BookTuesday: Pershing

In my ever-running effort to post later and later each day, this afternoon I've got a book review for you. It is one of the latest in Thomas Nelson's The Generals Series, and the General in this case General Pershing. The full title is Pershing: Commander of the Great War. I received a free copy from BookSneeze, and you can buy it from Amazon here:

Pershing: Commander of the Great War (The Generals)

Notes on The Generals series: these books are written to provide short biographies of some of the great military leaders of American History. One of the intentions is to include a look at the personal and religious life of the generals in question as well as their military success. I've reviewed MacArthur from this series and Ann has reviewed Washington and Lee. At present, the only other title in the series is Sherman.

John Perry has tackled several biographies, including the aforementioned biography of Lee in this series. Here, he crafts a compelling tale of General "Black Jack" Pershing who commanded the American Expeditionary Force during the Great War, World War I. Pershing is perhaps the least known of the few Generals of the Army that the United States has had.

The book covers the span of Pershing's life, beginning with his first memories of a border battle in the Civil War. Further details about the early life of Pershing include his teaching of children of former slaves and the impact of the end of the Franco-Prussian War on his family. The first chapter moves at a great clip from the childhood of Pershing to his graduation from West Point.

The following chapters summarize Pershing's life in the military. His personal life is mentioned but not heavily dwelt on until his marriage, and his religious beliefs are vaguely alluded to at one point. Perry gives the reader a look at where Pershing served, what his life was like, and where he went next.

Details are served in highlighting short incidents, with an eye toward illuminating the man through vignettes. Those details flesh out his family life, including the tragedy of losing his wife and daughters to a house fire. Further information shows Pershing as a man willing to not only fight but also negotiate, and one more tolerant than many others of his day.

Perry gives a great deal more detail of Pershing's war years in 1917-1918. This is, arguably, the time more people are interested in, so more detail is helpful. The reader is presented with a picture of a man who saw the need for war but wept over the first American casualties in combat. One who demanded perfection on seemingly trivial details, but did so in hopes of making better soldiers of his men.

The book then moves rapidly through the waning years of Pershing's life, including his warnings about the rise of Germany in the 1930s and his heartbrokenness at the outbreak of World War II. This was a man who fought the War to End All Wars, and yet it did not last. Here was a soldier who longed for a life away from the battlefield: in law or in teaching for himself, in whatever peaceful pursuits for everyone else, yet did not flinch to handle his duty when the time came.

In all, I feel like I know a little more about General Pershing at the end of this. I saw some of his faults, some of his personality quirks, and some traits not worth emulating. I also saw his greatness, his compassion, and his genius. Perry has provided a sweeping portrait of the man, and it's one worth having.

Recommended for history buffs, students, and military folks. And for those who think that the military are always the ones that want war: you see in Pershing as in others that it's often the politicians that want war. Soldiers know what happens in war and would avoid it if possible.

Doug

Free book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for the review. A hardcover, at that, but still---no influence, no demands. Just honest reviews for a free book.

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