THE FATEFUL LIGHTNING
by Jeff Shaara, 2015
The Fateful Lightning completes Jeff Shaara’s four-volume Civil War series of the far lesser known campaigns in the “western” theater of the Civil War.
November – 1864: As the Civil War rolls into its fourth bloody year, the tide has turned decidedly in favor of the Union. A grateful Abraham Lincoln responds to Ulysses Grant’s successes in the West by promoting Grant to command of the entire Union war effort, while William Tecumsah Sherman now directs the Federal forces that occupy all of Tennessee. In a massive surge southward, Sherman conquers the city of Atlanta, prevailing in several difficult engagements against Confederate commander John Bell Hood. With Atlanta securely in Federal hands, Hood retreats westward into Alabama, certain tyhat Sherman will pursue him. But Sherman’s strategies surprise not only the Confederates, but most of official Washington as well. Sherman chooses to march eastward, intending to “make Georgia howl” as he pushes his overwhelming forces toward the crucial port city of Savannah. But Savannah alone is not Sherman’s target.. Knowing that his friend Grant is struggling against the valiant Robert E. Lee around Petersburg, Virginia, Sherman intends to drive his army northward, uniting with Grant to crush Lee, and end the war. As his men march out of Savannah, they must confront the final Confederate barrier, the outnumbered forces under veteran rebel commander, Joseph Johnston. Though Johnston recognizes his army’s limits, he must mount any assault he can in a desperate attempt to cripply Sherman, or at least, slow him down.
Through the eyes of Sherman himself, as well as his adversaries, General William Hardee and a young cavalry captain, James Seeley, we see the struggle from both sides, as Sherman unleashes his edict of “total war” across the deep South. Along ther way, an entirely new voice emerges, an escaped slave named Franklin, who views and absorbs the war in a completely different way from the combatants.
Driving forward until the end of the war, in April, 1865, The Fateful Lightning brings the personalities of the characters to vivid life, a dramatic climax that can only occur when Sherman crushes the last hope of resistance in his path.