But Sherman did achieve his goal of eviscerating Southern morale, both at home and at the front, where rebel officers realized that their families and homes were unprotected. By doing that, Sherman helped bring an end to the war. He should be ranked among our top five generals, ever.
Dickey, the author of “Empire of Mud,” looks at the march mainly through the eyes of soldiers and other participants, like nurses. Perhaps as a result of this perspective, he tends to overemphasize the role of subordinate commanders like John Logan, while underestimating Sherman’s extraordinary ability to juggle troop movements, logistics and intelligence, all while adapting to a new way of war built around the railroad and the telegraph. So “Rising in Flames,” while interesting, is unlikely to take a place alongside essential texts like Joseph T. Glatthaar’s “The March to the Sea and Beyond.”
Speaking of Glatthaar, his new book, THE AMERICAN MILITARY: A Concise History (Oxford University, $18.95), carries precisely the right title. In just 127 small pages of text, Glatthaar, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gallops through American military history from the French and Indian War all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. Impressively, he manages to provide a lot more than battle histories, deftly delving into technological advances, social changes and political contexts. Anyone looking for a place to begin understanding the military history of our country would do well to start here.
It is all too easy to forget the costs of war for the people who wage it. Some 2.5 million Americans have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. In AFTER COMBAT: True War Stories From Iraq and Afghanistan (Potomac, $29.95), Marian Eide and Michael Gibler seek to construct one big narrative from interviews with 30 veterans about their experiences in those countries. Does this approach work? Yes, and far better than I expected. I finished this book wishing that there were companion volumes for the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Eide, an English professor at Texas A&M, and Gibler, a former Army officer, have compiled what amounts to a primer on what it was like to be enlisted in the Army in the post-9/11 era. People who know the military won’t be surprised by much, but others can learn a lot from it.