Sherman's March in Myth and Memory by Edward Caudill and Paul Ashdown
I did not like this book. It was not what I thought it would be, although I had previously read their volume on Nathan Bedford Forrest so I knew what I was getting into. When I saw this on the library shelves I thought it might tackle the march in some constructive terms. For instance many authors describe this march as a nonstop looting and pillaging, leaving nothing but ashes in their wake. But if you follow the march today you see too many antebellum houses for this to have been true. I hoped in examining the myth of the march the authors would have done some sort of study into just how much was destroyed. Maybe an examination of census records to see what the value of property (houses and crops) was in 1860 versus 1870. Even a population comparison would have made sense. If Sherman really turned this area into a wasteland than there should be far fewer people living there in the 1870 census. Instead the authors focused their efforts on Sherman's march in the public memory. They discussed how the march, and Sherman, has been portrayed in books and movies. This seemed to be their focus. And that's fine, but when I think of a book examining the myth of the march I expect some sort of calculation of how severe it actually was. Maybe it was every bit as brutal as has been portrayed, or maybe it was much less severe. I want to know what the author thinks. I do not want to read a book about how Sherman and the march have been portrayed in novels, that does not interest me at all.
I liked their volume on Forrest. I didn't agree with all of their conclusions but I thought it was a good book, mostly because it challenged you to think more critically about Forrest. I did not come away with the same feeling on this book. I'm glad I got this book from the library and did not waste my money on it.
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