Academic journal article Journalism History

Sherman's March in Myth and Memory

Academic journal article Journalism History

Sherman's March in Myth and Memory

Article excerpt

Caudill, Edward, and Paul Ashdown. Sherman's March in Myth and Memory. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. 209 pp. $34.95.

General William Tecumseh Sherman has "marched to the sea a million times in national memory," according to Edward Caudill and Paul Ashdown, who use popular media to consider perceptions of the general's 1864 Georgia campaign and more. In this interesting and exceptionally well-sourced volume, the authors find: "The national memory industry remains fully engaged with the Civil War. And the dynamic cultural landscape means reinventing the war for each generation."

Indeed, Sherman has been remembered differently in different eras and regions. Gilded-age southerners viewed his march through the lenses of destruction and humiliation, while in the North, the general was a hero who waged battle successfully and without sentiment. In the hands of modern storytellers, the authors note, the war has become "a national Iliad that succumbed to modernism, a media epic replete with special effects, a tragedy, a romance, a morality tale."

Part of the "American Crisis Series: Books on the Civil War Era" edited by Steven E. Woodworth, Sherman's March in Myth and Memory is the third in a trilogy by Caudill and Ashdown that also examines Civil War notables John Mosby and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Following an introduction, the first full chapter is devoted to a mini-biography of Sherman from his early banking career and marriage to Ellen Ewing, through his military campaigns, to his belief after the war that the "Lost Cause" myth of the South distorted his contributions. Then, the book is organized by types of media. Chapter two focuses on the general's press coverage including, among other things, an account of his testy relationship with journalists, the scant coverage of his march, the origins of his famous phrase "war is hell," and obituary reports of his death. …

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