinating psychodrama of Hood himself and mad carnage of Franklin, the story of his Tennessee campaign is largely about one maneuver. In particular, why the Hood's army and Schofield's force met, or passed each other,,at Spring Hill is confusing enough with a map; without one it's practically unintelligible. But this defect is easily rectified: just grab your copy of Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative. That masterpiece's maps are simple but sufficient if you're already familiar with the subject. Or simply consulting Wikipedia will suffice. There are enough reviews that plainly state that the Kindle version has no maps. So just bring your own.
Bottom line: a great read, but forearm yourself with maps from another source if you choose to experience it in Kindle.
Now for the rest. I knew this book was somewhat controversial when I picked it up, with some saying it is nothing more than a hatchet job on General Hood. As I read, I wondered what the deal was. The book is certainly critical of Hood, but it is a fact that there is a lot to be critical of. The campaign was a questionable move to begin with (leaving Sherman free to ravage Georgia), and Hood made a hash of the logistical planning essential for such a movement. Spring Hill was botched largely because of Hood's failure to communicate and his distance from the field. Franklin honestly cannot be spun as anything other than a senseless slaughter of good troops, and Nashville was the most decisive defeat of any Civil War army. Clearly there is a lot to criticize Hood for. HOWEVER, Sword does go too far. He harps too much on questionable claims, such as Hood's laudanum addiction, and discredited assertions including that Hood ordered the Franklin assault to punish his army, particularly Cheatham, for Spring Hill. In his conclusion, Sword FINALLY pulls the hatchet out and asserts Hood was never a good general, that his battlefield success in the East was essentially dumb luck, was a "sad, pathetic failure" as a man and a soldier, was a stupid anachronism, and that he essentially murdered his army.
Needless to say, this is too much. There is indeed a lot to be critical of, from the campaign itself, to logistics, to tactical performance, to judgement. I think few would argue that Hood was the man for this job. But anyone who thinks he was not a good battlefield leader in the ANV is beyond biased. John Bell Hood was a born fighter and as a brigade or division commander he was one of the Confederacy's best. As a corps and especially an army commander in the West, he was out of his depth and it showed. I would argue he simply was promoted beyond his ability and the tragedy is he had only his own scheming and ambition to blame for that. Thus does a good soldier become a reviled commander. Grounds for harsh criticism certainly abound, but ultimately Sword took the low road. I recommend the book for the narrative of the campaign, especially Franklin, but not as an unbiased appraisal of General Hood.