Eric Wittenberg Rides the “Whirlwind” at Bennett Place

“We Ride a Whirlwind”: Sherman and Johnston at Bennett Place is award-winning historian Eric J. Wittenberg’s 20th published book on the Civil War. Unlike almost all of his other works, this is not a battle study. Rather, it’s a detailed look at the nine days in April 1865 that brought about the true end of the Civil War.

After Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston realized that there was nothing to be gained by prolonging the conflict, so he and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman undertook a series of remarkable meetings where these two warriors tried to make peace, not just to arrange the surrender of Johnston’s army. However, the U. S. government, still enraged by the still-raw assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, rejected Sherman’s agreement with a stinging rebuke that embittered Sherman against Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and ruined his friendship with chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck. Eventually, Johnston surrendered 91,000 Confederate troops on the same terms given to Lee at Appomattox, forging a close lifelong friendship with Sherman in the process.

This book examines these events in deep detail, and tells the story as Wittenberg has always wanted to tell it: in the words of those who participated in these events. “I’ve long been fascinated by the events at Bennett Place,” said Wittenberg. “I have wanted to tell this story for a long time, and I finally got the chance to tell it my way. The participants’ own words tell the story better than I could ever hope to do.”

Wittenberg continued, “Johnston disobeyed a direct order from Jefferson Davis in choosing to make peace and save unnecessary bloodshed. Ulysses S. Grant was sent to relieve Sherman of command and to resume hostilities if needed, but Grant refused to do so, and instead allowed his dear friend to have the honor of making peace. These are extraordinary events conducted by extraordinary men, and they allowed the healing to begin. The title comes from an April 18, 1865 letter from Sherman to his wife Ellen, describing the events taking place.”

The book was published simultaneously in hardcover and softcover by Fox Run Publishing. It features five maps by master cartographer Mark Anderson Moore, more than 50 illustrations, and has several interesting appendices.

Wittenberg will be speaking about these events, and then signing books at the Bennett Place State Historic Site (4409 Bennett Memorial Road, Durham, NC 27705) from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM on September 23, 2017. You will have the rare opportunity to have your book signed in the living room area of the reproduction of the Bennett house on site, where the events in question occurred.

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