The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta

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The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta

Author: Marc Wortman
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 431
Cover Price: $ 28.95

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The destruction of Atlanta is an iconic moment in American history it was the centerpiece of Gone with the Wind. But though the epic sieges of Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Berlin have all been explored in bestselling books, the one great American example has been treated only cursorily in more general histories.

Marc Wortman remedies that conspicuous absence in grand fashion with The Bonfire, an absorbing narrative history told through the points of view of key participants both Confederate and Union.The Bonfire reveals an Atlanta of unexpected paradoxes: a new mercantile city dependent on the primitive institution of slavery; governed by a pro-Union mayor, James Calhoun, whose cousin was a famous defender of the South. When he surrendered the city to General Sherman after forty-four terrible days, Calhoun was accompanied by Bob Yancey, a black slave likely the son of Union advocate Daniel Webster.

Atlanta was both the last of the medieval city sieges and the first modern urban devastation. From its ashes, a new South would arise.

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Background Information

Atlanta was a relatively young city at the time of the Civil War, having been developed as a hub of railroad transportation. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was a vigorous Congressional exponent of the inteterest of the South in the decades before the Civil War. William Tecumseh Sherman fought a war of destruction in Georgia, aimed at destroying the South's will and ability to fight. Daniel Webster of New Hampshire was a force in the United States Senate for the preservation of the Union above all else.