A highly readable and rich exposition of the development of Union strategy during the American Civil War and how Grant and Sherman rose from near-obscurity and failure to become the major military leaders of that conflict on the Union side. The book is not only a military history, but also a history of the personal struggles of both men and their families throughout their careers. It is a story of how their deep trust of each other grew and supported them over time ultimately ensuring that both men were able to work successfully to win the war for the Union.
An example of the workings of their relationship was when Edwin Stanton ( Secretary of War ) stirred up destructive rumours in Washington and in the press of the north, virtually accusing Sherman of treason due to Sherman’s proposed peace terms to General Johnson and half of the Confederate army ( this was before Lee’s surrender to Grant). Grant worked with Sherman so ensure that a divisive confrontation within the Union was dissipated and the surrender was done fairly and relatively justly.
I found this book hard to put down. The way things are presented is much like reading a novel where we learn lots of background plots and plans and meetings, changes of direction, character development and so on. It gives you a picture of the massive waste of lives in the war, It helps you see how the soldiers doing the fighting felt about their leaders, their adversaries and the back-and-forth developments of the war. For example when Sherman was trashing his way through Georgia with 62,000 soldiers, there were thousands of slaves who left the plantations and followed the troop trains. It became interesting in human terms, how the army related to these ‘freedmen’.
The book strives to show how the conquerors related to those they defeated and vice versa in many tangled situations. It is complex and worth reading about. It was a turbulent and terrifying time for millions of people.