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Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman Paperback – May 26, 2015
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
From the Hardcover edition.
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However, after reading the book I can more appreciate the rationale for what they did to destroy the morale of the south through their methods. Maybe it saved tens of thousands (or more) of soldiers lives by ending the war more quickly.
The author also skipped over a few issues that really lead to the civil war, but the book was about Sherman, not just the war.
Sherman was just as ruthless in dealing with native Americans as he was in dealing with the south. A general focused on winning regardless of the costs to the enemy, but without the same disregard for his own troops casualties as generals like Grant and others.
Probably the type of person we still need leading us today.
Very close to a 5 star book.
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. There are a few themes that may be a tiny bit artificial -- a distinctive view of "strategy" as the core of what made Sherman different and a categorization of him as always seeking to be the Number 2 in his relationships with, most obviously, Grant.
These are minor demurrals and queries. The analysis seems reliable and the sources and scholarship solid. What stands out is the book is so, so interesting. It flows vividly with a superb sense of the reader -- examples, phrasing and explanation really make this a conversation not a presentation.
I loved it. It leaves a sense of enhanced understanding and a rich reading experience.
The author, Robert L. O'Connell, is an expert with much to offer. However, his sometimes jokey writing style sometimes misses the mark. (Does he really think that General Sherman can be successfully compared to Katharine Hepburn?)
I recommend to those interested in the army side of William T. Sherman a book that came out recently: "Marching with Sherman: Through Georgia and the Carolinas with the 154th New York" by Mark H. Dunkelman.
I have a slighter beef with the author's pretense that casually dropping "Cump", "Uncle Billy," and "his boys" (etc.) into the narrative provides us with a familiarity, even a kind of intimacy with the subject. Because this device is often repeated but usually ineffective, it ends up feeling heavy handed and cloying.
Most recent customer reviews
It was a great read and journey, which has a a little hard to put down.