Jeff Shaara’s last installment in his Civil War series is the story of William Tecumseh Sherman, and the final eight months of the war. The Fateful Lightning picks up Sherman’s march immediately after the sacking of Atlanta and follows his army through Georgia and the Carolinas.
There is little middle ground in the world of Civil War analysis regarding Sherman. The general is either hated as savage and brutal or respected as the finest battlefield commander of the war. The Fateful Lightning, through Shaara’s use of the historical novel, brings a semblance of balance to the Sherman legacy. Shaara’s research is excellent.
Like all of Shaara’s writing, using the vehicle of the novel, the key players are humanized. The genre also allows for the creation of fictional characters to flush out the story line. In this case a young slave, freed by Sherman’s march is among the thousands of former slaves who follow Sherman’s army of liberation as it heads north, taking them away from their masters and plantations. The story of freed slaves following the Union Army is also well told in another book, E.L. Doctorow’s The March. Search gordonsgoodreads for an overview.
I also recommend the other three books in Shaara’s series. A Blaze of Glory, A Chain of Thunder, and The Smoke at Dawn. You will find my overviews of them here at gordonsgood reads.
Shaara also wrote Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father’s The Killer Angels.