Book Review – a short summary of ‘Sherman’s March’ by Richard Wheeler

This Post is not intended as a detailed review of the book or the American Civil War; that is well covered in “a thousand other books” that is best left to the trained historian.

Anastasia did a full review of ‘Andersonville’ on the Southern Prisoner of War Camp by the same name in her Post at:

Her review drew excellent comments including comparisons with other atrocities in the same war and some elsewhere.  Wheeler himself wrote a number of Civil War books and the one that I present to you now is just on the famous Sherman March to end the War.  My 1991 Harpers Perennial Edition aptly describes it in a cover page statement as “An eyewitness History of the Cruel Campaign that helped End a Crueler War”

Sherman’s Mission was to end the War by forcing the South to surrender and he set about that on his march from Tennessee through Georgia and into the Carolina’s.

The ‘North’ is probably slightly favored by the author but in doing so it does provide an excellent alternative view of how the war came about.

Sherman became a hated man in the South but though his mission to end the war was clear his troops showed remarkable restraint on their long campaign that lasted a full year.  His “battle plan” was to destroy the supply and communication routes to the Southern armies, to disrupt and/or destroy their food supplies but to cause as little harm as possible to human life.

His troops lived off the land; foraging for their own supplies and getting it to their soldiers was part of the daily routine; they took whatever they needed from farms, plantations and towns [some were allowed to take a little more than needed] and burned down or destroyed what was left.  They took over towns and cities where they stopped for official accommodation and set them on fire when they left.  They took all arms and ammunition from housewives and city rulers and left them with their lives and very little else.

Incidents of chivalry occurred because Sherman had studied with many of his old friends at West Point and here and there an ‘old acquaintance’ merited some kindness.

There is only one place where revenge entered and is mentioned in the book.  You would be quite right if you guessed South Carolina; it is poignant in a way but I shall let the reader find it in the book.  Yes, South Carolina had fired the first shot that started the War.  His troops wanted Fort Sumter from which that first shot had come and Sherman allowed them that one time to take revenge.

His business was, after all, to end the war by forcing full acceptance of defeat and total surrender onto the South.  That followed almost immediately after South Carolina fell.

I should perhaps include a small fact on the life of William Tecumseh Sherman to describe the other less well-known side of the man.

Calvin Coolidge [the taciturn one] who could have and many said would have won a second term but chose instead to call a press conference while on holiday in South Dakota and announced that “I will not be running for re-election,” and walked out of the room [for 1928, I think it was].  He became the first one to say no to that power.

After the war Sherman was invited and put under strong pressure but declined all offers and efforts to convince him to run for the Presidency with his famous words:

 “If nominated, I will not stand; if elected, I will not serve.”

 I recommend this book for those who believe that one should take sides in War.  If you have read other works that convinced you to take sides, read this one.  It may just change your mind, as it did to me.

21 Responses to “Book Review – a short summary of ‘Sherman’s March’ by Richard Wheeler”

  1. Ike Jakson Says:

    Yes Anastasia

    As I said in your Post on Andersonville I would like you to read and review War and Remembrance but take your time; it is a large tome compared to MacKinlay Kantor’s Andersonville.

    First however, please do us a review on this book.

    It is unique in the sense that some would call it a book on the Civil War but it is really a book on a campaign to end the war. It is not a tome and an easy read; only 241 pages including the Index and Bibliography in the last 12 pages.

    I would love to see your review.

  2. Cheech Says:

    Ike, my people did not leave Georgia until 1895. I’m sure Sherman may have missed them in his “March To The Sea”,
    Because they lived a quite a bit north of Atlanta.

    • Ike Jakson Says:

      Thanks Cheech

      Good for your family.

      I have friends where I always parked my Motorhome In a small town named Hiram also well out north to northwest of Atlanta during my absence.

      These guys are born, bred and raised in the area and they showed me pictures of old Atlanta before and after Sherman. Sherman’s troops had virtually burned the entire old city down before they left there.

  3. anatheimp Says:

    Ike, super blog. I will read this book. It may do something to shift my anti-Sherman prejudice. I’m about to touch on this, as you will discover shortly. 🙂

    • Ike Jakson Says:

      Great Anastasia

      Yes, I hope it does something about your “anti-Sherman” feelings because I had them too once.

      Have you read the very first comment? It was specifically for you.

      I look forward to “discover shortly” what you refer to in your last line.

  4. Bob Mack Says:

    Haven’t read Wheeler’s book yet. I’ve read Andersonville, and John Ransom’s diary, among many others. My anti-Sherman bias resulted from a reading of many 1st person accounts and my own bias about making war on civilians. But war ain’t ever a Sunday picnic, so my final judgment on the man has yet to be rendered. Same with Andersonville, where Lincoln & Grant carry much blame for denying prisoner exchanges, thus leading to the deplorable overcrowding. Remember too, the notorious Andersonville raiders were Union prisoners, and the Confederates hung ’em for their depredations.

    • Ike Jakson Says:

      Hi Bob

      Thanks for your perspectives; my belief has always been to read all sides of the story before I take side or form an opinion. I would love to continue this line with you.

      At this stage I therefore, wish to make one correction if I may. I read Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor and his view is very clear that the Union Raiders [who were raiding and killing their own comrades] were apprehended, tried and hanged by their fellow Union Prisoners of War though they had obtained permission to do so from the Confederate Camp Command. I think it is important that we agree on this.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      • Bob Mack Says:

        Ike, I think you’re right about that. I no longer have Ransom’s diary, & it’s been a while since I read it, but your comment rings a bell in my failing belfry.

        In the Civil War, disease killed more troops than combat, & combined with overcrowding and a lack of sanitation, it was even more deadly. The sanitation at Andersonville was appalling. Everybody had diarrhea, and if you’ve seen the pics, you’ve seen the sinks that contaminated the drinking water. I remember my own basic training in January of ’66, it was the first big round of call-ups for Vietnam, and since there wasn’t enough space in the barracks, we were housed in tents with kerosene heaters. EVERYBODY was sick, there were outbreaks of meningitis–and that was with decent food & medical treatment and under more or less optimal conditions.

      • Ike Jakson Says:

        Hi Bob

        Thanks for coming back so fast, and with extra detail too from personal experience. I appreciate.

        If you would keep an eye on the relevant Posts I will regard it as fortunate on my part. But I would like to establish the “truth” about Sherman. I don’t have any deep personal interest [if for instance I was wrong then I was] but it was too important a part of American History to encumber with personal or biased likes and dislikes of personalities.

        Thanks again.

    • Ike Jakson Says:

      Hi Bob

      I forgot an important point.

      The catalyst for my Post was a Post by an English Historian name of Anastasia on Andersonville in her Post:

      In there I referred her and her readers to your Post on Pearl Harbor in:

      The original catalyst for my present Post that you are reading now however, was my own review on Andersonville that you will mind in:…-and-read-again-…-and-soon-once-more-…-one/

      It will be an honor to me if you read and comment in the latter, well which was really the first one that started all this off.

      • Bob Mack Says:

        Ike, in case you missed it, I have a link to the complete run of Harper’s Weekly Civil War issues on my site. Here it is: Very interesting reading, although completely from the Northern point of view. Great woodcut illustrations too, including some Winslow Homer stuff.

      • Ike Jakson Says:

        Thanks Bob

        See my comment at the end for the benefit of Anastasia. I shall visit your link.

  5. anatheimp Says:

    Ike, so far as your comment is concerned, yes, I have. Thank you so much for featuring me here in such a way.

    On Sherman’s March I’ve been to Amazon and the only book I can find under that title is by Burke Davis. I can’t find anything appropriate under the name Richard Wheeler. I assume this is a different book? Anyway, I now have it in my basket along with Sherman’s own Memoirs – a real tome – and those of U.S. Grant.

    • Ike Jakson Says:

      It is a pleasure to work with you Anastasia and I owe you thanks.

    • Ike Jakson Says:


      I sometimes reply straight from my Google Inbox as comments come through and did so in this case but only saw the first paragraph. I must watch out for that.

      I feel a great disappointment welling up inside now that I have the bad news from your side but I shall have a look. On the other hand, it may give us an extra view and that is always a good thing.

      Thanks for returning to my Post with your message. I have to keep things together where they belong together because I have my own methods of research and will be lost without it. That’s why I may sometimes, like the other day, just drop a short “please read request” in another Post and that way I also don’t bore or disturb others in the topic at hand.

      I hope we can find Wheeler’s edition.

      • anatheimp Says:

        Not to worry, Ike. I should be able to get it from the university library when the new term starts.

      • Ike Jakson Says:

        Thanks Anastasia

        I was compelled by some comments in your Post [Seeker et al] to open my copy of the March and started paging through it. Then I read the last chapter again and the epilogue and that did it. I have just re-read the entire book for the third time.

        Please, I admire your work and the enormous area that you cover, but a great please, do read that book whatever trouble you have in getting it. I would like to hear your view on Sherman, Lincoln and others after that.

        I am going to take it easy now for the approaching holidays.

        Have a good Xmas time with your loved ones and thank you for the opportunity to work with you.

  6. Nolanimrod Says:

    re: Coolidge

    He was Calvin. Galvin was his brother who, after a night of enthusiasticly violating the prohibition laws of the day, decided to capitalize on his famous brother by declaring on the radio that he was going to start a cat-house and that the business of America is Hanky-Panky.

    Galvin was sometimes confused with Kelvin, who asserted that the temperature of absolute zero is -274 Centigrade, which was about the temperature of Galvin’s wife by the time he put in an appearance at home.

    • Ike Jakson Says:


      Thanks for correcting or showing up my typo with Calvin Coolidge. It was such a glaring error and I have made the change. Thanks also for the other bits about the Coolidge Family.

  7. Ike Jakson Says:


    I am becoming a nervous wreck about Bill Sherman; it is so essential to understand the March to understand Lincoln’s choice of Sherman for the task and Sherman’s choice of operation

    I took the description on the front cover of my Edition and entered it into my Google bar and pressed; this is what I had in there:

    “Sherman’s March Richard Wheeler An eyewitness History of the Cruel Campaign that helped End a Crueler War”

    Some links came up and I followed one or two. The picture of the actual book in one is exactly like my copy and the cover page description is there word for word.*:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&rlz=1I7ACEW_enZA348ZA348

    9781433258312: Sherman’s March: An Eyewitness History of the Cruel … Sherman’s March: An Eyewitness History of the Cruel Campaign That Helped End a Crueler War Library Edition (9781433258312) by Wheeler, Richard ……/Shermans-March-Eyewitness-History-Cruel…/plp – Cached

    Good hunting. May I ask once more if we can get through the preliminaries right here in this Post in order not to bore other readers but please also shout in my direction if I can be of further assistance.

  8. Ike Jakson Says:

    Hi Bob

    This is when I enjoy Blogging; we should always try to look at all viewpoints and I enjoy the fellowship while doing that. Some Blogging becomes irrelevant without the search for more and more, even when differences crop up. Differences are good things because it helps you to grow into a better person.

    I shall now visit your link.

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