Derek D. Maxfield on “Man of Fire: William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War”
Man of Fire tells the story of a man who found himself in war—and that, in turn, secured him a place in history. Condemned for his barbarousness or hailed for his heroics, the life of this peculiar general is nonetheless compelling—and thoroughly American.
After leading his troops at the battle of Bull Run, the anxious brigadier general was sent West to Kentucky. Apprehensive over the situation in the Blue Grass State, suffering from stress, insomnia, and anxiety, Sherman begged to be relieved. Sent home to recover, the newspapers announced he was insane. Colleagues concluded he was “gone in the head.”
Instead, like a phoenix, he rose from the ashes to become a hero of the republic. Forging an identity in the fire of war, the unconventional general kindled a friendship with Ulysses S. Grant and proved to everyone at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Georgia, and in the Carolinas that while he was unorthodox, he was also brilliant and creative. More than that, he was eminently successful and played an important role in the Union’s victory.
Derek Maxfield is an associate professor of history at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York. He holds a BA in History from SUNY Cortland, an MA in History from Villanova University, and was a PhD candidate at the University of Buffalo, where he is ABD. In 2013, Maxfield was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities and, more recently, was awarded the 2019 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. When he is not engaged in academic pursuits, he is usually found working on genealogy with a cat in his lap.