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A Soldier's Passion for Order

John F. Marszalek

Publication Year: 2007

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 was determined to make it on his own. He graduated from West Point and moved on to service at military posts throughout the South. This volume traces Sherman’s involvement in the Mexican War in the late 1840s, his years battling prospectors and deserting soldiers in gold-rush California, and his 1850 marriage to his foster sister, Ellen. Later he moved to Louisiana, and, after the state seceded, Sherman returned to the North to fight for the Union.

Sherman covers the general’s early Civil War assignments in Kentucky and Missouri and his battles against former Southern friends there, the battle at Shiloh, and his rise to become second only to Grant among the Union leadership. Sherman’s famed use of destructive war, controversial then and now, is examined in detail. The destruction of property, he believed, would convince the Confederates that surrender was their best option, and Sherman’s successful strategy became the stuff of legend.

This definitive biography, which includes forty-six illustrations, effectively refutes misconceptions surrounding the controversial Union general and presents Sherman the man, not the myth. 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xv

WHEN WILLIAM T. SHERMAN published his memoirs in 1875, there already existed numerous articles about him and even a 512-page “Military Biography” by two friends, Colonel S. M. Bowman and Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Irwin. In his memoirs, Sherman made an...

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pp. xvii-xxi

THE LATE T. T. McAVOY, C.S.C., of the University of Notre Dame first suggested Sherman as a research interest to me, and Vincent P. DeSantis directed my doctoral dissertation. Vincent has since become a friend who continues to provide...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN sat quietly atop his horse that November in 1864. He was a slim six footer with piercing eyes, red hair and beard askew as always, and a face that was a corduroy of wrinkles. Before him his troops trudged forward into the Georgia...

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Chapter 1: Unstable Beginnings

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pp. 1-29

THE HUGE MAN WALKED the one hundred yards down the Main Street hill to the house of his newly widowed neighbor. He would take one of her sons, he said, "the brightest of the lot," promising to "make a man of him." Mary Sherman pointed...

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Chapter 2: Making Southern Friends

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pp. 30-51

GRADUATION FROM WEST POINT marked the end of Cump's youth but not of his youthful uncertainty. He was twenty years old, his education complete, eager to begin his military career. Significantly, he was to spend most of his early career in the...

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Chapter 3: Gold Rush Soldier

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pp. 52-76

WHEN SPRING CAME to South Carolina in 1846, "so little was stirring that a page a year would suffice for history," Sherman disgustedly wrote his brother. News of the progress of the American war against Mexico continued to drift...

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Chapter 4: Setting Down Roots

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pp. 77-92

SHERMAN'S TRIP BACK EAST in a steamship by way of Panama took only 30 days, in marked contrast to the 198 days going around the horn on the wind-blown Lexington. There were no terrible storms nor fishing for birds this time, just the regular rhythm of the...

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Chapter 5: The Disorder of Financial Life

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pp. 93-122

SHERMAN'S MARRIAGE had not provided him with the personal stability he sought. Unfulfilled, he decided to risk his one real home-the army-to see if he could find success and contentment elsewhere. He hesitated because he feared he was taking the...

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Chapter 6: Contented Southern Schoolmaster

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pp. 123-139

As SHERMAN ENTERED still another new beginning, he felt less optimistic than he would have wished. He yearned for a return to the army; a Louisiana quasi-military position was a weak substitute. Louisiana was far from Ohio, so he knew that Ellen and the...

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Chapter 7: Reluctant Warrior Under Attack

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pp. 140-170

SHERMAN BOARDED THE TRAIN in New Orleans on March 1, 1861, leaving behind his Southern friends, the military seminary he had established and nurtured, and the cadets he had come to see as his sons. He had been on the verge of putting his life in order in...

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Chapter 8: Rebirth at Shiloh

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pp. 171-187

MARCH 1862 ARRIVED in Paducah, Kentucky, with Sherman forwarding troops to Ulysses S. Grant and raising his own division for active service in the field. He seemed to be much calmer, the result of his growing relationship to Grant. The more he watched...

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Chapter 9: Restoring Order to Memphis

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pp. 188-201

HALLECK'S GRAND ARMY stood in possession of Corinth, Mississippi, after a slow campaign-an advance of less than a mile a day and construction of earthworks at every stop. There was no Shiloh surprise this time, but there was no dramatic victory either. Union...

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Chapter 10: Battling the Bayous to Reach the Vicksburg Fortress

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pp. 202-231

SHERMAN'S WORK IN MEMPHIS had been pivotal. His success in producing order out of chaos boosted his self-confidence, and his experience with the guerrillas led him to look at war in a new way. Over the next year he continued to grapple with the nature of war...

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Chapter 11: Practicing Destructive War in Mississippi

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pp. 232-258

THE DUAL VICTORIES on July 4 at Vicksburg in the West and Gettysburg in the East resulted in an optimism in Union army ranks not experienced since early in the war. Union soldiers felt pleased with their spectacular successes, though they realized that...

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Chapter 12: Atlanta Falls

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pp. 259-287

IT SEEMED LIKE A DREAM that spring of 1864. William Tecumseh Sherman was commander of the Union war effort in the entire West, from the Appalachian Mountains to Arkansas. He had become the second most powerful military man in the Federal...

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Chapter 13: March to the Sea

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pp. 288-316

THE FALL OF ATLANTA in September 1864, the reelection of Abraham Lincoln in November, and U. S. Grant's persistent hammering of Robert E. Lee in Virginia signaled the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Union military might was exerting...

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Chapter 14: Punishing South Carolina and Ensuring Victory

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pp. 317-333

SHERMAN'S MARCH ACROSS GEORGIA was the successful implementation of the use of destruction to produce order. Confederate civilians had experienced firsthand the full implication of continued resistance to Union forces-hard, unflinching war...

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Chapter 15: Fame Tarnished

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pp. 334-359

SINCE BEGINNING his Atlanta campaign in May 1864, Sherman had captured the city, marched through Georgia to Savannah, and then made the amazing movement through the water-logged Carolinas. He had rocked...

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Chapter 16: National Hero and the South's Friend

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pp. 360-376

THE WAR WAS OVER and the Union was intact, but enormous problems remained. Four years of hard conflict had resulted in over six hundred thousand fatalities and numberless widows and orphans throughout the North and South. Where armies had...

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Chapter 17: Indian Country Chaos

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pp. 377-400

WHILE WASHINGTON STRUGGLED to secure the Union in the aftermath of the Civil War, another arena of violent conflict was heating up in the West-the climax of the age-old struggle between the native American's survival and white society's...

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Chapter 18: The Anchor of Home

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pp. 401-421

DURING THE IMMEDIATE YEARS after the Civil War, while he jousted with Andrew Johnson and fought the Indians on the Great Plains, Sherman pursued a busy social life befitting his status as Civil War hero and commanding general. He was invited to social...

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Chapter 19: Commanding General Versus the Politicians

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pp. 422-444

BEING COMMANDING GENERAL was not easy. As soon as Sherman had gained the office in March 1869, he had found himself battling politicians in Washington and Indian agents in the West. Even his Civil War comrade, U. S. Grant, the new president...

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Chapter 20: Retiring from the Army and Refusing the Presidency

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pp. 445-459

THROUGHOUT THE CIVIL WAR, whenever Sherman had felt particularly upset, he had threatened to quit and go home. Afterward as commanding general, he regularly took long tours when things were not going his way. Increasingly in the late 1870s...

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Chapter 21: Safeguarding Historical Order

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pp. 460-478

SHERMAN LOOKED BACK to the Civil War as a time of glory that achieved the Union's preservation and his personal success. He had played a leading role in overwhelming the anarchy that had threatened to destroy the nation and his own future, and, in the...

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Chapter 22: A Full Life Ends

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pp. 479-499

RETIREMENT BROUGHT MAJOR CHANGES to Sherman's life, the most significant being his freedom from politicians. It did not, however, slow him down; he continued to live his life at full throttle. The lack of official duty gave him the opportunity to fill...


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pp. 501-585


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pp. 587-611


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pp. 613-635

Author Bio

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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809387625
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327850

Publication Year: 2007