Sunday, March 19, 2023

Booknotes: Man of Fire

New Arrival:
Man of Fire: William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War by Derek Maxfield (Savas Beatie, 2023).

In his foreword to Derek Maxfield's newest Emerging Civil War title Man of Fire: William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War, David Powell suggests that there are at least eight Sherman biographies worthy of the name. In the Suggested Reading section of this book, Maxfield offers his own capsule assessment of the qualities and strengths of six of them. Given that background, which includes two recent major works from James Lee McDonough (2016) and Brian Holden Reid (2020), and a vast volume of other works, Sherman's life and military career have obviously been covered in exhaustive detail and in up-to-date fashion. Nevertheless, for those seeking either a quick introduction or a modern refresher course, there is always room for more easily digestible books like Maxfield's.

As the author reveals in the introduction, the book's title refers not to the general's much-debated incendiary hard war practices but rather to his very nature, his "fire-in-the-belly courage, scorching intellect, smoldering passion, and blazing convictions." In those ways, Maxfield's Sherman is a "force of nature." (pg xix) That framework of understanding perhaps mirrors the life-theme approach adopted by Marszalek in Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order.

Infused in typical ECW fashion with numerous photographs, illustrations, and maps, the main narrative plus front matter text runs a brisk 150 pages or so. Added to that is a four-part, multi-authored appendix section that includes a register of Sherman historic sites, an English professor's perspective on Sherman's memoirs, commentary from a Sherman presenter who toured a two-man play with Maxfield's Grant, and an exploration of Sherman historical memory.

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