what lay behind William Tecumseh Sherman’s rage for order

Cover00Chris Bray at Bookforum:

A WARRIOR WITHOUT WAR, William Tecumseh Sherman was an ambitious West Point graduate who stood at the periphery while other men went into combat: garrisoned in coastal Florida at the edge of the fighting during the Second Seminole War, sent first to Pittsburgh as a recruiting officer and later to California as an administrator during the war with Mexico.

The disappointed soldier eventually resigned his commission and turned to business, with mixed results and little happiness. He was a reasonably capable banker for a bit, a bad lawyer for a bit less, and the enthusiastic superintendent of a Louisiana military academy right up until the moment Southern states began to secede. Marooned during an intermediate period on a farm in the remote precincts of Kansas, Sherman took a dark view of his prospects. “I look upon myself as a dead cock in the pit, not worthy of further notice,” he wrote to his absent wife. The Civil War—arriving in his early forties—came as a kind of gift, delivering him from professional death.

Endlessly frustrated in his martial ambitions, he sulked. Sherman has always been known as an odd duck: depressive, erratic, prone to fits of mania and abiding personal grudges.

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