In 1864, after Union general William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta, he
marched his sixty thousand troops east through Georgia to the sea, and
then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces and
lived off the land, pillaging the Southern plantations, taking cattle
and crops for their own, demolishing cities, and accumulating a
borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all
that remained was the dangerous transient life of the uprooted, the
dispossessed, and the triumphant. Only a master novelist could so
powerfully and compassionately render the lives of those who marched.
The author of Ragtime, City of God, and The Book of Daniel has given
us a magisterial work with an enormous cast of unforgettable
characterswhite and black, men, women, and children, unionists and
rebels, generals and privates, freed slaves and slave owners. At the
center is General Sherman himself; a beautiful freed slave girl named
Pearl; a Union regimental surgeon, Colonel Sartorius; Emily Thompson,
the dispossessed daughter of a Southern judge; and Arly and Will, two
Almost hypnotic in its narrative drive, The March stunningly
renders the countless lives swept up in the violence of a country at
war with itself. The great march in E. L. Doctorow's hands becomes
something morea floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an
unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
It is Mr. Doctorow's achievement in these pages that in recounting Sherman's march, he manages to weld the personal and the mythic into a thrilling and poignant story. He not only conveys the consequences of that campaign for soldiers and civilians in harrowingly intimate detail, but also creates an Iliad-like portrait of war as a primeval human affliction - "not war as adventure, nor war for a solemn cause," but "war at its purest, a mindless mass rage severed from any cause, ideal, or moral principle," a "characterless entanglement of brainless forces" as God's answer "to the human presumption."
The Washington Post - John Wray The March conjures up the War of Secession -- also
known as the War Between the States and the War of Northern
Aggression -- as vividly as any contemporary account I've
read, and more plausibly than most. Devotees of our nation's
darkest hour, as well as that subset of Confederacy buffs
willing to entertain the possibility that all may not have
been roses in the antebellum South, will find a great deal
to admire in its pages.
Library Journal - Henry L. Carrigan
Doctorow paints his canvas with his typical attention to period detail, but he is no Shelby Foote (Shiloh), Howard Bahr (The Black Flower), or Madison Jones (Nashville 1864), and this effort simply fails to engage. Still, his fans will be clamoring for it; be prepared.
Doctorow's previous novels have earned multiple major literary awards. The March should do so as well.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Starred Review. Heir to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, Doctorow's
masterpiece uncovers the roots of today's racial and political
conundrums, and taps into the deep and abiding realm of myth in its
illumination of sorrow and beauty, the continuity of human existence,
and the transcendence of tenacity, compassion, and love.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Peter well worth the walk I normally avoid "faction" - fact mixed with fiction - but having come across "The March" in a hotels library of left behind books I thought I,d give it a go, especially as I´ve been a Civil War buff for a long time and been... Read More
Rated of 5
by jerrod Slow An interesting look on the civil war's participants. It's full of emotions, sometimes leaving the reader feeling empathetic. However, it was incapable of making me want to read more which made it confusing and a slow read.
Rated of 5
by Jane Lacks depth Doctorow's reading style is clear, but that's about the best thing I'd say about The March. The book is filled with cliches, the characters are unremarkable, and the plot predictable. A saving grace is the comic relief provided by the characters... Read More
Rated of 5
by Marcia Fine Another Perspective on the Civil War Doctorow does a great job weaving Sherman's march with some memorable characters. He made it an easy history lesson with great literary style. It's clear who's side he's on; however, he elicits sympathy for the Southern point of view. We chose it... Read More
For a brief biography of Sherman, see this week's Quote.
The Savannah Campaign, more commonly known as The March to the Sea, took place
between November 15th 1864, when Sherman's 62,000 troops left the captured city
of Atlanta, and ended on December 22nd with the capture of Savannah.
Sherman and Grant were in agreement that the way to end the war was to inflict a
devastating defeat that would destroy not only the South strategically but break
them psychologically and economically as well. To that end Sherman
initiated a "scorched earth" policy throughout the march (which had the added
advantage that it reduced the need for traditional supply lines).
The following is edited from his orders issued on November 9th.
IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this
end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party,
under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the
route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any...
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