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Current Literature

The Illustrated London News, vol. 47, no. 1335, p. 295.

September 23, 1865

CURRENT LITERATURE.

The Story of the Great March. By Brevet Major George Ward Nichols. (Sampson Low, Son, and Marston.) Hamlet calculates, upon certain data connected with his father's death and his mother's second marriage, the probable duration of a great man's fame. According to a similar calculation, therefore, it is just possible that the world still cherishes some faint memory of the assassination of an honest man and the termination of a great war; for it is less than six months since Lincoln was sent before his time to sleep with Washington, and the heroic Lee and cautious Johnston, with inferior numbers and inferior resources, were forced to succumb to the tenacity of Grant and the daring of Sherman. Our newspapers have had the Atlantic telegraph, sensational murders, the cattle plague, international fêtes at Portsmouth and Cherbourg, the romantic tale of the bridegroom groom, and the like interesting topics to take the place of "the latest news from America;" but, perhaps, there yet lingers amongst us sufficient interest in the late War of Secession to make men anxious to read the true story of that wonderful march which is unequalled in the annals of military matters, which has made the name of Sherman illustrious to all time, and which contributed as much as, if not more than, any achievement to crush the Southern Confederacy. The writer of this "Story of the Great March" served upon General Sherman's Staff from the commencement of the "retreat" (as it was the fashion, in certain quarters, to term it) from Atlanta to the conclusion of the war; and his account should be, and there is no reason to doubt is, trustworthy. It is written in a "popular" style, and is illustrated in a "popular," not to say sensational, manner. It is founded upon a diary kept by the writer, and is interspersed with all sorts of anecdotes, amusing and saddening. It will very likely disappoint the scientific reader, who would look for a masterly criticism of Sherman's motives for his daring project; of the grounds for hopes of success; of the rules of war violated or conformed to in the conception and execution of the design; and of the precedents for such or similar (if there be any such or similar) undertakings; and there will be some who will find fault with the writer's style--saying that it is not sufficiently elevated for the subject and remarking how very differently the late Sir William Napier would have treated the history of a gigantic campaign, but the average reader will no doubt like it better as it is. The author, in his preface, writes by what seems to be a curious inversion, "I have told their story simply, and, I hope, honestly;" for it certainly does appear that a writer might be more doubtful about his simplicity of expression than his honesty of purpose. That the humorous element is not wanting to the narrative one can show (premising that a "bummer" is an unauthorised forager, or, in plainer language, a self-elected plunderer, which is much the same as a robber or thief) from the following extract (p. 166):--"During the skirmish in front of Fayetteville, one of our Captains, who was in advance of his men, crept, in a citizen's coat, up to a fence, in order to get a better look at the enemy....Suddenly he was confronted by a ragged and barefooted fellow, whom he instantly recognised as one of the 'bummers.' The recognition, however, was not reciprocal; for the 'bummer' exulted in the thought that he had caught a Rebel, and proceeded to salute him thus--'Halloa! just stop right thar,' surveying his extremities; 'I say, come up out o' them boots.' 'I couldn't think of it,' was the reply; 'they're a fine pair of boots, and they are mine.'...'Come out o' them boots. P'raps you've got a watch about your breeches-pocket; just pull her out. No nonsense, now; I'm in a hurry to get arter them Rebs.' 'Perhaps you would like a horse?' 'A horse?' (the bummer's eyes sparkled). 'A horse? Wall, now, you jis come up out o' them boots, and we'll discuss that ar' hoss question sudden. Where is the hoss?' 'Oh! he is right near by, in charge of my orderly.' 'Thunder! are you an officer of our army? I thought you was a Reb.' And then the 'bummer' went to the rear under arrest, disgusted beyond measure." If there were many 'bummers' in Sherman's army, it is not surprising that the robbed and infuriated Southerners executed lynch law upon some.

The Life of President Andrew Johnson. By G. W. Bacon. (Bacon and Co.) A compilation from cyclopædia, annual, newspaper, and all that kind of literature, combined with information (not of a voluminous character) from "private American sources." The whole amounts to not much more than was already known, which, in a few words, is that Andrew Johnson was born of very humble parentage at Raleigh, North Carolina, on the 29th of December, 1808; that he was at a very early age apprenticed to tailoring; that, as he sat on his shop-board and listened to a benevolent gentleman who read to the journeymen, he was fired with the ambition of learning his letters; that he learned them self-taught, or assisted only by his fellow-workmen; that soon after (1825-6), setting up in trade for himself (or as a journeyman) in Greenville, East Tennessee, he married a wife who was also his schoolmistress and taught him the mysteries of the three rs; that in 1828, and twice subsequently, he was elected alderman, and, in 1830, mayor of Granville; that after three years of mayoralty he was, in 1835, "elected member of the State Legislature for the county of his residence;" that, in 1843, he became a member of Congress, and was returned to Congress for nine successive years from that time; that, in 1853, he was raised to the dignity of Governor of Tennessee, to which office he was re-elected in 1855, and which he "filled until 1857, when he was chosen to a seat in the United States Senate;" that, on the 19th of December, 1860, he spoke and was virulently assailed for speaking strongly against "the right of secession;" that he was burnt in effigy at Memphis, and received many other proofs of the estimation in which he was held by Secessionists; that after the capture of Fort Donelson, and consequent evacuation of Nashville, in 1862, he was appointed Military Governor of Tennessee, where, on his own responsibility, he proclaimed freedom to the slave; that, in 1864, in appreciation of his sufferings for and devotion to the Union, he was elected, and, on the 4th of March, 1865, inaugurated, Vice-President of the United States; that on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln he became, according to the provisions of the Constitution, President; and that, in fact, he has risen from the lowest position through every disadvantage to the height of mighty kings; that, in a comparatively short space of time, he has shot up from the soil and reached the dimensions of a notable mushroom. Mr. Bacon gives several extracts from the President's speeches; but, either from partisanship, or, it is preferable to think, delicacy, makes no allusion to an occasion upon which the late Vice-President behaved with an eccentricity and spoke with an incoherence not clearly traceable to his well-known temperance principles. Anecdotes are related illustrative of Mr. Johnson's sagacity, determination, and fine feeling, especially with respect to his antecedents; and the little volume is decidedly readable....

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