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Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William…

Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 2014; vuoden 2015 painos)

– tekijä: Robert L. O'Connell (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
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A profile of the iconic Civil War general explores the paradoxes attributed to his character to discuss such topics as his achievements as a military strategist, his contributions to the Transcontinental Railroad, and his tempestuous family relationships.
Teoksen nimi:Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman
Kirjailijat:Robert L. O'Connell (Tekijä)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2015), 432 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
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Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman (tekijä: Robert L. O'Connell) (2014)

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From the civil war generals reading program, and engaging and well-written biography of William Tecumseh Sherman. Author Robert O’Connell uses a partially chronological and partially thematic arrangement that works quite well. The first section – and more than two thirds of the total – covers Sherman’s military career, starting with his arrival at West Point in 1836. He served in the Seminole War – where O’Connell suggests he learned something about guerilla warfare – and then found himself, to his expressed disgust, doing administrative work in California while his West Point comrades were winning laurels in Mexico. He dropped out of the military for a while to work as a banker – with indifferent success – then, in 1860, found a job as the superintendent of a military academy in Louisiana. His exposure to the Southern upper class may have influenced some of his later actions; when Louisiana seceded he famously prophesized to a colleague “You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and determined people on earth. … You are bound to fail. Only in spirit and determination are you prepared for war.” Which is more or less how it came out.

He had a meeting with Abraham Lincoln – who didn’t impress him at the time – and one with Winfield Scott – who did – and ended up in command of the Third Brigade of the First Division at Bull Run, where after some initial confusion he performed as creditably as any other Union commander. That got him posted to Kentucky as a deputy to Robert Anderson. O’Connell begins to develop what he considers to be a theme in Sherman’s life here – he was more comfortable as a wingman than as top gun, since he insisted that he would serve only as deputy and not as theater commander. But Anderson became ill and Sherman did become commander, leading to the famous incident where an interview convinced Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas that Sherman was crazy. I had always thought of Sherman as taciturn – perhaps because he looks that way in photographs – but O’Connell points out he was a non-stop talker and always a bundle of nervous energy. That stood against him in Kentucky; he was reported …”twitching his red whiskers – his coat buttons – playing a tattoo on the table – or running his fingers through his hair. … And on and on he talked, nervously and obsessively … making odd gestures …”. Sherman got poor reviews from the newspapers and from Washington, and resigned his command to be replaced by Don Carlos Buell. He then turned up in St. Louis, under Henry Halleck – a man he’d always had issues with. Once again he got in trouble for “nervousness” – a military doctor said he was “unfit for command”. Only the intervention of political friends and family in Washington kept him from dismissal; Halleck ended up assigning Sherman to command a division of volunteers under another man Halleck didn’t like very much – Ulysses S. Grant.

That lead to Sherman’s next action – at Shiloh Church in Tennessee. Here his performance was much the same as at Bull Run: a brief moment of panic – he reportedly screamed “My God, we’re attacked” as Johnston’s troops came boiling out of the woods – then the supposedly crazy Sherman settled down, got his unit into battle formation, saw to it that reinforcements and ammunition were brought up, and generally impressing everyone who had contact with him as cool and clearheaded as he stabilized the Union line. That eventually lead to another famous quote, when the garrulous Sherman encountered the laconic Grant sitting under a tree in the rain. “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” “Yes. Lick ‘em tomorrow, though”. And they did.

(As an aside another famous Sherman quote is “Grant stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk.” As it happens when Sherman was accused of lunacy, in Kentucky, Grant was fighting much further west around Cairo, Belmont, and Paducah and had no recorded comment on whether Sherman was crazy or not. Grant was accused of being drunk at Shiloh – there’s no evidence one way or the other – but if he was it didn’t matter.)

The Grant/Sherman team continued to work together, first around Vicksburg, where Sherman discovered how easy it was to live of the land in the South, then at Chattanooga. At this point O’Connell’s “wingman” took off on his own and conducted a brilliant campaign against Joe Johnson, ending with the capture of Atlanta, and then talked Grant into letting him march through Georgia then through the Carolinas. After the war, he was arguably again a wingman, as commanding general of the United States Army under Grant and subsequent presidents. The Indian Wars didn’t call for much of Sherman’s skills; he basically acted as an administrator, although O’Donnell argues that the completion of the Transcontinental Railway was at least partially a Sherman accomplishment.

That brings us to the second section of the book – a discussion of Sherman’s army. Ironically Sherman was initially quite contemptuous of “volunteer” soldiers (his first large command remembered him as a “rude and envenomed martinet”), believing that the war could only be settled by Regulars or at least troops trained to the level of Regulars. O’Donnell credits the Army of the West with what he says are the typical characteristics of American soldiers – adaptability and “creative insubordination”; an eastern officer sent to observe remarked “Sherman’s appears to be an Army of independent commands – each individual being a “command”. The “boys” changed Sherman’s dislike of the volunteers to avuncular admiration (he became known as “Uncle Billy” to the troops) and his natural garrulousness stood to his advantage – he’d talk to anybody, even the lowliest private; when he stripped naked with a bunch of soldiers to wash in a river one commented “I’d follow Uncle Billy to Hell”.

Having worked through Sherman’s military career and the performance of his army, O’Connell returns to the beginning and discusses Sherman’s civilian life. He was named “Tecumseh Sherman” at birth – which, come to think of it, is sort of like naming you child “Rommel” or “Yamamoto”. His father, a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, died deeply in debt when Sherman was nine; young Tecumseh “Cump” Sherman and his ten brothers and sisters were parceled out among various friends and relatives. Sherman ended up with Thomas and Maria Ewing, his late father’s best friend and fellow lawyer. However, there was a condition – Maria Ewing was a devout Catholic and insisted on baptism into the Church. Since there was no “Saint Tecumseh” in the calendar, and it was Saint Williams day, that’s how it ended up. (Although not mentioned by O’Connell, Ulysses S. Grant also had a name change; he was born Hiram Ulysses Grant but somehow ended up as “U.S. Grant” on his West Point letter of recommendation.)

The Ewings already had six children when Sherman arrived, and his foster brothers and sisters became closer than his natural ones – in fact, extremely close to Ellen Ewing, whom he eventually married. O’Donnell points out that marrying his sister – even his foster sister – should have had some negative effect on Sherman’s career, but apparently it didn’t. His foster family connections generally worked to his benefit, as the Ewings were politically connected and helped Sherman on many occasions. Ellen seems to have been a little problematical, though, establishing a consistent pattern through their lives – if Ellen joined him wherever he was stationed, she would immediately get pregnant, and retreat to her parents’ home in Lancaster, Ohio for the “confinement” and birth. The leads to another O’Donnell subtheme – that Sherman had many encounters with other women. The evidence for this is sparse but interesting. Some of Sherman’s letters to Ellen have casual references to whores – for example, that he saw “many” in Valparaiso, Chile, while on the voyage to California. He doesn’t, of course, say he made use of their services but it still seems sort of an odd thing to even mention in a letter home. Next, while Sherman was in duty in California he boarded with a local family – and again makes a seemingly strange comment in letters home – that the husband often away for weeks on business and his wife, Doña Augustina, was very beautiful. During the war there doesn’t seem to be anything going on – O’Donnell notes that Sherman’s army had one quarter the venereal disease rate of the Army of the Potomac – but years later Sherman seems to have taken up with the much younger sculptress Vinnie Ream (he was 53, she was 31). Then, in his 60s, Sherman had some sort of an affair with Mary Audenried, widow of one of his aides, who was again much younger. This time Ellen seems to have believed there was something going on (her major complaint seems to have been that Mrs. Audenreid was a Protestant). Sherman seems to have laid down the law as a Victorian head of the family – O’Donnell notes “the affair continued” but provides no further details. So was there anything actually going on here, in any of these situations? It’s perhaps telling that Sherman and Ellen had eight children – as mentioned Ellen became pregnant almost immediately every time she came to live with Sherman at a duty station – but there were apparently no illegitimate children with any of Sherman’s supposed mistresses. Perhaps 19th century contraception worked better than we have been lead to believe, perhaps the affairs were not as intimate as moderns might expect, or perhaps the “mistresses” were no more than dinner and theater companions (Sherman loved going out; Ellen didn’t).

O’Donnell does address some of the modern criticisms against Sherman – that he was a racist, that he engaged in genocide against Native Americans, and that he was a war criminal for his actions against the South. These are dismissed on the basis of trying to apply modern morality backward. Sherman certainly used the “N” word in letters and conversation, and when a unit a black soldiers was sent to him at Savannah he disarmed them, gave them axes and shovels and put them to work building corduroy roads through the swamps. However, when Edward Stanton tried to find some evidence for racism all the blacks he spoke to said he had always dealt with them without prejudice or condescension; and when Sherman’s army marched through Washington for the victory parade the black pioneer units marched in front of each formation. As far as Native Americans are concerned, Sherman’s attitude wasn’t any different from the majority of Americans at the time; although things happened on his watch he never gave any specific orders for massacres. The “war criminal” charge is historically naïve. There was little or nothing in the way of international law at the time, and even if there was its application in a civil war would have been dubious; the idea that civilian populations were somehow immune from enemy armies moving through their territory had never actually been applied and would have been great with astonishment and derision by every military commander in previous history. Southern apologists have always been proud to note that when the Army of Northern Virginia moved north into Maryland and Pennsylvania, it paid for everything it seized – in Confederate money.

O’Donnell discusses Sherman’s place in history in his preface, not at the end, putting Sherman in the “second tier” of great American – behind Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. I think you can make a case that Sherman was the greatest American general – more so than Washington, Lee, Grant or Patton. The victory at Atlanta is conceded to have saved the 1864 election for Lincoln, which probably makes it the most important Civil War campaign; thus Sherman won the most important battles in the most important war in American history after the Revolution.

Illustrated with contemporary photographs and drawings – including some by Sherman, who was a passable sketch artist. No bibliography but you can pick the references out of the extensive endnotes. Good campaign maps. Robert O’Connell’s other works are mostly what might be called “military philosophy”, and he’s contributed to several alternate history collections. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 8, 2017 |
Civil war enthusiasts should enjoy this book, though some of them have been critical of it and some enjoy it. I learned a great deal about Sherman. I didn't know of his many contributions to America as we know it today, his role in the Civil War, and his personal life and philosophies and beliefs and trials. There are 3 major divisions in the book: Sherman as a military man, as a general and his relationship with troops and war ethics, and his family and personal life. I found the man interesting but didn't always like him. Still, there was much to admire about him.

The book wasn't a riveting read, to me, but it was definitely educational and well written, in no way difficult to follow. Civil war buffs can probably relate better because they have much more background and peripheral material to fit into the puzzle of the whole Civil War era. However, history is a good thing for all of us to read.

A tremendous amount of research went into this book, an admirable undertaking for the author. It will be a memorable book for me, another bit of history I now know and appreciate. As with all historical biography-type stories, it's also about the times and the politics and conventions of society. I'm glad I read the book and glad the author wrote it.

I suspect most of us today, of any age, don't know as much as we should about history, so thank goodness authors like O'Connell spend years bringing it to us in digestible form. The many photographs and maps added greatly to the book.

This book came to me by way of Goodreads giveaways as an ARC. Thank you GR. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Bueno bien escrito, tal vez demasiado pro yankee. Pero en el fondo eran los buenos esta vez. Interesante en algunos aspectos psicologicos de su adopciom y la religion católica ( )
  gneoflavio | Sep 6, 2016 |
"It's hard to imagine a more American man than Sherman. And although he died over 120 years ago, it's a safe bet that should Uncle Billy be brought back to life tomorrow, after a short orientation with the requisite hardware and software, he'd find himself right at home." - Robert L. O'Connell, "Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman"

William Tecumseh Sherman was the third most famous general to come out of the Civil War, after Grant and Lee, yet he was arguably the most successful. He may not have won as many famous battles as the others, but his march across Georgia broke the back of the South with amazingly few casualties on either side. His success, not just in war but in most other aspects of his life, had much to do with his adaptability, which is what Robert L. O'Connell is getting at in the above lines from his superb 2014 biography, "Fierce Patriot." When circumstances changed, he changed with them.

Another key trait was his outgoing personality. He was a non-stop talker whom people actually liked, and he was skilled at making persuasive arguments. His men loved him. Other officers loved him. President Lincoln loved him. Women loved him. He could easily have been elected president, but didn't want the job. Nor did he want to be the Union's top general. In both war and peace, he was comfortable serving under Ulysses S. Grant.

Most biographies begin at the beginning of the person's life and follow that life right up to death. O'Connell approaches Sherman differently, and it works amazingly well. He divides the general's life into three aspects and then examines each aspect in detail, even though this approach sometimes takes him over the same material more than once. These three parts are Sherman the Strategist, the General and His Army and the Man and His Families, with the first of these taking up eight of the 12 chapters in the book. This first part covers not just the war but also the years spent developing his strategic way of thinking, from his West Point days to his experience as a banker during the California Gold Rush.

The second part reflects on his relationship with his troops, which led to his Uncle Billy nickname. The final two chapters review his complex family life.

His father died when Sherman was young, and the family had to be divided because his mother couldn't support all the children by herself. That's how John, later a prominent U.S. senator, ended up in Mansfield, Ohio, while William was raised in Lancaster, Ohio, by a prominent lawyer named Thomas Ewing and his wife. He later married Ellen, one of the Ewing daughters. She was devoted to her daddy and for years lived more with him than with her husband. It took becoming a Civil War hero for Sherman to become the dominant male in the family, although even then their marriage seemed to require long periods of separation to thrive.

O'Connell's book contains plenty of fascinating detail. He compares military strategy to surfing, and makes the most of that analogy. He calls Sherman "a prodigy of geography" because of his ability to visit a place once and then remember the exact terrain years later, a useful skill for a general. He tells how just before the Civil War broke out, Sherman organized a military academy in Louisiana, training officers for what would soon become the Confederate Army. Escaped slaves played an important role in Sherman's success in Georgia and elsewhere, providing invaluable information about the whereabouts of food and Rebel soldiers, yet Sherman never gave them any credit. After the war, Sherman encouraged the slaughter of buffalo as a means of pacifying the Indians. And much more.

"Fierce Patriot" makes fine reading. ( )
1 ääni hardlyhardy | Mar 28, 2016 |
Tämä arvostelu kirjoitettiin LibraryThingin Varhaisia arvostelijoita varten.
I was lucky enough to be sent this great book via the LibraryThing advanced reader program. I have long been interested in the Civil War, and have read a good amount of books. I was expecting a dry biography about the Terror of the South, and yet was very surprised with a book that I finished in a frenzied weekend. While I cannot be scientific in the level of accuracy, the book had a good balance of logical speculation and a weaving of pure facts. I received not only a great read for the weekend, but also a desire to learn more about this multi-dimensional man, who in my previous reads was always either in the background as an agent of destruction or glossed over in favor of more "famous" and well connected names. ( )
1 ääni RobFow | Feb 24, 2016 |
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(Introduction) Name recognition would not be the problem.
On June 12, 1836, a Hudson River steamer nosed into the dock at West Point and deposited, among others, sixteen-year-old William Tecumseh Sherman.
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Gold, economics version of the universal solvent, immediately began dissolving the U.S. military presence in California. Soldiers deserted in droves and sailors jumped ship, all headed for the river of gold where any laborer could earn more in a day than the military paid in a month. Sherman seethed with frustration. Each morning’s roll call seemed to show more troops missing. One regular even took off with his favorite double-barreled shotgun.
Finally, one evening the orderly sergeants reported to the assembled officers that a total of twenty-eight men had apparently headed for the hills. Sherman took the lead in rounding them up, knowing that when they hit the flat Salinas valley at daybreak, they would be easy to spot. His plan worked, and he proudly recorded having captured all but one, thereby preventing the desertion of the entire Second Infantry. But the leakage continued, and Sherman’s efforts to stop it were largely ineffective. He and his brother officers were in command of an evaporating force.
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A profile of the iconic Civil War general explores the paradoxes attributed to his character to discuss such topics as his achievements as a military strategist, his contributions to the Transcontinental Railroad, and his tempestuous family relationships.

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