[PDF] Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman BY Robert L. OConnell

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A profile of the iconic Civil War general explores the paradoxes attributed to his c. Not unexpectedly Sherman s final destination was St LouisHe was buried next to Ellen and Willy in Calvary Cemetery a permanent resident at last But he was America s He played a significant role in defining us dimensionally in the nature and spirit of our fighting forces and our ethos or at least the celebrity version of it Historically he was one of the ingredients for what we became A continent for the taking brought forth people like Sherman and they in turn produced us Their energy ambition optimism and pragmatism serves to explain our own but so does their self righteousness and proclivity for violence from Robert L O Connell s Fierce Patriot The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh ShermanThe day we buried my brother in law in St Louis s Calvary Cemetery exists not so much as a linear memory than as a series of impressions Mostly I recall the heat the suffocating heat It was June and thus hot still and humid One thing stands out than the rest It was a conversation I had with one of my wife s cousins Well not really a conversation I stood there while he in uintessential weird cousin fashion told me about all the luminaries buried in Calvary Tennessee Williams Dred Scott William Tecumseh Sherman Strange to say but on that terrible day it was perhaps the sole comfort I had It seemed a good thing to rest among such luminaries I took some solace in that We visited my brother in law s grave this past winter on a blustery day uite unlike the one which saw him buried Afterwards I took Millie and Grace my two oldest girls to find William T Sherman Though Calvary is a large cemetery I did not think this would be difficult Sherman after all was one of America s greatest soldiers Along with Grant and Lincoln he can honestly be said to have done the most to save the Union My assumption was that Sherman would have a resting place akin to the tombs of those two contemporariesTurns out I was wrong After a fruitless search I finally consulted the cemetery map only to discover that I d wandered right past Sherman s burial plot As far as monuments go his is endearingly humble Sherman s headstone has crossed flags and the epitaph Faithful and Honorable There is a separate cross for Ellen his ultra Catholic wife who saw her dreams fulfilled from beyond the grave when a dying Sherman submitted to Catholicism Another tombstone with crossed flags and a drum belongs to thirteen year old Willie Sherman an honorary sergeant with the Thirteenth Regulars who died of typhus after visiting his father An American flag flutters overhead The Sherman plot in Calvary Cemetery St Louis Missouri On the lower right you can see Millie pointing out the grave of 13 year old Willie Sherman the honorary sergeant of the 13th Regulars Of all my children Sherman would later write he seemed the most preciousThere is something to be said about being in the presence of the past I felt a connection to Sherman in this spot than I would have standing in the neoclassical shadow of Grant s New York City tomb or the granite obelisk and bronze bust that bedeck Lincoln s Springfield grave Here was Sherman the prophet of modern war the transcontinentalist the General of the Armies memorialized in the most unassuming manner possible Millie L and Gracie R at the gravestone of William Tecumseh Sherman General USA Shortly after that graveside visit I decided I needed to read something on Sherman I didn t want the typical biography though I ve been there Not too long ago I read John Marszalek s Sherman A Soldier s Passion for Order which ranks among the standard Sherman bios It is thorough and comprehensive and presents a nuanced portrait of Sherman the general and Sherman the man It is also written in a straight down the middle style without any ruffles or flourishes which seems at odds with the subject who had his share of ruffles and flourishes This time around I wanted something idiosyncratic So I chose Robert O Connell s Fierce Patriot The first thing worth mentioning about Fierce Patriot is that it is not anywhere near your typical biography O Connell has eschewed chronology and instead broken Sherman s life into three different lives which comprise the three sections of this 347 page book The first and largest section is devoted to Sherman the military strategist It covers his prewar years in brisk fashion and devotes most of its space to the American Civil War O Connell follows Sherman from a shaky hesitant officer nearing a mental breakdown to a competent wingman to the ascendant US Grant and finally to a superior military commander in his own right as he captures Atlanta marches through Georgia and brings the war to South Carolina The second section is devoted to Sherman s relationship with his soldiers specifically the Army of the West O Connell traces Sherman s evolution from a man who distrusted volunteer soldiers to Uncle Billy the proud father general who spent the rest of his life attending Grand Army of the Republic Reunions The final section covers Sherman s family life specifically his long strained successful marriage to Ellen Ewing Here O Connell delves into the struggle between Sherman and his powerful foster father Thomas Ewing for Ellen s soul O Connell also spends time on Sherman s extracurricular activities such as an alleged affair with sculptor Vinnie Ream The most obvious conseuence of O Connell s approach is that it jumps forwards and backwards through time In the first section you get a pretty sweeping look at Sherman s career in subseuent sections O Connell keeps returning to the places you ve already been for amplification of different topics You cannot completely partition a person s life into discrete events Accordingly certain aspects such as the strains in Sherman s marriage tend to get repeated despite O Connell s attempts to separate the materialMillie lays a flower on the gravestone of Charles Celestine Sherman Sherman s infant son who died of pneumonia aged 6 months At less than 400 pages of text this is a really slim uick read It has nowhere near the amount of information that Marszalek provides This results in some gaps For instance you get only the briefest discussions on Sherman s post Civil War career including his role in the pacification of the western Indian Tribes If you want a full understanding of the whole breadth of Sherman s career this is probably not the place to start What Fierce Patriot does very well is entertain O Connell is a snappy and engaging writer This is a book full of dad jokes and strange metaphors at one point O Connell does an extended bit comparing generalship to surfing and earthy descriptions referring for instance to Ellen s horny letters to Sherman O Connell s purpose isn t to describe every landmark along the timeline Instead he tries to bring Sherman to life He personifies him You get a very real sense while reading Fierce Patriot what it might have been like to be in a room with Sherman William Tecumseh Sherman is an imperfect hero Though named for a famous Indian he infamously wrote about the extermination of the western tribes Though his armies helped destroy slavery he was uite clearly a racist There are times when O Connell can be a bit glib about those imperfections This is especially true with regards to Sherman s views on race which O Connell does not give a serious airing Yet O Connell s ultimate conclusion is amply supported Sherman is a great American filled with all those uintessentially American contradictions He was a ferocious defender of American government though he hated politicians with a passion He courted celebrity though he despised the press as much as he did any enemy He despised abolitionists yet freed people by the thousands and the tens of thousands Sherman s is a life worth exploring from different angles O Connell s is not the last word on this subject As I mentioned above I m not sure it s a great first word either Certainly it achieves something rare a vivid sense that you know what this person is like even though you have never met and never will

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Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman

Tributions to the Transcontinental Railroad and his tempestuous family relationships. In the morning Sherman imposed full discipline rounded up his stragglers issued one hundred rifles to such civil authorities as remained and marched on to the next stop of what O Connell aptly calls the roadshow of emancipation Sherman s culminating performance was the Grand Review of the returning armies May 23 and 24 1865 Two hundred thousand troops paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue past the boxed dignitaries of Washington and seventy five thousand cheering citizens Sherman s forces marched on the second day Whitman then clerking at the Indian Bureau noted that divisions were preceded by pioneer battalions of real Southern darkies black as tar marching smartly with shouldered axes They had felled forests and laid the log roads on which the army had crossed the Carolina swamps And taking up the rear the families of freed people who had followed Sherman s army out of bondage and into an uncertain future Black residents of Washington would also trail President Grant s second Inauguration Day parade and be jeered With Lincoln killed these generals were their hope

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Haracter to discuss such topics as his achievements as a military strategist his con. I pre ordered this book the moment I saw it on and began reading with great anticipation the day it arrived Sherman is long overdue for a full length biography and I hoped this would be it So I wish I could write that FIERCE PATRIOT THE TANGLED LIVES OF WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN by Robert L O Connell met my expectations It did not Those expectations were tempered even before I started reading When the book arrived the first thing I noticed is how short it is Mr O Connell explains in the introduction what wealth of primary sources he had to work with in choosing Sherman as his subject yet he managed to produce a book of only 404 pages 354 without the notes Obviously this was not a serious biography but I still managed to keep my expectations highThose wobbly expectations toppled over almost completely while reading the Introduction Mr O Connell admits in the introduction that not only did he not read all the primary sources dealing directly to Sherman he did not even read all of Sherman s writings He writes So you plod on until finally you come to understand you will never get through all of Sherman that you are drowning in Sherman pg xv I found that startling and as a reader a disheartening admission Am I wrong Or should a biographer read if not all of the primary sources at least everything the subject wroteMr Connell then goes on to explain that Sherman is such a complex character that he cannot be dealt with as the subject of a biography traditionally would He writes The I studied the secondary literature and recalled my exhausting swim through the primary documents the I became convinced that any attempt to confine Sherman to a single chronological track was bound to create confusion pg xviii Initially I wondered if this approach demonstrated a lack if faith in the reader or an admission by Mr O Connell that he was not uite up to the task he had brought to hand I have read than a view biographies and do not enjoy those that are written this way Biographies should reveal to the reader the life of the subject in the manner and chronology in which it was lived and experienced Only in the rarest cases is this not possible Sherman is not one of those casesObviously every human being and especially those worthy of a biography are complex than they appear on the surface But the idea that Sherman is so complex that to be understood his life has to be compartmentalized in three separate narratives seemed of an indictment of Mr O Connell as a writer and historian than it did as any meaningful insight in to the life of William T Sherman After all countless authors have written countless biographies of people infinitely complex than Sherman It seemed like O Connell decided early just to schlock it togetherI frankly almost closed the book at that point but resisting that urge I soldiered on It did not improve One of Mr O Connell s theses is that Sherman is one of history s great military strategist I came to this book with a sympathetic view of Sherman and was prepared to agree with this thesis Still I was not convinced by Mr O Connell s arguments His arguments are not well thought out nor are they well supported and at than a few points are best described as sophomoric Two flaws are typical of FIERCE PATRIOT In the section of the book that is supposed to be about Sherman the Strategist Mr O Connell manages to tell the whole story of the Vicksburg Campaign without explaining that Sherman disagreed with the strategy Grant devised and which ultimately led to the fall of Vicksburg That of course doesn t necessarily make Sherman a bad strategist but it would seem relevant to section off the book purporting to show Sherman s development into a brilliant strategist The second deals directly with Mr O Connell s grasp of his subject In writing about the first day at Shiloh he writes It was probably General Benjamin Prentiss who saved the day pg 99 Probably saved the day Without Prentiss reforming his routed troops and their stand in what is called the Hornets Nest the Union definitely loses Shilo not probably but definitely Prentiss and his men eventually had to surrender themselves but not before giving Grant several precious hours to reform the rest of the routed army and prepare a counter attack There is no doubt that the Union forces would have been completely routed and defeated at Shiloh without Prentiss s defense of the Hornets Nest there really is no probably about it Grant and Sherman readily acknowledge this fact and I have never heard or read any historian argue otherwise Mr O Connell did make one argument that I found persuasive and that is that Sherman knew and understood that he was better as chief subordinate than in command Unlike most civil war generals Sherman did not seek or want an independent command or to be as we might say today in the center chair The fact that he realized a subordinate role better suited his temperament and skill set is remarkable and Mr O Connell does a good job of arguing and supporting his argument I wanted to like and recommend FIERCE PATRIOT but found I could not it is simply too superficial and sprinkled throughout with under supported and flawed historical judgements


10 thoughts on “Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman

  1. says:

    ”He stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk; now sir we stand by each other always” William Tecumseh Sherman on his relationship with Ulysses S Grant William Tecumseh ShermanThe importance of second in commands be

  2. says:

    “Not unexpectedly Sherman’s final destination was St LouisHe was buried next to Ellen and Willy in Calvary Cemetery a permanent resident at last But he was America’s He played a significant role in defining us – dimensionally in the nature and spirit of our fighting forces and our ethos or at least the

  3. says:

    Thanks to Goodreads and Random House for the advance copy This one comes out July 1st 2014 and I highly recommend More than a biography Fierce Patriot is an historical account with a leading man William T Sherman Instead of an exhaustive life story from beginning to end O’Connell decides to dissect Sherman into sections Part 1 The Military Strategist – An outline of the strategy he used to terrorize and wh

  4. says:

    This is a good book for those who like me before reading it know only a few facts about William Tecumseh Sherma

  5. says:

    According to Robert L O’Connell in his new book AMERICAN PATRIOT THE TANGLED LIVES OF WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN the life of the Civil War hero should not be portrayed in the traditional fashion by preparing a chronological narrative because its results would be too cumbersome Instead the author has produced a fascinating book that consists o

  6. says:

    I pre ordered this book the moment I saw it on and began reading with great anticipation the day it arrived Sherman is long overdue for a full length biography and I hoped this would be it So I wish I could write that FIERCE PATRIOT THE TANGLED LIVES OF WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN by Robert L O’Connell met my expe

  7. says:

    In the morning Sherman imposed full discipline rounded up his stragglers issued one hundred rifles to such civil authorities as remained and marched on to the next stop of what O’Connell aptly calls the 'roadshow' of emancipation Sherman’s culminating performance was the Grand Review of the returning armies May 23 and 24 1865 Two hundred thousand troops paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue past the boxed digni

  8. says:

    First of all put aside the legends that have accrued to the name The March to the Sea the War is all hell uote the man simply has one of the greatest faces in American history Who but a Southerner a Tea Party nut or a pacifist could fail to see the beauty of it?Counter to the image of these steel eyes that seem to look directly into the terror of this nation's dilemma I am very surprised to hear that when this redhead s

  9. says:

    I enjoyed reading this book very much I'm not one for military biographies in general My husband is very knowledgeable in the Civil War and Napoleonic history and was uite surprised to find me reading this book Sherman was obviously one of our country's greatest generals This I knew before reading the book However where O'Connell drew me in was in his early pre military career days I found it fascinating that he had a

  10. says:

    I found the book superficial oddly segmented and full of statements that are not supported in the text O'Connell either gave up trying to write a perspicacious biography about Sherman or perhaps was not up to the task Yes Sherman was a very complex character living in a very complex time but historical biographers have been revealing such characters for years for example Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar Life of a C

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