Book review: The Scourge of War: The Life of William Tecumseh Sherman by Brian Holden-Reid

The Scourge of War: The Life of William Tecumseh Sherman by Brian Holden-Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author of this book has a definite viewpoint, which is that William Tecumseh Sherman got a bad rap and was not the savage butcher and scourge of the South that he has been portrayed to be. I don’t generally like biographies with a set agenda, but I was intrigued by the premise of this one. And, in the end, the author is persuasive. Sherman wasn’t a particularly competent line officer, but he was a brilliant strategic and operational officer, who understood the psychological impact that a march deep into the South would have on Confederate morale. The sheer complexity and scale of maintaining his supply lines in his march to the sea (from Vicksburg to Savannah) was quite a logistical and tactical feat, and his grasp of the importance of the mental aspect of war was equally impressive. In addition, he had a prolific writer, and his grasp of the deeper societal issues was well-articulated in his correspondence.
It is helpful when reading this book to have a basic understanding of the course of the Civil War, and the maps included in the book, while not always ideally placed, are key to helping to understand the complexities of Sherman’s accomplishments.
The author also covers Sherman’s childhood, personal life, and post-Civil War life, but the bulk of the book is devoted, as it should be, to his significant accomplishments during the Civil War. Any fan of the Civil War and anyone who is curious about the the military personalities will enjoy this book.

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