Monday, July 9, 2012
Just Finished Reading
We all know that Appomattox has long received the credit - however incorrectly - for ending the war, but Bennett Place probably has the more intriguing story; at least author Mark Bradley certainly makes a convincing case for it being so.
In This Astounding Close, the story of Sherman's veterans and bummers and Johnston's diehard Confederates finally get the coverage they deserve as they traveled from the Battle of Bentonville (March 19-21) until the final surrender agreement...and even beyond. Bradley makes good use of various perspectives to tell this not so well known episode of the Civil War. Of course, leading military figures such as Sherman and Johnston come in for their fair share of treatment, but so do lesser known individuals such as Union Major Henry Hitchcock and Confederate Major Joseph Cumming. Civilians caught between the armies such as Cornelia Phillips Spencer and University of North Carolina president David Swain also figure into the picture. African American chaplain Henry M. Turner's accounts provide a look into how the black soldiers experienced the end of the war here as well. Bradley's depth of research sources is quite impressive.
The telling of Sherman and Johnston's meetings would have been interesting on their own their own merit, but Bradley's writing makes them even more so. Few people outside of Civil War enthusiasts probably know that the first surrender agreement between the two generals was unaccepted by the Washington authorities and that it had be redrafted along the same lines as Grant and Lee's surrender at Appomattox because Sherman's terms were viewed as far too lenient. It was interesting to learn about the bad blood that developed between Sherman and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Chief of Staff Henry Halleck because of the surrender retraction incident. Bradley argues quite convincingly though that Johnston negotiated the surrender from a position of strength that Lee didn't have with Grant at Appomattox.
I highly recommend this book, especially for those interested in the Western Theater. It would be incomplete to study the Shilohs, Chickamaugas and Atlantas without knowing what happens to the cast of personalities on this their final stage. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give This Astounding Close a 4.75.