Henry Warner Slocum, a Union major general who was a corps and army commander in the Civil War, served from the first call for troops until he stood with William Tecumseh Sherman to receive Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender after Appomattox. He saw action at Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, and by the end of the war he had taken command of the Army of Georgia, yet historians have largely overlooked this key commander.
Brian Melton has written the first scholarly account of this important general—the first full-length biography in nearly a century—who as one of Sherman’s most trusted commanders exercised significant influence during the Civil War. Although Slocum is remembered primarily for his lackluster performance at Gettysburg, Melton discloses that there is more to him than current history credits, offering a holistic account of his life to show that his career was much more significant than has been supposed.
Slocum took on the characteristics of the leaders he served, and Melton reveals how Slocum’s attitudes and tactics changed dramatically between commanders to explain why he proved to be of little help to George McClellan and almost a liability while serving under “Fighting Joe” Hooker and yet was an effective commander under Sherman. Slocum became Sherman’s “left arm” and adapted so thoroughly to his style of generalship that he anticipated the general’s intentions on two important occasions, and Melton contends that Slocum was a much more important contributor to the success of Sherman’s later campaigns than has been acknowledged, becoming at times more aggressive and driving than Sherman himself.
Melton ultimately considers Slocum’s fate as one of the forgotten generals of the Civil War—brought on largely by his joining the Democratic Party in 1865—and demonstrates why previous simplistic depictions of Slocum miss the mark. By providing the first detailed look at this important second-tier commander, Sherman’s Forgotten General illuminates the influences, events, and individuals of Slocum’s career to show that, while he may not have changed the course of the war, he played a conspicuous and important role in its successful execution that has long deserved to be recognized.