In Sherman, Lee Kennett offers a brilliant new interpretation of the general's life and career, one that probes his erratic, contradictory nature. Here we see the making of a true soldier, beginning with the frontier society and the extraordinary family from which he came, his formative years at West Point, and the critical period leading up to the Civil War. Throughout the spirited battles at Bull Run and Shiloh, the siege of Vicksburg, and ultimately, the Great March, Sherman displayed a blend of drive, determination, and mastery of detail unique in the annals of war.
By drawing upon previously unexploited materials and maintaining a sharp, lively narrative, Lee Kennett presents a rich, authoritative portrait of Sherman -- the man and the soldier -- who emerges from this work more human and more fascinating than ever before.
Resigning after the Mexican War from an army that offered too little scope for his ambitions, William Tecumseh Sherman (1820 1891) moved restlessly from jobs as banker to lawyer to educator. Returning to the Union uniform in 1861, he stood out from the beginning as a man of action, energy and something more. University of Georgia emeritus historian Kennett (Marching Through Georgia) makes a strong case in this well-balanced analytical biography that Sherman was a narcissistic personality, driven to avert criticism by constantly increasing his level of achievement. Fear that he could not deal with the pressures of independent command in Kentucky drove Sherman in 1861 into a spectacular attack of acute anxiety. Yet his limited performance in the final stages of the Vicksburg campaign and later at Chattanooga, Kennett suggests, reflected discomfort at playing an increasingly subordinate role to U.S. Grant. Given full command in the West in 1864, Sherman rose to the challenge. Kennett regards the Atlanta campaign as the work of an unusually gifted captain, and the "march to the sea" as an attempt to force Georgia to leave the war and "secede from secession." The aim proved illusory, but its pursuit secured Sherman's place as one of America's most controversial military figures. (He went on to renown as an after-dinner speaker and author of acclaimed memoirs.) Unprovable at this distance, Kennett's layman's psychoanalysis offers fresh perspectives on a man and a general who many contemporaries judged, but none really knew.