The best books on William Tecumseh Sherman

Candice Shy Hooper Author Of Lincoln's Generals' Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War--For Better and for Worse
By Candice Shy Hooper

Who am I?

I was fated to write about war. Born on Guam to a Navy hospital corpsman and his intrepid wife, I spent four years on tank-littered beaches of Saipan and sailed to Japan on a U.S. Navy LST at the age of seven. When I graduated from college with a major in journalism, a Navy man, the late great Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson hired me as his press secretary, and we talked military history even as he made it in Afghanistan. Thirty-three years later, I went back to school for an MA in History. As I write, my great grandfather’s bugle from the Spanish-American War and the flag that covered my father’s coffin at his Arlington Cemetery funeral sit atop my shelves of military history books.

I wrote...

Lincoln's Generals' Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War--For Better and for Worse

By Candice Shy Hooper,

Book cover of Lincoln's Generals' Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War--For Better and for Worse

What is my book about?

The story of the Civil War is not complete without examining the extraordinary lives of Jessie Frémont, Nelly McClellan, Ellen Sherman, and Julia Grant, wives of Abraham Lincoln’s top generals.

Once shots were fired on Fort Sumter, these four women were launched out of their private lives into a wholly different universe, where their relationships with their husbands and their personal opinions of the President of the United States had national and historical consequences. Using letters, memoirs, and other primary sources—and, for the first time, mapping their wartime travels—I explore the very different ways in which these remarkable women responded to the unique challenges of being Lincoln’s generals’ wives. Published in 2016, my book won three national awards.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order

Why did I love this book?

This book is the single best biography of Sherman – the good, the bad, the ugly – by one of the foremost scholars of the Civil War. Marszalek’s portrait of Sherman as a man who sought order in all aspects of his life provides valuable insight into Sherman’s military genius and his personal failings. This biography gives the most comprehensive portrait of the intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically complex man whose legacy continues to be debated today. This is the one-stop-shop for those who want to get to know the man I believe to be the most interesting personality of the Civil War.

By John F. Marszalek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sherman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order is the premier biography of William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War commander known for his ""destructive war"" policy against Confederates and as a consummate soldier. This updated edition of John F. Marszalek's award-winning book presents the general as a complicated man who, fearing anarchy, searched for the order that he hoped would make his life a success. Sherman was profoundly influenced by the death of his father and his subsequent relationship with the powerful Whig politician Thomas Ewing and his family. Although the Ewings treated Sherman as one of their own, the young Sherman…

Book cover of Belligerent Muse: Five Northern Writers and How They Shaped Our Understanding of the Civil War

Why did I love this book?

If Marszalek’s book is thin on any aspect of Sherman it is on his writing — the eloquent, powerful weapon he brandished during the war and the efficient, versatile tool with which he constructed his legacy in his Memoirs.

As a young man, the letters he wrote to his foster sister and future wife Ellen contained carefully constructed sentences with descriptive flourishes; as an adult, he borrowed liberally from his love of Shakespeare and the theater to craft his persona in his Memoirs.

Cushman, an award-winning poet and historian, places Sherman’s writing in the context of four other Northern writers (Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Ambrose Bierce, and Joshua Chamberlain) who were inspired by the “belligerent muse” — war. You will treasure this book, which is unlike any other book about history or literature you’ve ever read.

By Stephen Cushman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Belligerent Muse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

War destroys, but it also inspires, stimulates, and creates. It is, in this way, a muse, and a powerful one at that. The American Civil War was a particularly prolific muse--unleashing with its violent realities a torrent of language, from soldiers' intimate letters and diaries to everyday newspaper accounts, great speeches, and enduring literary works. In Belligerent Muse, Stephen Cushman considers the Civil War writings of five of the most significant and best known narrators of the conflict: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ambrose Bierce, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Considering their writings both as literary expressions and as…

Sherman's Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865

By Brooks D. Simpson (editor), Jean V. Berlin (editor),

Book cover of Sherman's Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865

Why did I love this book?

Who doesn’t like to read other people’s mail? And if you’re going to do it, why not read the best? Sherman was as prolific as he was eloquent. Brooks Simpson and Jean Berlin, two of our best Civil War scholars, compiled and annotated hundreds of Sherman’s wartime letters to his family, friends, and enemies.

Though he was often circumspect in his letters, fearing they might be stolen and published by the newspapers he hated, you can feel the emotion in his letters that you don’t find in his Memoirs. Every page contains a thought, a sentence, a phrase that stays in the reader’s mind.

“You remember what Polonius spoke to his son Laertes, ‘Beware a quarrel, but being in, bear it, that thy oppressor may beware of thee.’ What is true of a single man is equally true of a Nation.”

By Brooks D. Simpson (editor), Jean V. Berlin (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sherman's Civil War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first major modern edition of the wartime correspondence of General William T. Sherman, this volume features more than 400 letters written between the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and the day Sherman bade farewell to his troops in 1865. Together, they trace Sherman's rise from obscurity to become one of the Union's most famous and effective warriors.
Arranged chronologically and grouped into chapters that correspond to significant phases in Sherman's life, the letters--many of which have never before been published--reveal Sherman's thoughts on politics, military operations, slavery and emancipation, the South, and daily life in the Union army,…

Book cover of When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Home Front

Why did I love this book?

Most books about Sherman’s famous March recount his army’s march from Atlanta to Savannah. Campbell turns her lens instead on the march from Savannah north through the Carolinas, when “Southern women frequently faced the enemy alone.” In doing so, she walks the reader through the culture of white Southern womanhood that clashed with Northern soldiers’ view of proper female behavior in its energetic defense of home, hearth, and enslaved workers. Campbell tells, too, of the resistance of blacks against Sherman’s aggressive foragers, who sometimes sought to take items even from those who had virtually nothing.

This book provides a window into the women’s war on the Confederate home front when it became the frontline in Sherman’s campaign to humiliate the Confederate Army and demonstrate its impotence.

Out of this collision between Southern women and Northern men grew the archetypes of “barbarian” Sherman and “gentleman” Lee, says Campbell, icons in the Lost Cause mythology.

By Jacqueline Glass Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Sherman Marched North from the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women defending the home front Home front and battle front merged in 1865 when General William T. Sherman occupied Savannah and then marched his armies north through the Carolinas. When Union soldiers brought war into Southern households, Northern soldiers were frequently astounded by the fierceness with which many white Southern women defended their homes. Jacqueline Glass Campbell convincingly restores these women to their role as vital players in the fight for a Confederate nation, as models of self-assertion rather than passive self-sacrifice. Campbell also investigates the complexities behind African Americans' decisions either to stay on the plantation or to flee…

Book cover of The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861 - 1865

Why did I love this book?

If Campbell’s book places Sherman and his strategy and tactics in the context of female Confederate resistance, Grimsley — one of the nation’s most innovative thinkers and writers of military history — places Sherman’s thinking and actions in the context of the evolution of the United States’ treatment of Confederate civilians.

The Lincoln administration policy in the beginning, notes Grimsley, was “to exempt white Southerners from the burdens of war.” But by 1864, a “hard war” policy, embracing attacks upon and/or confiscation of Southern civilians’ property, had become the guiding military policy of the United States.

Sherman’s inventive, carefully planned March embodied that policy. His goal of targeted destruction was designed to leave more than mere hardship in its wake. His army left its victims in terror, humiliation, and despair that contributed directly to the United States’ victory.

By Mark Grimsley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hard Hand of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Hard Hand of War, first published in 1996, explores the Union army's policy of destructive attacks upon Southern property and civilian morale - how it evolved, what it was like in practice. From an initial policy of deliberate restraint, extending even to the active protection of Southerners' property and constitutional rights, Union armies gradually adopted measures that subjected civilians to the burdens of war. Yet the ultimate 'hard war' policy was far from the indiscriminate fury of legend. Union policy makers emphasised a program of directed severity, and Grimsley demonstrates how and why it worked. Through comparisons with earlier…

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