Published 04/03/12

'Birth of a Demon'

SMITHFIELD, R.I. (April 3, 2012) — Thom Bassett, a lecturer in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, is the author of "Birth of a Demon," the cover article of the spring issue of Civil War Monitor. The article examines some of the surprising contradictions of Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.  

In this podcast (10:10), Bassett spoke with University Relations' Paul DeWolf about the famous leader of Union troops. On the one hand, Bassett tells DeWolf, Sherman had no problem applying the "hard hand of war" not only to Southern troops but Southerners themselves, leaving "in his wake civilians who were utterly terrorized." On the other hand, "as ruthless as his intentions were, there was a part of him that absolutely hated" the destruction left behind by his marches across the South.

The Civil War Monitor article is unavailable online, but the respected Civil War writer and contributor to The Atlantic , Andy Hall, summarizes the article and its place in contemporary historiography here. "Bassett's article really is a must-read as a practical example of the way historical narratives are shaped, refined, and sometimes abused," Hall writes.

Bassett is a contributor to the New York Times ' "Disunion" series, which "revisits and reconsiders" the Civil War - "America's most perilous period - using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded." He is writing a novel about Sherman and the burning of Columbia, S.C., in February 1865.