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I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell… William Tecumseh Sherman

Citizen Sherman : a life of William Tecumseh Sherman    New York : Random House, 1995 Michael Fellman United States. Army Biography,  Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891 Hardcover. xiv, 486 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining  or  marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Bright, compulsively articulate, famous, loved, hated, and deeply troubled, William T. Sherman was perhaps one of the most compelling personalities in American history. This groundbreaking, in-depth portrait of this significant Civil War figure reveals much about Sherman–and about the concept of manliness in his culture.

Only a blood-drenched civil war resolved the inescapable tension of independent states forming a union or one nation state emerging from nine­teenth century America. When politicians failed, it was those few Union military men who were sufficiently ferocious and calculat­ing who carried on to unconditional victory. Of all the warriors thus engaged, William Tecumseh Sherman went the furthest; it was he who both articulated and practiced a for­midable scorched-earth policy. More than any other Union general, Sherman was capa­ble of conducting mass psychological warfare in order to break the heart of the Confederacy. Sherman succeeded in large measure because he could plumb and enact his own rage with ruthless clarity.

The inner nature of Sherman’s genius for destruction forms tbe center of Citizen Sherman. But this biography is much broader than an analysis of war from Sherman’s perspective, for Michael Fellman seeks to illuminate the emotional as well as the intellectual, ideological, and occupational lives of this extraordinary, but at the same time representative, American Victorian man.

Sherman was never guarded; in fact he would blurt out his most private opinions and feelings to all who might listen, notably his wife, Ellen Ewing Sherman, with whom he suffered through a tension-filled and angry thirty-eight-year-long marriage. Sherman vented his anger, his passion — his need to both love and hate — not only at his wife but at his children, his friends and enemies, and his lovers.

He was a self-lacerating failure before and during the opening stages of the war, a soaring destroyer later in the conflict, and a vitriolic feudist with other generals after the war, when he traveled restlessly across the land to maintain contact with his “boys,” the veterans of brutal marches through Georgia to the sea and up through the Carolinas. He was incapable of the Machiavellian finesse necessary to post-war political life, though he had followed his own insubordinate political program during the war, especially in his overtly racist refusal to bring black troops into his army.

His racism extended to Jews and Mexicans, and to Indians, against whom he led a ruthless post-Civil War campaign in order to clear the Great Plains for the railroad and white settlement. It was men like Sherman, statesmen of the sword, who beat the Confederacy and destroyed the Indian nations, and Michael Fellman examines, with both detachment and compassion, how such men equipped themselves to secure American nationalism. His is a study of the construction of the moral meanings of warfare, of masculinity, family, friendships, and “hateships,” of extra­marital love and of codes of honor, of a long and varied career, of a public icon.

Fellman’s William Tecumseh Sherman is bewilderingly human, frighteningly destructive, and finally heroic, although how a man who encapsulates the worst aspects of the epoch of conquest could ever be called heroic passes our understanding. The closest historical analogy we can come up with is that he is a failed Nazi three quarters of a century before the fact.


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