I find biographies of leaders fascinating. And few Civil War leaders are a more fascinating study than William Tecumseh Sherman, as portrayed in Sherman: The Ruthless Victor by Agostino Von Hassell and Ed Breslin.
Sherman was a man driven by two forces which almost seem contradictory: (1) the desire to make a name for himself, without the help of other; and (2) the almost debilitating fear of trying to attempt anything that wasn’t guaranteed to be successful. Whereas the first might drive him to be something of an entrepreneur, the second would seem to keep him satisfied with the status quo. Ultimately the entrepreneurial force drove him forward.
In fact, it drove him forward so ruthlessly and mercilessly, that his name is still uttered as a curse word in the South, and one of the most fearsome military machines – the Sherman tank – was so aptly named after him.
As I read this biography, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for General Sherman. For a man who had been given so many advantages and opportunities, he seemed not only ungrateful for them, but almost contemptuous of them. In the end, the only thing that gave him satisfaction was totally annihilating everything in his path; including his marriage, his family, and his friends. Sad!
But Sherman is still an important read for any student of leadership. I can’t help but wondering how history might have been different if a mentor might have come alongside Sherman to help him use his God-given talents in a more judicious and beneficial way.
I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.