shermans march to the sea

7

The Florence Stockade- From September 1864 through February 1865 approximately 16,000 Union soldiers were held captive in Florence.

Florence County, South Carolina-This illustration looks from the south wall along the sole water source for the prison, the Pye Branch of Stockade Creek. 

A stockade was constructed here to accommodate prisoners, previously incarcerated at Andersonville and other prisons in south Georgia. These prisoners were moved as a result of Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union Forces heading to Savannah in the now famous “March to the Sea.” Approximately 2,802 Union soldiers died and many are buried as “unknowns” in the adjacent Florence National Cemetery. The Friends of the Florence Stockade held an official public opening on May 31, 2008. The site now includes parking area, and offers an interpretive gazebo and guided walking trail with interpretation about the history of the stockade.

In the five months this stockade was in operation, as many as 18,000 Union soldiers were held there. With an initial death rate of 20 to 30 men a day, a total of about 2,800 would perish. Among them were as many as 14 of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey soldiers captured on May 14, 1864 during the fighting on Myer’s Hill, near Spotsylvania Courthouse. Accurate death and burial records failed to survive the war, and these men may likely be interred in the 16 burial trenches containing 2,167 “unknowns”, at what is now the Florence National Cemetery.

The Stockade as it looks today, photos submitted to the Civil War Parlor by http://southcarolinadove.tumblr.com/

Sherman’s Engineers Tear Up A Length Of Track In Atlanta  

“The excitement, the exhilaration, ay the rapture, created by this arrival will never be forgotten,” a naval officer wrote. The end of the war seemed in sight.

In the scouts’ wake lay a broad zone of destruction carved through the heart of Georgia all the way back to Atlanta, 250 miles away.

It was a trail of burned mills and railroad stations, emptied barns and corn cribs, ransacked homes and vacant chicken coops.

There were charred bridges, burned courthouses and dead slave-hunting dogs killed by Northern soldiers.

There were miles of ripped-up railroad, with the ties incinerated and the rails bent around trees to prevent them from being used again.

(Library of Congress)/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/gen-william-t-sherman-the-restless-warrior-who-led-the-march-to-the-sea/2014/09/11/ba165c9a-32b1-11e4-9e92-0899b306bbea_story.html?utm_term=.8b38bf7725be

Best Books of 2014: Part I

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty happy that 2014 is finally over and 2015 is here! It’s been a strange year in almost all aspects and downright bad in quite a few, but I’ll give it this: there were some really great books released in 2014. In fact, this list actually changed quite a bit in December alone as I got through more of the new books stacked around my office and realized just how good some of 2014’s releases were.

Of course, I haven’t read everything, so there will certainly be glaring exceptions and passionate disagreements. I also don’t read very much fiction, so my list is dominated by non-fiction, as you might expect. It is also history-oriented, for obvious reasons. And while I didn’t get a chance to read everything, I did read a lot of books in 2014 – I think the final number ended up being about 220 books that I got through this year – so, quite frankly, I’ll probably leave some books out that just totally slipped my mind as I was putting this list together.

But whether you agree or disagree, hopefully I’ll point a few of you in the direction of some fantastic reads. There was no absence of them in 2014, so here we go:

Honorable Mentions:
An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Todd S. Purdum/Henry Holt & Co./416 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
Lost Islamic History: Reclaiming Muslim Civilization From the Past by Firas Alkhateeb/Hurst/256 pages
Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby/Little, Brown & Co./720 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest For Fortune, 1848-1853 by Edward Dolnick/Little, Brown & Co./368 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee by Michael Korda/Harper/832 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)

#30
The Popes: Every Question Answered: From Saint Peter to Pope Francis: The Fascinating Biographies of All 266 Popes by Rupert Matthews/Thunder Bay Press/400 pages
It is difficult to find books that remain consistently good when they try to piece together the history of the Papacy through individual biographies of each of the 266 Popes. In fact, this may be the best effort I’ve ever found. It’s not a definitive history of Catholicism, but it isn’t meant to be. Matthews does a tremendous job encapsulating each of the Popes – an almost impossible mission with the dizzying number of pontiffs, confusion stemming from regnal names and antipopes, and the simple fact that much of Papal history is very ancient history. Great read, and one of those really fantastic quick-reference books that writers like me love.

#29
Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman/William Morrow/336 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
The story of Michael Rockefeller’s disappearance in New Guinea in 1961 is riveting enough without the tremendous reporting of Carl Hoffman. With Hoffman comes a long-awaited answer to the half-century-old question of what happened to the son of one of America’s most important politicians of the mid-20th Century, New York Governor (and, later, Vice President) Nelson Rockefeller.

#28
The Explorers: A Story of Fearless Outcasts, Blundering Geniuses, and Impossible Success by Martin Dugard/Simon & Schuster/304 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
This book needed 200 more pages and a sharper focus, but I can’t totally fault Martin Dugard because he makes it clear why he tells the story of the Burton/Speke Expedition to find the source of the Nile by threading it together with what has historically driven explorers to do what they do. I say that this book could have been better, but that’s not to say that it’s still not worth your time. Dugard is a fantastic storyteller, and he’s always in his element when writing about explorers and the subject of exploration.

#27
Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson/Penguin Press/320 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
The previous author is in his element when writing about exploration; few American historians know the Civil War better than the legendary James M. McPherson. The Pulitzer Prize-winner has written about the war from every possible angle, and McPherson followed up a 2008 book on Abraham Lincoln’s role as Commander-in-Chief with this 2014 book looking at the other American Commander-in-Chief of the Civil War – Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Despite Davis’s previous military service (he was a West Point graduate and Mexican War hero) and the fact that he is remembered as one of the most influential and important Secretaries of War/Defense in American history, as President, Davis’s micromanagement and strained relationships with his military leaders helped doom the Confederacy.

#26
James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney/Viking Adult/576 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
Don’t overlook this book because of who the author is married to. The wife of the former Vice President extensively researched the 4th President and Father of the Constitution, and this is a scholarly effort – not the vanity project of a political wife as some detractors unfairly categorize the book, largely due to Dick Cheney’s unpopularity. James Madison is an immensely important figure in American history, and Dr. Cheney dispels the myth that Madison was little more than the meek, sickly, brainy little brother of the Founders. This book portrays Madison as an intellectual force – not only the person who largely crafted the Constitution, but the Founder who also got it ratified; an early “Master of Congress”; an indispensable adviser to Washington, close friend and compatriot of Jefferson, and rival of Hamilton; and, importantly, Commander-in-Chief during the most dangerous crisis that the new republic had yet faced (the War of 1812).

#25
The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power by Jules Witcover/Smithsonian Books/592 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
There are scores of Presidential historians – hell, there are even goofy guys on Tumblr who think they are Presidential historians, answer reader’s questions, and write long-ass “Best Books of 2014” lists – but Jules Witcover has the Vice Presidential historian beat covered. A legendary political journalist, Witcover has covered Presidential campaigns from as many angles as James M. McPherson has written about the Civil War. But I find Witcover’s insight on the Vice Presidency to be his best work. He’s written two books on Spiro Agnew (one on Agnew’s rise to the Vice Presidency and another on the fascinatingly odd relationship between Agnew and the man who picked him to be his Vice President, Richard Nixon); a 1992 book called Crapshoot on the often random history of selecting VPs; a solid 2010 biography on Joe Biden that spotlights what Biden overcame on his journey to the Vice Presidency; and this collection of biographies on each of the 47 Vice Presidents of the United States. Witcover uses the VPs to deftly chronicle how the type of individuals who served in the office changed as the position itself become more-and-more important and influential.

#24
Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O’Connell/Random House/432 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
Since 2011, we’ve been able to look forward each year to a host of books marking the 150th anniversary of various events from the American Civil War. While 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, Antietam was a major topic of 150th anniversary books in 2012, Gettysburg in 2013, and 2015 will see countless books on the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. In 2014, many books remembered the rise of William Tecumseh Sherman, and General Sherman’s March to the Sea. No book captured the passions and determination of General Sherman better than O'Connell’s Fierce Patriot.

#23
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/1,104 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
I must admit that my musical tastes – and the list of books that I read about musicians – is dominated more by modern music than classical composers. There is significantly more Tupac than Tchaikovsky in my iTunes, and I’ve probably read more about Biggie than Beethoven. But Jan Swafford’s biography of Beethoven was always difficult to put down – which is interesting because, at over 1,100 pages, Swafford’s book was also kind of hard to actually pick up! When someone describes a “majestic” or “soaring” and “definitive” biography, this is the type of book that they are talking about.

#22
Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J. Unger/Simon & Schuster/448 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
Unger’s book is just beautifully done – every aspect of it. The book itself – the cover, the art pictured inside of it, even the colors of the cover and binding complement each other perfectly, as wonderfully as you would expect a biography of Michelangelo to be. On top of that, Miles J. Unger – an expert on Renaissance-era Italy who has previously set his talents on equally fascinating characters such as Machiavelli and Lorenzo de’ Medici – structures this book in an artistically-pleasing manner. Unger tells Michelangelo’s story through six of the artist’s great masterpieces, making this a biography in six acts: the Pietá, the Last Judgment, David, the Medici Chapel, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Somehow, an author writing a book about an artist known for his visual masterpieces is able to connect the history of 500-year-old art in a manner that feels almost lyrical. Michelangelo – the book (and the man) – is just art. Pure art.

#21 (tie)
John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan/Harper/672 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
•••
Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic by Charles N. Edel/Harvard University Press/432 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
It’s always fun when books come out during the year that you’re not expecting, especially when the subject is long due for the credit he deserves. Over the past five years, the second trio of Founding Father Presidents (Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams) have been spotlighted, explained, Reconsidered (see #26), and, to an extent, rehabilitated. John Quincy Adams seems to be the biggest winner over the past five years, as the subject of books by Joseph Wheelan, Jane Cook, Harlow Giles Unger, Charles N. Edel, Fred Kaplan, and, just this week, Phyllis Lee Levin. In 2014’s books, JQA is seen by Edel as an important, unique link between the the Founders (the generation of Washington and Adams’s own father), the Founders’ sons (JQA himself, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay), and the generation of Civil War-era leaders like Abraham Lincoln. Kaplan’s book uses the subtitle “American Visionary” and declares Adams as not just ahead-of-his-time, but progressive enough to set a standard for late-20th and early-21st Century leaders. John Quincy Adams will never be considered a “great” President, but more-and-more historians – and, through the words and work of those historians, followers of American history – see Adams as a misunderstood, bold, innovative, and even radically enlightened American leader whose four years in the White House were simply a speed bump amidst nearly seven decades of public service to a nation that literally grew up alongside him.

#20
Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico by M.M. McAllen/Trinity University Press/480 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
As the Civil War raged in the United States, French forces streamed across the Atlantic Ocean to “intervene” in Mexico – a bid by Emperor Napoleon III of France (nephew of Napoleon) to impose France’s sphere on influence upon the Western Hemisphere. In 1864, Napoleon III installed Archduke Maximilian, the younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, as Emperor of Mexico. Maximilian’s grip on his European-fabricated throne was perilous from the start – Republican forces under Benito Juárez continued to fight the monarchy imposed on them by the European imperialists. When the Civil War ended and the U.S. government turned its focus further south at the flagrant violation of the Monroe Doctrine, French forces withdrew from Mexico, and Maximilian lost his protectors. Though his wife, Carlota (daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium), had returned to Europe to gather allies for Maximilian’s Mexican empire, Maximilian remained. The Austrian Emperor of Mexico was captured by Mexican Republicans and executed by a firing squad along with Mexican monarchists who had supported the regime. M.M. McAllen gives clear insight on this overlooked chapter of North American history.

#19
A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III by Janice Hadlow/Henry Holt & Co./704 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
American rebels did the unthinkable in 1776 when they focused their grievances on King George III with the Declaration of Independence. It was at this point that the revolution truly became of a point of no return. Each man who signed the Declaration, as well as any colonist who put down their plow and picked up a musket, was committing treason in the eyes of the King and His Majesty’s government. But even if you somehow strip away the politics and the war, the long life of King George III remains endlessly fascinating. Janice Hadlow looks at the tumultuous, often tortuous, private life of George III and his intimate relationships in this meticulously-researched volume – one hell of a debut by Hadlow in her very first book.

#18
Faisal I of Iraq by Ali A. Allawi/Yale University Press/672 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
The first image that comes to most people’s minds when they think about the Middle Eastern front during World War I is T.E. Lawrence – “Lawrence of Arabia” – wearing traditional Arab robes and riding camels with Arab infantry and irregulars as they battled the Ottoman Turks. But Lawrence himself pictured one man as the leader and, in fact, the only man capable of holding together the disparate tribes of the Levant, sorting through the various blood feuds and ancient rivalries, to lead the Arab Revolt that would, hopefully, guarantee a measure of Arab independence following the war. Lawrence saw Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein, the Emir of Mecca and King of Hejaz, as that Desert Warrior. Lawrence had taken measure of Hussein’s other sons and believed that Faisal was the only one with the poise to lead bands of Arab guerrillas in the revolt against the better-trained, better-equipped Turks. Ali A. Allawi gives Faisal the full treatment with a biography with deeper research than any other work previously written about the leader of the Arab Revolt during WWI and close friend of Lawrence of Arabia, who later became the first King of Iraq.

#17
Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar/Bloomsbury USA/448 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
Unless you are Muslim, you cannot get to Islam’s holiest place. Signs along the highway approaching the birthplace of Muhammad warn non-Muslims that Mecca – a city of over 1.5 million people that is visited by over 15 million pilgrims a year – is off-limits to them. Mecca is the site of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth and a couple of miles away from the cave where the Qur'an was first revealed to him. In the middle of the Al-Masjid Al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque) is the Kaaba – the spot where Muslims everywhere in the world direct their prayers. All Muslims who are able to make the trip are obligated to make the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages at least once in their life. For non-Muslims like me, Ziauddin Sardar gets us as close to the holiest place in Islam as possible in his book, Mecca: The Sacred City. Sardar opens up the city to us and teaches us the history of Mecca, from before Muhammad’s time to his conquest of the city and Islam taking its place as a global religion. Sardar writes with clarity, candor, and even a bit of humor as he takes us one of the world’s holiest sites – a city visited by a steady stream of pilgrims, yet closed to the majority of people on the planet.

#16
The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio/Knopf/432 pages (BOOK | KINDLE)
His name was Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, and one of his nicknames was “Le Héros des Deux Mondes” – “the Hero of Two Worlds”. We know him better as the Marquis de Lafayette. In fact, he’s become mononymous in the United States – like Elvis or Prince or Beyoncé, one name is sufficient enough for “Lafayette”. If the city you live in doesn’t have a square or a plaza named for Lafayette, there is almost certainly a street sign carrying his name. Lafayette came to the United States as the Revolutionary War raged, landing in 1777, and being commissioned as a Major General in the Continental Army. He was 19 years old. His service in the United States made him such a revered figure in American history that he’s one of just a handful of foreign citizens who have been made honorary citizens of the United States. Lafayette was so close to George Washington that the childless Founding Father considered the Frenchman as a son. He had brotherly relationships with Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe, and many of the men he fought along the side of – and led into battle – even though he was significantly younger than many of them. And French. Yet, he is not remembered as fondly in France, and spent five years in a French prison during the French Revolution before eventually being released by Napoleon. To this day, Lafayette has completely different legacies in his home country and the nation he helped to create. And even that legacy is questioned by some as not much more than an opportunity to claim some glory that he couldn’t find in France. Laura Auricchio’s biography, The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered, shows us that the life of the Marquis was full of contradictions, great achievements and colossal disappointments, courageous actions and deep hopes, but also demons and weaknesses. Perhaps that makes the most sense of all – that the many paradoxes of the Marquis de Lafayette is why he fits in so well with the Founding Fathers of memory. They were all deeply-flawed men, and overcoming those weaknesses to forge a great republican experiment is proof of just how extraordinary they – and our original system – truly were.

Next: We will finish up the Best Books of 2014 tomorrow with Part II: The Top 15 Books of 2014!

SHERMAN’S CHRISTMAS PRESENT- SAVANNAH 

Sherman captured the city after his famous March to the Sea from Atlanta. Savannah had been one of the last major ports that remained open to the Confederates.

The dispatch of Gen. Sherman and Gen. Foster:

Savannah, Ga., Dec. 22.

To His Excellency, President Lincoln:

I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.

(Signed.) W. T. Sherman, Major-General