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William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  504 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
A major new biography of one of America’s most storied military figures.
General Sherman’s 1864 burning of Atlanta solidified his legacy as a ruthless leader. Yet Sherman proved far more complex than his legendary military tactics reveal. James Lee McDonough offers fresh insight into a man tormented by the fear that history would pass him by, who was plagued by personal deb
Hardcover, 816 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published June 13th 2016)
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Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A perennial problem with biographies of military figures is that they tend to skate over all the before and after material in order to focus on what the war or military campaign that made that person famous. Thankfully, in this biography of Sherman, it is very much 'a life' as the title says - McDonough devotes as much attention to Sherman's life before and after the Civil War as the four years of its duration. After all, whilst it may have the formative experience of his life, four years out of ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The cover of James Lee McDonough’s recent biography gives a glimpse of what is inside. Staring back is the fierce gaze of an intense warrior. The colorized photograph of William Tecumseh Sherman, one of America’s greatest generals, shows a man ready for war, one who knows the terrible cost of battle and is prepared to pay the price.

“William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life” is a comprehensive look at the complex man who famously said “War is all hell.” McDonough plumbs the
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
My father loved this book and gave it to me for my 66th birthday. The huge book with 796 pages incuding the notes. I started by the end of the book and decided it was well worth the effort. A life and a book which correspods exactly to my needs of understanding today. I am ever grateful. It helps a woman to understand more deeply the life and thoughts of a great military man.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
I've long been fascinated by this guy, mostly because of his middle name, which is awesome.

Sherman, like Grant, was seemingly plucked from obscurity and a string of failures to lead the Union army during the Civil War. Unlike Grant, Sherman's brother and foster father were both U.S. Senators from Ohio and Secretaries of the Treasury. Unlike Grant, he seemed to have a strangely tense relationship with his Ohio-loving, devoutly Catholic wife as Sherman refused to ever move back to Ohio and resent
William Monaco
McDonough's new biography on Sherman does an excellent job detailing the events of the general's life, especially his antebellum years and career in the army. However, he spends so much detail outlining the many battles and marching formations that I felt like there wasn't enough of Sherman the person at the expense of Sherman the military genius.

My biggest complaint about the book is that it doesn't have a thesis. At a moment in history where war seems ubiquitous, I expected a biography of Gra
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Audio book along with hard copy and ebook
Well researched and covers all aspects of his life. The reader has a good grasp of what WTS is before the civil war. This is very important because during the CW, many factions, military professionals, politicians, and the press, put out a lot of untruths for their personal gain.
I took a long time with this in order to let each phase set in. I recommend this with studying history.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Didn’t really love it, but Sherman seems like an interesting person, if kind of terrible. That said, learned a lot I didn’t know about the Civil War and can appreciate how people get interested in seeing battlegrounds in person. Custer, Sherman...on to Grant, I suppose!
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, biography, war
A truly great biography reveals both the subject and the spirit of the times, and McDonough does both, tracing the tumultuous American adolescence through the life of General Sherman. Sherman was born in the Old Northwest of Ohio, named after the powerful Indian chief Tecumseh, who had lead a failed coalition against the Americans. After his father died, he was adopted into the influential Ewing family, and went to West Point, where he thrived as a cadet and in his early posting to Florida durin ...more
Tom Rowe
4.5 stars

I have always thought that Sherman looked like an interesting guy. In pictures, he always seems to have a scowl on his face, a five day growth of beard, and permanently tousled hair. It turns out, he is very interesting.

From semi-orphan, to West Point cadet, to soldier, to banker, to victorious general, General Sherman's life fills this 28 hour audio book with adventure after adventure. The book breaks down Sherman's life to 30% pre-war, 60% Civil War, and 10% post war. The pre-war and
William Tecumseh Sherman was one of those Civil War figures I had read a great deal about through biographies of other generals, but I had never read anything specific to him. This book is a very comprehensive look at his time before and during the Civil War. I thought the author was very fair presenting all sides of him, although he did seem to err on the side of assuming Sherman was always in the right when it came to military decisions. I wish there was more detail about Sherman after the War ...more
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very readable and well-researched biography of Sherman.

While McDonough doesn’t present anything new, his narrative is easy to read and hard to put down. He is particularly good at describing Sherman’s qualities as a military man, and how his thinking evolved within the context of the era. McDonough also brings up Sherman’s repeated subordinate commands, suggesting that this was mostly due to army politics and that Sherman preferred these positions because it allowed him to avoid political ques
Carl Rollyson
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
William Tecumseh Sherman’s (1820–91) march to the sea and burning of Atlanta are surely what distinguish him as a Civil War general, second only to Ulysses S. Grant. If Grant split the Confederacy in two during the siege and conquest of Vicksburg, Sherman brought the war home to countless thousands of Southerners. , Pillaging the land and its resources, he waged what is sometimes called total war. If he did not break the South’s will to resist, he did destroy the Confederacy’s belief that it cou ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Georgian, this is a topic that might sentence me to a few rantings by family members in the future. McDonough endeared himself to me by mentioning in the introduction that his subject had flaws, that while there were times he liked and respected him, there were also times he detested Sherman. There are many biographers who try to ignore or explain away flaws and I like these were kept.

The first point that stood out to me is most of his life seemed in conflict with the woman he married. Who
Coyner Kelley
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I will confess that the prospect of 700 plus pages of detailed reports on Civil War battles was daunting. After the prologue's description of Shiloh, I was in even though I find detailed hour by hour battle descriptions inherently challenging (By the way, I probably would not have started if a friend had not asked thrown down the fellow Southern gauntlet.) Here are five more reasons to read McDonough's biography:
1. Extensive reliance on Sherman's voluminous correspondence
Sherman often wrote 7
The American Conservative
President Rutherford B. Hayes wrapped up his speech early to the crowds at the Ohio State Fair Grounds in Columbus in August 1880 because it was slapping down rain, and he was trying to be considerate of the tens of thousands of people in attendance. But a large segment of that audience was having none of it. Thousands of old Union Army veterans set up a chant: “Sherman! Sherman! Sherman!” They didn’t mind standing in the rain if they could hear a speech from one of the men up on the stage with ...more
Fred Svoboda
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography places Sherman in the context of his time, culture, and personal life rather than merely telling the story of his Civil War success. This makes the book of far greater value than a more limited treatment and worth the time investment its length requires. Whether we are seeing Sherman as a West Point cadet, or as a banker in post-Gold Rush California, or as a military academy president in Louisiana as the Civil War is about to begin, or as an honored old man, we get a real sen ...more
David Buhler
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very well written biography of one of the most intelligent men in the military history of the USA. Using primary sources such as letters, Sherman often wrote 30 in a day, and not only his but letters of his brother John, a senator; his wife; his father-in-law; his children; his commander U.S. Grant who became a great friend of Sherman..... He is famed for his march through Georgia to the sea, but he regarded that as trivial compared to his march through the Carolinas in diffucult conditions, cro ...more
Donald Powell
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Donald by: Found in new books rack at Tacoma Public Library
Shelves: history, biography
This is long book. The descriptions of the geography, troop movements, and other battle descriptions needed better maps to really follow along in any meaningful way. As a biography it was a rich, deep view of a complicated man. As a history book it was insightful, well balanced and thorough. The history and the man together, with a vast quoting of Sherman, was fascinating and enlightening expose. It kept me rapt and thinking about war, the military, politics, racism, marriage, economics and more ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thorough and well-researched biography of Sherman makes good use of personal and official correspondence. McDonough treats Sherman fairly--explains his triumphs of strategy and tactics as well as his errors in judgment. There is plenty of insight in the words and deeds of Sherman's family, friends and colleagues. Sherman's character, humor and personality are sketched with fine attention to detail. The result is an entertaining and even-handed evaluation of a military leader ahead of his time.
Aaron Bellamy
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Having only read a handful of biographies, I can’t say this review is one you should put a lot of stock into, but for those coming from a similar place and looking for an enjoyable read, I can offer you my opinion on whether William Tecumseh Sherman by James Lee McDonough fits the bill: barely.

Toward the third quarter of this book I felt like I was reading random numbers mixed with random map locations. Unless you’re looking for great password ideas, it doesn’t make for the most exciting reading
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outside of the stuff you learn in school... even taking a class in college on the American Civil War, I can't say that I knew much about General Sherman. This book was a wonderfully well written account of the man's life. It felt well researched and the body of the book did not feel like it was just a regurgitation of bland facts.

I can say that throughout the book, my one thought kept coming back to his family. He married a woman who knew he was not religious, yet kept trying to force him to con
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
We forget how young Sherman and Grant were in in the Civil War. Early 40's which, in the nineteenth century might have been considered older than it is now. But, early 40's is still young. Sherman, as well as Grant, had not been that successful before the war and both had left the army. But their West Point connections got them back into the big show. It's hard to talk about Sherman without also discussion Grant as their military careers and success are due, in large part, to their close associa ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read "Gone with the Wind" and that novel's references to Sherman burning Atlanta. I wanted to know more and purchased this book (even after the bookstore clerk stated very clearly that "Sherman burned Atlanta"). Well, yes and no. The Confederate Army did not want the approaching Union army to get their war material (ammo, cotton, etc) which they could not carry off, so they burned what they could. Still, yes, the Union Army destroyed much of what was left.
But, this book offers more. Yes, the a
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, biography, history
Sherman is a fascinating character to read about. Like Grant and Lincoln, he came on to the stage of the civil war unexpectedly and for a while it looked like the great conflict would pass him by.

I enjoyed reading about Sherman's own thoughts between famous events like Shiloh, Forts Henry and Donelson, and the Atlanta Campaign. I also liked the analysis of the author in declaring Sherman's greatness due to his unparalleled grasp of logistics and organization.

I was surprised to learn about his p
Duane Phillips
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a lover of history, I appreciate how William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My County: A Life complements other histories I have read from this era. Also, it entices me to visit Civil War battlefields. With straightforward narrative, McDonough tells the story of a man much hated in the south to this day. Still, after reading about his life, one cannot focus on the singular slice of life for which he is famous. McDonough presents Sherman with all the complexities we humans possess. If you ...more
Wynn Netherland
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To Southerners like me, Sherman has long been a byword for the excesses and brutality of war. Chernow's Grant did much to dispel that image of the celebrated general, but this book presents a much more complete picture of the man who would march the Army of the Tennessee from Chattanooga to the sea and on to Virginia via the Carolinas.

The period of Sherman's antebellum life from West Point to California was almost as interesting as from Shiloh to Durham. I wish there had been more post-War cont
Larry Witte
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the best general in either army (definitely the top Union commander), Sherman is sometimes regarded as the first practitioner of ultimate war, which inflicts damage on civilian and military targets. This book doesn't argue that Sherman's strategy was kind to the South, but makes the point that he wasn't the cruel invader he's sometimes painted as. His battlefield victories were limited because he constantly outmaneuvered his Confederate rivals, forcing them to cede large territory. Sherm ...more
Erik Bogen
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This has been my favorite book thus far in my study of the Civil War. McDonough not only gives a detailed account of the major events in General Sherman's life but also provides great background on the goings-on in the United States and Sherman's thoughts and feelings on each. The chapters covering Sherman's participation in the Civil War double as an excellent general history of the war, particularly the Western Theater, from Shiloh to Vicksburg to Atlanta. McDonough does excellent analysis of ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a well-written biography of the famous Civil War general. Like many military men, the army was a calling for him. If you're interested in the Civil War on the "western arena" (Mississippi River), you'll enjoy this. The author gives a good description of important battles without being too detailed (for me anyway). Sherman's insight into the Confederate mentality helped him follow through in the battle--he understood the war had to affect the farmers and their families for the Confederacy ...more
Robert Clancy
Interesting account of the life and psyche of an American warrior. This complex individual was driven by some powerful demons, most of his own making. Ultimately, he out-flanked them as adroitly as he out-flanked Confederate generals Joe Johnston and John Bell Hood on his advance to Atlanta. It was interesting to note that even in the 1860's, America's news organs were heavily engaged in "fake news" and reported anything of controversy as true in order to attract readers. Also, most politicians ...more
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James Lee McDonough is professor of history at Auburn University.
“While many a Georgian condemned the Yankees for ravaging the countryside, it should be noted that the Confederates often treated Southerners just as badly, if not worse. Major” 0 likes
“He had bludgeoned the Southern will to resist the military strength of the United States. He had destroyed any realistic hope of ultimate Confederate success, and the people of the South realized that the Confederate armies could not protect them. The” 0 likes
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