Edgar Lawrence Doctorow
The march in question is that of General William Tecumseh Sherman and his Union soldiers as they slash and burn their way through Georgia and the Carolinas, and the "march to freedom" as liberated slaves fall in step with the liberating army.
But it is also, given the poetic depth of Doctorow's vision, the great march of time and of humanity in all its cruelty and glory. As Doctorow dramatizes the fury, conviction, and chaos of the Civil War, he portrays historical figures, as he is wont to do, most electrifyingly Sherman himself.
But he focuses most on brilliantly imagined characters who embody the epic conflicts of that cataclysmic era, including Pearl, the smart and courageous daughter of a slave and slave owner; an excessively clinical military surgeon; the valiant daughter of a Southern judge; a freed slave who becomes a war photographer; and Arly, a scheming Rebel soldier who provides shrewdly comic relief.
Doctorow writes with blazing clarity about the "brutal romance" of war and its gruesome realities, with lyrical splendor about nature, and with wry wisdom and nimble satire about human folly.
Heir to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, Doctorow's masterpiece uncovers the roots of today's racial and political conundrums, and taps into the deep and abiding realm of myth in its illumination of sorrow and beauty, the continuity of human existence, and the transcendence of tenacity, compassion, and love.