cover image Terrible Swift Sword: The Life 
of General Philip H. Sherman

Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Philip H. Sherman

Joseph Wheelan. Da Capo, $26 (388p) ISBN 978-0-306-82027-4

Former AP reporter and editor Wheelan (Jefferson’s War), like all biographers of Sheridan (1831–1888), is handicapped by the destruction of the general’s papers in the Chicago fire of 1871. He nevertheless makes solid use of published material in this presentation of a commander whose ruthless approach made him an early advocate of total war. Wheelan describes Sheridan as willing to leave enemies, whether Confederates or Plains Indians, “nothing but their eyes to weep with” (as the general told Otto von Bismarck), He was no less willing to defend “what he believed needed protecting,” whether black freedmen, surrendered tribesmen, or law-abiding former. Confederates. And Sheridan shone in combat. As a leader he inspired soldiers in the throes of defeat—most notably at Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley. As an organizer, he brought the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry from a bedraggled auxiliary to a battle-winning force that combined fire and shock in a way unmatched until Germany’s panzer divisions. As a tactician, he was uniquely successful in coordinating infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Above all, as Wheelan shows, Sheridan’s aggressiveness remains a basic principle of U.S. war making and continues to inspire “imitators and innovators” alike. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Roger Williams, New England Publishing Associates. (Aug.)