Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea

Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea

3.5 28
by Noah Andre Trudeau
     
 

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Award-winning Civil War historian Noah Andre Trudeau has written a gripping, definitive account that will stand as the last word on General William Tecumseh Sherman's epic march—a targeted strategy aimed to break not only the Confederate army but an entire society as well. Sherman's swath of destruction spanned more than sixty miles in width and virtually cut

Overview

Award-winning Civil War historian Noah Andre Trudeau has written a gripping, definitive account that will stand as the last word on General William Tecumseh Sherman's epic march—a targeted strategy aimed to break not only the Confederate army but an entire society as well. Sherman's swath of destruction spanned more than sixty miles in width and virtually cut Georgia in two. He led more than 60,000 Union troops to blaze a path from Atlanta to Savannah, ordering his men to burn crops, kill livestock, and lay waste to everything that fed the Rebel war machine.

Told through the intimate and engrossing writings of Sherman's soldiers and the civilians who suffered in their wake, Southern Storm paints a vibrant picture of an event that would forever change America's course.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Trudeau, a prize-winning Civil War historian (Gettysburg), addresses William T. Shermana's "march to the sea" in the autumn of 1864. Shermana's inclusion of civilian and commercial property on the list of military objectives was not a harbinger of total war, says Trudeau. Rather, its purpose was to demonstrate to the Confederacy that there was no place in the South safe from Union troops. The actual levels of destruction and pillage were limited even by Civil War standards, Trudeau says; they only seemed shocking to Georgians previously spared "a home invasion on a grand scale." Confederate resistance was limited as well. Trudeau praises Shermana's generalship, always better at operational than tactical levels. He presents the inner dynamics of one of the finest armies the U.S. has ever fielded: veteran troops from Massachusetts to Minnesota, under proven officers, consistently able to make the difficult seem routine. And Trudeau acknowledges the often-overlooked contributions of the slaves who provided their liberators invaluable information and labor. The march to the sea was in many ways "the day of jubilo," and in Trudeau it has found its Xenophon. 16 pages of b&w photos, 36 maps. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

These two studies perfectly complement each other. Trudeau (former executive producer, NPR: Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage) has written a sprawling and mesmerizing account of "the March" that reminds the reader that General Sherman had no intention of waging a "total war" against Confederate Georgia but instead hoped to make any continuance of the rebellion within its borders so unpalatable to its populace that the state government would regard a return to the Union as the lesser of two evils. Sherman's ultimate decision to selectively destroy civilian property stemmed from his belief that the South bore collective responsibility for its treasonous actions and his determination to show Georgians that neither their property nor their livelihoods could be protected by Confederate president Jefferson Davis or his Richmond authorities. The greatest blot on Sherman's record during the March centered on his treatment of the newly freed bondsmen, whom he denounced as impedimenta. As a result, Sherman, known for his racist views, had no compunction about abandoning these runaways at every opportunity. Trudeau concludes that even if the rebels were not hampered by outmoded defensive schemes and dithering regional commanders in Georgia, they could not have stopped Sherman, whose men were too experienced to be denied.Caudill and Ashdown (both journalism & electronic media, Univ. of Tennessee; coauthors, The Myth of Nathan Bedford Forrest) take a different approach, examining the myths surrounding Sherman and his March (both books capitalize the word), myths going back to the time of the March itself. The authors see the March as great drama, with Sherman providentially cast asits leader, regardless of whether future generations accepted that script. As the pageant migrated from the headlines to literature, film, and theater, popular culture embraced the story, thus leading to its universal acceptance in American society. Even so, Caudill and Ashdown contend, readers debating the significance of Sherman's extraordinary undertaking can grudgingly acknowledge opposing interpretations. In the end, the authors solicit our assent that the act of summoning forth Sherman's memory has become tantamount to invoking one's own values: The March, like the Confederate flag, "has become shorthand for a complex set of values, perspectives, and traditions." Both major contributions to Civil War historiography, these two books cannot be overlooked. Recommended for all history collections-Civil War, social, or intellectual-in all libraries.
—John Carver Edwards

Kirkus Reviews
A balanced account of the famous-or infamous, depending on your sympathies-campaign that effectively ended the Civil War in the Deep South. As former NPR executive producer Trudeau (Gettysburg, 2002, etc.) notes, William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea was not without its uneventful stretches; the diary entries of many of the soldiers, he grumbles, can be summarized with the phrase, "Nothing of interest to report." Sadly, that applies to stretches of this book, which reports nearly every datum about the 1864 campaign, interesting or not, while skimping a touch on big-picture interpretations of what the campaign meant in the larger context of the Civil War. Early on, Trudeau promises psychodrama by observing that Sherman was grieving the loss of a son who died the year before. Of course, in that time of carnage, death was everywhere, and Trudeau does not pursue the question of how Sherman handled his sorrow. What he does do-and what will make this book controversial, at least among certain circles-is to hazard that the March to the Sea has been compressed in the popular memory as a frenzy of raiding and burning, whereas in reality the campaign was both longer and less brutal than that. Trudeau reckons, drawing on contemporary statisticians, that Sherman, "at his thoughtful, self-confident best" at the start of the march, was more restrained than he might have been, "blaming southerners for their complicity and deeming himself powerless in the random chance destructiveness of the storm he had unleashed." Just so, rebel military resistance was somewhat tougher than the standard texts suggest, while the vaunted guerrilla resistance to Sherman's foraging troops was less stiff and surelyless organized. Sherman's successful raid across southeastern Georgia served him well personally, however. Grant may have had doubts about the wisdom of sending an army so far from its base, but he esteemed Sherman highly thereafter. Civil War enthusiasts will appreciate Trudeau's careful attention to detail, while general readers may wish for a more vivid, cut-to-the-chase version of events. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn/The Sagalyn Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060598679
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/05/2008
Pages:
688
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.00(d)

Meet the Author

Noah Andre Trudeau is the author of Gettysburg. He has won the Civil War Round Table of New York's Fletcher Pratt Award and the Jerry Coffey Memorial Prize. A former executive producer at National Public Radio, he lives in Washington, D.C.

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Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
This terrific historical takes a fascinating deep look at Sherman's "march to the sea" in 1864 in which his superior Grant had major doubts about the supply line reaching the troops. Noah Andre Trudeau makes the case that the destruction across Georgia was not as total as some believe due to the assault on key commercial targets and somewhat civilians hit by the elite Northern Army. Instead, the march was less destructive than other Civil War battles and only considered harsh and damaging because for much of the war, Georgia was immune due to its location in the Deep South and away from the Mississippi. The goal of the march was psychological as Sherman and his army brought home to the Confederacy no place is safe. Additionally, Mr. Trudeau reminds readers that key information was provided to the Union army by liberated slaves yet Sherman proved ever the racist when he discarded the freed bondsmen once he used them. This is a super account that will open the eyes of the audience. Harriet Klausner
JD71 More than 1 year ago
Well written. Well researched. The Author obviously loves his topic.
Lovermost More than 1 year ago
Some other readers have criticized this book as being tedious in its details. Sadly, they miss the point. A march across hundreds of miles over weeks and weeks is quite a different story to tell than a battle that rages for three hours. Trudeau is to be commended for finding a way to gather up hundreds of little stories into a grand saga that is far messier to relate because it is, well, a far messier story. Better than any other book I have ever read, it drives home how a commanding general is never more than somewhat in command. He must focus on what he can control and accept what he cannot, even if he personally would prefer that things be different. As Trudeau presents each thread of the story, one can see him struggling himself to decide was this greatness or madness, a bold stroke of goodness to end the war or a sad tale of taking war to a new level. Of this you can be sure - almost everything anyone ever told you before about Sherman's March to the Sea is likely so far from the truth as to be more fiction than history.
tenderfoot More than 1 year ago
The Southern Storm is intriguing narrative of the last days of the Confederate Army's existence. The inablity of the rebels to stop the Union Army when it marched through the heart of the South. The details of the distruction of every public building and at the same time abuses of the civilian population were revealing and disturbing. Any history buffs will find Southern Storm interesting and informative.
Perez More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed this book and have been surprised at the shear size of Shermans armies that went through Georgia. The book has much more information than other popular books on the march through Georgia.
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