Book Review: Sherman’s March

Sherman's MarchSherman’s March by Burke Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though this book was published in the far ago, ancient past of 1980, Davis brings to the table a boatload of narrative I’ve not seen addressed to this degree elsewhere. As claimed, he certainly did his share of digging, through obscure and doubtless even difficult to locate local historical societies throughout the North and South. His reliance on these previously unknown journals, magazine articles and even books that have “fallen off the table” as it were makes this a very different sort of read from most works of history.

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Since I enjoyed the work quite a bit more than I even expected, and I think he needs an “A” for effort for the hard work he put into assembling the book, I had to give this one four stars. However, there is one very important element missing here: context. What is not covered in much detail is any sense of the strategic effect of Sherman’s March. Which is a pity, since I came from the book with an (admittedly unproven) sense that Davis could have written just as well on this matter as he does in presenting some of his more micro-level details.

If he had let go of some rather unimportant and gossipy stuff, he might have been able to take a stab and give those of us in the great ignorant unwashed the context we need. As one example of what I mean: Did he really need to spend pages and pages on the dalliance between General Kilpatrick (Sherman’s cavalary commander) and Columbia, SC “belle” Marie Boozer? He even provided a brief biography of her curious post-war life, something he did not in fact seem interested in doing for most of Sherman’s immediate subordinates, as in Howard, Slocum, and even Kilpatrick himself.

But on balance I’ll take what I was given. This work is truly a gem, with a unique perspective, great readability and a legion of very interesting quotations I wish I had marked down and scanned as I was reading. In fact, I may mark this book as a “to re-read” for that very reason, though I’ll have to see if I have the energy for the task.

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