General Sherman's Christmas, that is. Previous Cold Spring Shops reviews of books focusing on the suppression of secession have focused on the analytics, such as the fruitful collaboration of Grant and Sherman, or the campaigning of the Army of the Tennessee. Author Stanley Weintraub gives us something different, a collection of point-of-view letters from soldiers, civilians, and correspondents illustrated with period woodcuts from Harper's Weekly. There are no spoilers in Book Review No. 25; the work provides, in one place, highlights of history as it happened. (I suppose a curious reader could find a microfilm reader in a well-equipped library and spend weeks uncovering additional nuggets: there's probably no profit by it.) We begin with the 1864 presidential election, itself historic in that no other republic with a rebellion in progress previously had held one, with the Army of the Tennessee having invested Atlanta and preparing to live off the land until it reaches the coast and links up with the Navy. We end with Savannah liberated and the Army preparing to march into South Carolina. In addition to Genl Sherman's famous present of the City of Savannah to President Lincoln, we learn that the guard forces left in Tennessee under Genl Thomas also make a present, which some wag describes as a worsted Hood.
The sources used reveal the fear of the remaining civilians as the smoke clouds on the horizon draw nearer, the contempt the Army has for the living habits of what we'd later refer to as white trash, and the ambivalence of many about both the practice of slavery and the prospects of freed blacks. Sometimes the absence of foresight is a source of whimsey: how might any of the people caught up in the march have handled knowledge that within a century a son would be born to a Kenyan and a Kansan in an offshore state, and two score and seven years later he would take the oath of office as the twenty-eighth successor to President Lincoln?