The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta

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"The Bonfire is the intimate and epic story of the most terrible city siege in American history: the destruction and burning of Atlanta." "The struggle for Atlanta, the Gate City of the South, culminated a series of brutal battles on the western front of the Civil War. From Tennessee to the banks of the Chattahoochee River, federal invaders and Confederate defenders fought mile by bloody mile until finally Atlanta was partially encircled and besieged. Presidents Lincoln and Davis and the people of North and South followed the vicious fighting

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The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta

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Overview

"The Bonfire is the intimate and epic story of the most terrible city siege in American history: the destruction and burning of Atlanta." "The struggle for Atlanta, the Gate City of the South, culminated a series of brutal battles on the western front of the Civil War. From Tennessee to the banks of the Chattahoochee River, federal invaders and Confederate defenders fought mile by bloody mile until finally Atlanta was partially encircled and besieged. Presidents Lincoln and Davis and the people of North and South followed the vicious fighting every step of the way. The future of one - or two - nations hung upon its outcome." "The story of Atlanta's cataclysmic final days begins in the story of its equally spectacular rise. The development of the city by men such as its Civil War mayor, James Calhoun, was closely connected with the settlement of the American West and the country's long struggle to displace the native population." "The story of Civil War Atlanta is also a rich and contrary social history. Nothing is quite what it is supposed to be: Sherman, who made Georgia howl, was as unreconstructed a racist at the end of the war as at the beginning; Union troops and Confederate forces laughed and sang together from opposite sides of the Chattahoochee River before the hellacious final conflict in which they slaughtered each other unhesitatingly by the thousands; Mayor Calhoun remained a staunch believer in the Union at the same time he waged war against it; and a handful of slaves - like Bob Yancey, who rode out alongside the town's leading citizens to surrender the city to Sherman's forces - exited the war not only freed of slavery's yoke but among the wealthiestcitizens of a devastated city that would emerge as the engine of the New South." Through the compelling, interwoven, and often surprising life stories of a diverse cast of colorful characters - schoolchildren and booksellers, bootleggers and covert Unionists, bondsmen and soldiers - Marc Wortman creates a rich and multilayered portrait of the age, the city, and the terrible siege. The rise and fall of Atlanta embodied all the myths, contradictions, and aspirations of the American South, and it was in Atlanta, in 1864, that the Confederacy met its destiny.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“Next to Richmond, Atlanta was the most important Confederate city by 1864. Its fall in September of that year signaled the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Among the many books about General William T. Sherman's Atlanta campaign, The Bonfire stands out for its focus on the experience of Atlantans themselves. Marc Wortman's vivid narrative proves that war is indeed hell.”

Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
The Bonfire is a tour de force of American Civil War history, with everything a reader could want: Extraordinary original research, vivid prose and old-fashioned suspense.”

Booklist
“Wortman’s very absorbing account of the Battle of Atlanta draws on the perspectives of individuals on both sides of the conflict and includes the story of the growth of Atlanta from a railroad junction in the late 1830s to a village in the ‘40s to a major metropolis by the time of the Civil War. That story is fascinating…. Atlanta was awash with contradictions.”

Philip Lee Williams, Michael Shaara Prize-winning author of The Campfire Boys
“Prepare to luxuriate in gorgeous prose, first-rate scholarship, and to discover page by page why Atlanta became the city it is today…. This is one of the most important Civil War books in years. It certainly is a book that anyone who wants to understand the war or current-day Georgia or Atlanta simply must own.”

Washington City Paper
“A chilling narrative.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“From the lurid flames of Gone with the Wind to the phoenix on the city seal, the fiery destruction of Atlanta during the Civil War occupies a central place in the city's mythology. In The Bonfire, Marc Wortman goes beyond the legend to reveal a history that is more complicated, but no less dramatic, than anything that came from Margaret Mitchell’s pen. [It] is a tale of divided loyalties, political intrigue and tremendous human suffering. Wortman’s real talent lies in portraying the life of the city and its residents. His ability to create a deft, rich picture of Atlanta during this tumultuous period is what makes The Bonfire both invaluable history and a gripping read.”

Winston Groom, Wall Street Journal
“An admirable account of the circumstances leading to the fall of the city.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586484828
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Marc Wortman is an award-winning freelance journalist and independent scholar. His articles and essays have appeared in many national magazines. He is the author of The Millionaires’ Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power.
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Table of Contents

Maps

Introduction 1

I Frontier

1 Flags 5

2 Virginians 11

3 Removal 23

4 Sherman in the Swamp 35

5 Another Passage 45

6 The Compromise 53

II Gate City

7 The Cornerstone 69

8 Earthquake 85

9 Never! Never!! Never!!! 111

10 Speculation 125

11 Street Theater 145

III Clamorous Town

12 The Dead House 155

13 Enemies Within 165

14 River of Death 181

15 A Day's Outing 193

IV The Hundred Days' Battle

16 Railroad War 203

17 Candle Ends 213

18 Fighting, Fighting, Fighting 219

19 Roman Runagees 229

20 Prayers 237

V The Thief in the Gloaming

21 A Perfect Shell 255

22 The Battle of Atlanta 271

VI War Is Cruelty, and You Cannot Refine It

23 Goodbye, Johnny 287

24 The First Bonfire 301

25 The Second Bonfire 317

26 The New South 337

Epilogue: Sherman's Return 355

Notes 363

Acknowledgments 415

Photograph Credits 417

Index 419

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Bonfire Burns Hot and Bright

    This work is outstanding in it's presentation of the thoughts, fears and anxieties of the inhabitants of Atlanta as Gen Sherman and three Union armies virtually surrounded the city and preceeded to pummel it with shot and shell. While touching on the highlights of the battle scenes, starting with Johnston's continous retreating finally leading to his replacement by Hood, the emphasis is placed on the biographical accounts of a good variety of individuals, some who came from the North to make it rich and some whose southern blood boiled at the mere mention of the Union General's name. The internal conflict of Mayor Calhoun, who was not a secessionist but was wholeheartedly for the Confederacy's right of existence, is adeptly portrayed as he tries to balance his adherence to moral and ethical principles with the contemptuous and sometimes malicious attitudes of the authorities who seemed to know no boundries when acertaining what was required for the sucess of the southern cause. The early beginnings of Atlanta are broadly described as well as it's tranformation into one of the most commercially important cities in the south. Overall this book was a captivating read and difficult to put down until the last page was finished.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 1, 2010

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    Posted September 27, 2012

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    Posted August 1, 2010

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