Thursday, May 22, 2014

[Book Review] Sherman: A Soldier's Life by Lee Kennett


Marilyn reviews SHERMAN: A SOLDIER'S LIFE by Lee Kennett (HarperCollins, 2001) 

Many people, including me, first heard of General William Tecumseh Sherman in American History class during lectures on the Civil War. His “March to the Sea” during the Civil War was a major campaign that led to the defeat of the Confederacy. In the sea of upheaval of the American Civil War, General Sherman cast a long shadow and continues to cast a shadow today on the history of military warfare. The Civil War was, in many people's eyes, the last “gentleman’s war,” as well as a time of death, disease, and displacement.

Sherman: A Soldier's Life by Lee Kennett explores the military and civilian career of William T. Sherman.  He was a soldier, banker, teacher, Civil War General, and Commanding General of the United States Army, while also being the father of eight children. By using family letters Lee Kennett explores the character, intents, and plans of General Sherman. General Sherman wrote many letters to his wife Ellen and brother-in- law, Thomas Ewing, outlining his plans for his career and his position on various matters in his lifetime. The author writes about the good and bad traits of General Sherman, which propelled his career or almost destroyed it. The reader can follow the growth of the recruit from West Point to Commanding General of the United States Army.

I found this book a good read into the whole man. Lee Kennett delves into the full man by following Sherman’s development from a young man to the highest general in the land, the pinnacle of service in the United States Army. Kennett explores the influence of the death of Sherman’s son, Willie, at the Gayoso Hotel in Memphis, after the fall of Vicksburg, on Sherman's actions during the rest of the Civil War. After the war, General Sherman is appointed Commanding General of the United States Army and serves until 1883.

When I read Shelby Foote's The Beleaguered City, and part of the Foote's Civil War series for Memphis Reads, I became more interested in Memphis under the occupation of Sherman. My interest in his military strategies and tactics was also rekindled.

A daily account of Memphis under Military Governor General Sherman is located in the Newspaper Microfilm Collection in the History Department. For anyone interested in Sherman's time in Memphis below is a link to the William A. Goodwin Historical Collection, which contains information on General William T. Sherman. 

For additional information on Memphis’ role in the Civil War, a researcher can find books in the Memphis Room and visit Dig Memphis, the Digital Archive of the History Department Memphis Public Library and Information Center.

*Click to visit the William A. Goodwin Historic Documents Collection*

Marilyn, Central Library

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