I did not expect Pershing, Commander of the Great War by John Perry to be a tear-jerker, but half way through reading it I could not stop sobbing. Without giving away any spoilers, something very tragic befell Pershing midlife, and it is the type of story that makes you want to kiss every member in your family and tell them that you love them. I know that something that happened over a hundred years ago should not affect me so much, but I cannot get the image of General Pershing crying on the shoulder of his friend on the train ride from Bakersfield to San Francisco out of my mind.
It is impossible not to have a great deal of respect for General Pershing, not just because of his leadership during World War I, but also because of the type of man he was in general. His first job was as a teacher in an African American school, teaching the children of former slaves how to read. He went on to lead the Buffalo Soldiers, the famous all Black Tenth Calvary Regiment. When the army short-supplied them during the Spanish American War, Pershing took matters into his own hands and “requisitioned” food and supplies off of a train even though this made him face potential disciplinary action later on.
Pershing’s humanity was also evident in his successful use of diplomacy and compassion to find a peaceful resolution to conflict with the Muslim Moro people of the Philippines. He treated all people with dignity in an era when racism was the norm.
I additionally enjoyed reading about Pershing’s first wife, Helen Frances Warren, who was a pioneer of modern thinking in her own right. Mrs. Pershing was an educated Wellesley grad, and an early proponent of Montessori education.
Perishing had a well know reputation for being a stickler for details. This really made me think about how I run my own household, and evaluate how I could make things better. Proper nutrition, clean pots and pans, the right supplies… Pershing knew that little details could make a big difference for soldiers. Reading this book made me want to give my whole house a good scrubbing! But I’ll think twice about varnishing my wood floors. 😦
P.S. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my review.