Grand And Sherman: The Friendship That Won The Civil War, by Charles Bracelen Flood
It is not uncommon for students of the Civil War to be familiar with the writings of either Grant or Sherman or writings about either of them . What this particular book does, in the form of what amounts to a parallel biography of sorts, is to look at the friendship of Grant and Sherman as a means by which both men were made greater than either could have been on his own. In looking at this famous and fateful friendship, the book also reminds the reader of the importance of having a good support system–something both of these men needed for reasons of mental health–and also the benefits of trust. There were other generals who were as talented as either Grant or Sherman in the army, and neither general was without flaw, but the absolute confidence that both of these generals was able to place in the other was of immense importance in determining the course of the Civil War and leading to Union victory. Of interest as well is the way this book demonstrates the immense lack of trust Grant and Sherman had with other important people, as well as the trust that they had for Lincoln and that Lincoln had for them.
As far as the contents of this book are concerned, the 400 pages or so of this book are divided into twenty chapters with a short prologue and epilogue (called L’Envoi) that take a chronological view of the lives of Grant and Sherman with a special focus on their interactions during the Civil War. Attention is paid to the high and low points of the careers of both men and how both managed the difficult tasks of strategic insight, tactical skill in the face of battle, managing unruly subordinates, displaying political finesse in dealing with superiors in the civil and military spheres, and engaging with the press and civilians. The book does not sugarcoat the failures or overplay the successes of the two, showing a nuanced and complicated look at how Grant and Sherman were able to build rapport with each other through the demonstration of mutual loyalty over the course of their careers during the Civil War. In an age where communication was becoming more instant and campaigns much more complicated in nature, a development that prefigured many later developments in war, the author sensibly argues that the trust built between Grant and Sherman was decisive in providing for the Union victory despite the flaws of both men.
In many ways, the author’s discussion of the career of both men follows a fairly traditional set of stories. There are discussions of Grant’s poverty before the Civil War, his deeply romantic marriage with his wife, Sherman’s nervous temperament and inveterate hostility towards the media, Grant’s drinking, as well as the failures at Cold Harbor and the murky nature of the reporting on the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Readers who are familiar with the biographies of both men will likely find much here that is familiar. What may be novel is the way that the book focuses on loyalty and trust, with the implications that successful friendships and partnerships in our own lives requires that we be able to build the same sort of trust and confidence with others. As someone who has struggled my entire life with issues of trust and confidence, this book was a familiar reminder of the importance of successfully resolving such issues in life, and although this book was a long one, it certainly was able to hold interest from beginning to end, thoughtfully written and well-researched.
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