Sherman s Ghosts opens with an epic retelling of General Sherman s fateful decision to turn his sights on the South s civilian population in order to break the back of the Confederacy. Acclaimed journalist Matthew Carr then exposes how this strategy became the central preoccupation of war planners in the twentieth century and beyond, offering a stunning and lucid assessment of the impact Sherman s slash-and-burn policies have had on subsequent wars, including in the Philippines, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and even Iraq and Afghanistan.
In riveting accounts of military campaigns and in the words and writings of American fighting men and military strategists, Carr finds ample and revealing evidence of Sherman s long shadow. Sherman s Ghosts is a rare reframing of how we understand our violent history and a call to action for those who hope to change it.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-23
- Reviewer: Staff
On November 15, 1864, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman led 60,000 troops on a 700-mile march through Confederate territory. In their wake they left a trail of destruction that has since become the stuff of military legend. In assessing the influence of Sherman on 20th-century war, Carr (Fortress Europe) argues that his greatest contribution lies not in the march itself—though his tactics did inform Patton's Third Army and MacArthur's Pacific campaign—but rather in Sherman's willingness to wage war against civilians. Though he stops short of repeating the claim that Sherman ushered in the age of total war, Carr finds that Sherman's concept of "indirect warfare"—avoiding direct battle and instead disrupting the enemy's economy and communications while terrorizing civilians in order to bring about a swifter end to conflict—has become a lasting characteristic of American warfare, from the Philippine War of 1898 to Vietnam and the Gulf War. Even today's modern warfare, wherein the military claims to engage in decisive "surgical strikes," is in certain ways very similar. Yet seeing a fundamental morality and limit to Sherman's tactics, Carr believes the general himself would have condemned these later campaigns. Much has been made of Sherman's insistence that "war is hell." Time, it seems, has only proven Sherman more correct. Photos. (Mar.)