Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War
by Megan Kate Nelson
Ms. Nelson’s book is a much-needed reminder of the costs of war, in general, and of the huge and tragic effects of the American Civil War. Among its many strengths, the book provides a compelling look at the destruction of Columbia, South Carolina, by troops under General William T. Sherman (and thus showed how he lied in disclaiming that he and they were mainly responsible). The author also describes the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which was in retaliation for the depredations of Union General David Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley. It could be said that she let General Phil Sheridan off easy, but with so much ruin across the nation, many incidents would have to be omitted due to constraints of space. This is a work for everyone interested in the Civil War, in United States history, or in the terrible impact of wars on people and places.