In This Review

Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea
Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea
By Noah Andre Trudeau
HarperCollins, 2008, 668 pp

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's march through Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah was perhaps the most dramatic military episode of the American Civil War, and it left an indelible mark on the American historical memory. Trudeau brings an encyclopedic knowledge of the copious controversial literature on this subject to this book and takes readers in Sherman's footsteps on a day-by-day account of the march, using journals, newspapers, and other sources to re-create everything from the weather to the conflicting guesses among the Confederates and the Yankees about where, exactly, Sherman was headed. At times, the day-by-day approach is frustrating, as a thicket of details seems to obscure the overall narrative line. However, over time, Trudeau's painstaking technique succeeds in creating an unforgettable picture of the march. By the fall of 1864, the South was in a state of political and strategic collapse. Fire-eating Confederate newspaper editors issued calls for the population to rise up and resist, and Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, dispatched a bevy of generals to face the invader, but the South was losing its will and its ability to fight on. Sherman's march exposed the futility of the Confederate cause while sharply reminding Southerners that the cost of continued resistance was likely to grow. Although the March to the Sea increased the bitterness of the war, and contributed significantly to Southern resentment in generations to come, it had decisive consequences in bringing the conflict to a close. This unconventional narrative is ultimately a very satisfying read.