Friday, April 20, 2012

eBook Review: Memoirs of General William T Sherman


William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General William T. Sherman

Product Details (Volume I)

  • File Size: 616 KB
  • Print length: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Public Domain Books (June 1, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000JQU85C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
  • Price: $0.00

Product Details (Volume II

  • File Size: 605 KB
  • Print length: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Public Domain Books (June 1, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000JQU85M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars (1 customer review)
  • Price: $0.00
1. Short review: 

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  W T Sherman wrote his memoirs in a simple, straightforward, modern style.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Neither and both.
These books give great value for your money.

2.2. What I did not like:  It appears that these books were scanned from old print editions and cleaned up but not edited. Often the dates given in the text are wrong; for example, 1881 for 1861, 1868 for 1863, March 81 for March 31. How often? By my count, V1 had 21 instances; V2 had 22. There were other errors: horse vice house; daring vice during; spars vice spurs.

Whoever scanned and uploaded Sherman's memoirs did so with skill but not love.

2.3. Who I think is the audience:  History buffs.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book?  Yes, but there aren't any.

2.6. Other:  I read Ulysses S Grant's memoirs. I am now reading Philip Sheridan's memoirs. Grant wrote like Ernest Hemingway. Sheridan wrote like James Fenimore Cooper.

W T Sherman wrote like Grant.

I divide Sherman's memoirs into three parts:  1. California and before the War; 2. The War; and 3. After the War.

1. California and before the War.

This part is written in narrative and reads fast and easy.

Sherman's account of his early life impressed me so little that I do not remember it. Wikipedia says he was from Ohio, came from a prestigious family, his father died young and left the family destitute, and W T was then raised by a family friend -- Thomas Ewing -- who secured for W T an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point, New York.

(Sherman had powerful political connections throughout his life; his younger brother was a US Senator. If we rely on Sherman's account, he seemed to use his connections only to keep himself out of Washington, DC, and politics.)

On graduation from West Point and commissioning, Sherman was posted to Florida. As a lieutenant, he served in Florida and toured throughout South Carolina and Georgia, often hunting with friends.

When the War with Mexico began, Sherman was posted to California. He saw no combat, and this disappointed him. But his accounts of his travels throughout California are some of the most enjoyable pages of his memoirs.

With a small troop, Sherman went to Fort Sumter to verify the claim of finding gold. He did, and the California Gold Rush began.

After rising to the rank of captain, Sherman resigned his commission and returned east. He married and journeyed to St. Louis. Connections in St. Louis offered him a position as manager of their San Francisco branch bank, and Sherman accepted and returned to California.

Sherman managed the bank well. He saw that one gentleman held 20% of the bank's outstanding notes and asked the man to settle his debts. Other banks were quick to take the fellow's business and cash out Sherman's bank. This did not end well for them. The gentleman skipped off to South America. Sherman's bank was one of the few that survived the San Francisco bank panic of 1856.

Sherman returned east to manage the bank's newest branch in New York City, but that soon ended when the home office failed in the Panic of 1857. To support his growing family, Sherman tried a succession of jobs in the west and ended with an appointment as superintendent of a military academy in Louisiana. (This academy later became Lousiana State University.) Sherman was there when the War came.

2.  The War.

This part is heavily documented with written orders interspersed with clarifying short narratives. It was written as a defense of Sherman's actions during the War.

A staunch unionist, Sherman resigned his office in Louisiana rather than turn over federal arms to Louisiana state militia. He was commissioned a colonel and fought at First Bull Run. His actions there brought him a promotion to brigadier and a posting to Kentucky. After a few months, he was posted to St. Louis. It was here that Sherman got to know Henry Halleck and Ulysses Grant.

Halleck commanded the Division of the Missouri (later, the Military Division of the Mississippi), a cumbersome assemblage of military units stretching from Kentucky to Kansas. Grant was his most pugnacious subordinate. Halleck went on to become General-in-Chief of the Union armies until Grant succeeded him. Halleck then became Chief-of-Staff. Halleck spent most of the War in Washington, DC, as a soldier-bureaucrat.

Commanding a division, Sherman served under Grant first at Shiloh, then Corinth, then Vicksburg. They became friends and supported each other with advice and encouragement.

(An aside:  One of the striking features of the Mississippi Valley Campaign was the close cooperation of the Navy under Rear Admiral David Porter with the Union Army. Grant included Porter in his war councils. The success of the Union along the Mississippi was principally due to Grant, Sherman, Porter, and Farragut.)

Sherman complained of the poor equipment the government provided his soldiers and permitted his men to strip the Confederate dead of their firearms. At this time, the Confederate Army had superior small arms.

Sherman commented that often Confederate officers would sup with them under flags of truce and discuss the affairs of the day. He also mentioned that locals appealed to him for help finding their relatives who were prisoners or for protection. These continued throughout the War.

Sherman advised Grant against executing his plan to capture Vicksburg, but Grant -- apparently more attuned to the mood of the Yankee press than others -- overrode all opposition. Sherman willingly obeyed despite his voiced opposition.

Sherman followed Grant to Chattanooga to save Rosecrans's army. The evidence is that Sherman learned how to move an army from Grant's example at Chattanooga:  materiel moved by train and wagon; men and horses marched.

After Chattanooga, Grant was promoted to General-in-Chief (and he wisely made his HQ in the field instead of in Washington, DC). Grant named his trusted friend Sherman to command the Military Division of the Mississippi, the major force of which was now encamped south of Chattanooga. From there, Sherman marched on Atlanta and, on 3 September 1864, took it from Confederate General John Hood (who succeeded Joseph Johnston when Johnston was unable to lift the siege). Sherman then made a decision that still rankles in Georgia:  He ordered Atlanta evacuated. That meant that all civilians had to leave the city. He then burned the city.

The exchange of letters between Hood and Sherman regarding Atlanta and matters related to surrendered units and prisoner exchanges amused me. Here are two major combatants in the bloodiest war Americans ever fought closing their letters with 'Your most obedient servant'. But they serve as contrast against the letters Sherman wrote Grant which he closed 'Your true friend'.

After Atlanta, the Confederates were broken. Sherman commanded a veteran force that marched without notable opposition to the sea. They took Savannah before Christmas 1864.

(Although Sherman gave orders establishing foraging parties by brigade, he related an encounter with a private who carried chickens and meal pillaged along the way and answered his commanding general's disapproving look with "Forage liberally on the country," quoting Sherman's own order. Sherman clarified his order to state that foraging was limited to properly detailed and authorized foraging parties. This anecdote illustrated that Sherman's men expected they would receive justice from the commander they called 'Uncle Billy'. It is also clear that Sherman recognized the limits of a commander's control over the actions of his men in war.)

In 1865, Sherman marched north through the Carolinas. He and Grant knew the War would soon end. Grant took Robert E. Lee's surrender on 10 April 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse (the surrender terms were penned and signed in the home of Wilmer McLean near Appomattox Courthouse). Sherman took his lead from Grant and, when Confederate General Joe Johnston sued for terms a few days later, Sherman offered Johnston similar terms. Johnston enlarged his office to include all Confederate Armies and Sherman accepted, subject to approval by the President. Shockingly, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton violently disapproved and persuaded President Andrew Johnson to disapprove and order Sherman to reengage Johnston's army. (Lincoln had been assassinated. Sherman told Gen. Johnston of the assassination when they first met to agree surrender terms. Johnston expressed his shock and dismay at the assassination.) Stanton published the terms, his opinion of them, and the President's disapproval in the New York papers. Sherman, gobsmacked, withdrew the proffered terms from Johnston and gave him notice that hostilities would begin anew 48 hours after Johnston received the notice. Without options, Johnston surrendered. Union forces continued to pursue the remaining Confederate armies until they surrendered. This included the Battle of Brownsville, the last battle of the War, which the Union lost. All the blood spilled after Johnston's first surrender falls on Stanton's head.

Sherman did not conceal his anger towards and hatred for Stanton. When the victorious Union armies marched in review through Washington, DC, Sherman refused to shake Stanton's hand.

3. After the War.

Sherman thought he knew something about conducting a war -- and he did -- and he put those thoughts into a few paragraphs near the end of his memoirs. One thing that struck me was the manner in which volunteer units were raised. Wisconsin raised volunteer regiments and supplied them with replacements to fill their losses. Other states raised volunteer regiments and, when these lost men, raised new regiments. This resulted in green regiments at full strength and veteran regiments that were in fact under-strength companies. As an example, the famed 20th Maine formed 29 August 1862 and marched out with 700 men. Less than a year later, at the Battle of Gettysburg, it held the Union left at Little Roundtop with 80 effectives.

Sherman took up the rest of his memoirs with his promotion to Lieutenant General commanding the US Army; his repeated attempts to remove his HQ from Washington, DC; and his preparations for his retirement. He mentioned his tour of Europe without detail. He ignored the various wars against the Indians except to say that the transcontinental railroads were the true instruments of the defeat to the Indians, vice the Army. He lamented the reduction of the Army and concluded with the remark that Philip Sheridan would remain at the rank of major general when he assumed command of the Army.

2.7. Links:  none

2.8. Buy the books:
Memoirs of Gen. William T. Sherman - Volume 1
Memoirs of Gen. William T. Sherman - Volume 2

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