Before his spectacular career as commanding general of the Union forces of the West, William Tecumseh Sherman experienced decades of frustration and failure. He participated in many of the critical events of early-nineteenth-century America: the protracted war against the Indians, the California gold rush, the banking panics, the political turmoil, and the elusive search for fame and fortune.
Sherman's place in American history was still in doubt during the first stages of the Civil War, when he reluctantly led a Union brigade to humiliating defeat at Bull Run. It was not until his major role at the Battle of Shiloh that he began to assert his brilliance as a military commander. After his capture of Atlanta in 1864, which secured Abraham Lincoln's reelection, Sherman launched the infamous March to the Sea. Combining a ruthless scorched-earth strategy with shrewd psychological and propaganda, Sherman forever changed the nature of American warfare.