I’ve been put in quarantine for the week (my nephew has COVID, but he is doing well) so I thought I would share some books that I’ve read in the last 12 months. Even though I am an avid history aficionado, I’ve mostly been interested in European history (French Revolution, Stuart England…etc.) but working from home this past year gave me a lot of time to branch out. I watched the Grant documentary last summer and off I went. I am admittedly a Western Theater person and definitely team Grant and team Sherman. I will eventually make my way over to the Eastern side of things…eventually. So, these are some of my favorite reads as a Civil War novice:
No particular order:
S. C. Gwynne: Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the Civil War. Gwynne is a journalist rather than an academic and I think it shows in his writing. This is not your dry history book but one that comes alive with the personalities and events of the final year. I plan on reading his biography on Stonewall Jackson soon.
Donald L. Miller: Vicksburg: Grant's Campaign That Broke the Confederacy.
I loved this book. As someone who is more interested in the personalities of the war rather than the battle maneuvers (though obviously important), I found this to be a good balance. I enjoyed Miller’s well-rounded analysis of the events leading up to the siege and its aftermath.
Ron Chernow: Grant:
After I watched the Grant docuseries on the History Channel, I had to read this book. I think it gives a well-rounded view of Grant and his life. I have to admit that in all the Grant bios I’ve read, I’ve come to realize I enjoy his CW years more than his Presidential years. I just want to shake him and tell him not to be so gullible!
James Lee McDonough: William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life
I’ve read quite a few books on Sherman, but this was the most well rounded. Sherman is such a complex personality that I’m not sure a complete biography is possible with him, but this is as good as any I’ve read.
Currently I am reading Grant’s Memoirs and perusing “Generals in Bronze: Interviewing the Commanders of the Civil War”. Has anyone else read this? Artist James Kelly interviewed most of the major generals in the war in an “effort to accurately portray them in their greatest moment of glory”. Two interesting anecdotes (of many, many interesting anecdotes) I’ve come across:
General David Stanley on Grant Drunk (page 190):
S[tanley]: Old [Lewis Cass] Hunt told me that Grant was drunk on pay day; they told him not to go near the Pay-master – that he had better send some one there. Grant thought [the paymaster] would not notice it, and Grant insisted on going anyhow and of course [the paymaster] noticed it and ordered him to his quarters under arrest. Hunt said he remembered perfectly well putting on his sword and sash and going over, putting him under arrest. He stayed under arrest for a few days and then he concluded he would resign and when shaking hands and bidding them goodbye, he said, “I’ll make my mark yet. I don’t propose to remain in the gutter.” And he did.
General James H. Wilson on Sherman (page 270):
Kelly writes: The General (Wilson) then told me a story how an officer went with dispatches to him one night and was shown in and knocked at Sherman’s door; Sherman appeared in his night shirt with a candle in his hand. The first thing he said was, “Did you ever see the devil?” “No,” said the officer. “I did,” said Sherman and marched off leaving him.
That may be my favorite Sherman story ever. Anyhow, some thoughts/ideas on a cold Saturday afternoon.