Sherman’s Ghosts

Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War

A beautifully written and haunting exploration of the enduring influence of Sherman’s March on American war tactics and the historical forces that shape our present

“Generals who terrorize civilians and seize or destroy their property are not usually lionized for such actions. . . . Yet Sherman has attained an illustrious place in American history because of his campaigns of destruction, rather than in spite of them, and his words and actions have often been cited as an inspiration by his successors in the wars that followed.” —from the introduction to Sherman’s Ghosts

“To know what war is, one should follow our tracks,” General William T. Sherman once wrote to his wife, describing the devastation left by his armies in Georgia. Sherman’s Ghosts is an investigation of the “tracks” left by the wars fought by the American military in the 150 years since Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea.”

Sherman’s Ghosts opens with an epic retelling of General Sherman’s fateful decision to turn his sights on the South’s civilian population in order to break the back of the Confederacy. Acclaimed author Matthew Carr then exposes how this strategy became the central preoccupation of war planners in the twentieth century and beyond, offering a stunning and lucid assessment of the impact Sherman’s slash-and-burn policies have had on subsequent wars, including World War II and in the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and even Iraq and Afghanistan.

In riveting accounts of military campaigns and in the words and writings of American fighting men and military strategists, Carr finds ample and revealing evidence of Sherman’s long shadow. Sherman’s Ghosts is a rare reframing of how we understand our violent history and a call to action for those who hope to change it.



“A provocative, and at times maddening, argument about one of the most brilliant and destructive military minds in American history.”
—Clay Mountcastle, author of Punitive War: Confederate Guerrillas and Union Reprisals

News and Reviews

Civil War Book Review

Civil War Book Review reviews Sherman's Ghosts

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal calls Matthew Carr's Sherman's Ghosts "a concise and excellent account of the facts."

The New York Times

The New York Times reviews Sherman's Ghosts

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Goodreads Reviews