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A World On Fire
by Amanda Foreman
First let me say that this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read recently. I wish I
could say that "I couldn't put it down." However, at almost 1,000 pages, I had to put it
down occasionally to give my wrists a rest. Set against a superbly told background of the
Civil War, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Amanda Foreman gives us amazing insight
into parallel events in England, events and movements that were vital to both North and
Although the British were virtually unanimously against slavery, there was huge support for
the South. Many believed that, once the Confederates won the war, they would abolish
slavery. The Northern cause wasn't helped by the absence of any official move towards
Emancipation until 1862.
At the heart of the conflict between the two nations lay the complicated relationships
between four men: Lord Lyons, the shy British Ambassador in Washington, William Seward,
the blustering US Secretary of State, Charles Francis Adams, the dry but fiercely patriotic
US Ambassador in London, and the abrasive British Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell.
Despite their efforts, and some times as a result of them, America and Britain came
perilously close to declaring war on each other twice in four years.
Foreman has written an enthralling account of a complex historical period, with a wealth of
previously unpublished letters and journals. Her coverage of the "Trent" affair and of
Confederate ship-building and public relations efforts in Britain are by themselves worth the
price of admission.
Five Days to Glory
by Glenn W. Sunderland
Five Days to Glory tells the story of Tilghlman Jones of the 59th Illinois. Jones who
enlisted at age fifteen and fought with the regiment until the Battle of Nashville. Originally
the 9th Missouri Infantry, it was renamed on Feb. 12, 1862 at the request of the men since
most of its men were from Illinois. Besides drawing on Jones' letters, Sunderland relies on
the O.R., the regimental history and other sources to tell the story of a young boy who grew
into manhood on the Civil War's battlefields and camps.
Jones, like many Americans of the period, is a farm boy who lived at home with his father,
his younger brother and younger sister. Their mother had passed away two years earlier
and his father never remarried. As the oldest child, Jones helped out a lot on the farm but
also had time for studying and reading. Rebuked one day for taking a horse to visit his
girlfriend, Jones ran away and enlisted in the army. Well liked by his comrades, Jones
adapts readily to army life. He is especially pleased with his Springfield rifle musket and its
huge minié ball. His constant stream of letters home reveals that while apart from his
family, Jones remained very much a part of his family. Private Jones sees action at Pea
Ridge, Perryville and Stone River where he is captured. Paroled, he returns in time to fight
in the Battle Above the Clouds, the Tullahoma Campaign, Atlanta and finally at Nashville.
Unlike many of his comrades, Jones does not elect to reenlist in 1863 and so does not go
home for a thirty day furlough in 1864. He is transferred temporarily to another unit until
the boys return. Five days before his discharge, Jones is wounded in the Battle of Nashville.
Initially the wound is not thought to be fatal, but complications set in and Jones crosses the
river. His father retrieved his body and returned it to their home.
"They Have Killed Papa Dead!"
The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance
by Anthony S. Pitch
Formerly a journalist, They Have Killed Papa Dead! is not Pitch's first effort at historical
writing. His earlier book, The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814 became
a selection of the History book Club.
Pitch begins his book with the death threats against Lincoln while he was enroute to
Washington for his inauguration. Southern sympathizers along his path swore that he would
never reach the capitol. Enter into the picture was Detective Allan Pinkerton who was hired
by the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad to safeguard Lincoln's passage.
Pinkerton's detectives discovered numerous plots and allowed Pinkerton to re-route
Lincoln's passage before the plotters could act. Once in Washington, the additional troops
mustered by Scott escorted Lincoln safely to his inauguration.
Pitch discusses Booth's childhood background and his relation to his siblings. He traces his
early development and his hatred of Lincoln. For years, Booth aspired only to kidnap
Lincoln and carry him south where Richmond could negotiate his release. Fate intervened
when Richmond was captured and Lee surrendered. Seething with anger, Booth decided
that only by assassinating Lincoln could the South be avenged.
Booth's conspiracy is discussed in detail and then executed though not without flaw. Seward
survived a brutal knife attack and the attack on Vice President Johnson never occurred.
The flight, capture and fate of all the conspirators constitute the majority of the book.
For anyone who wants to learn more about the Lincoln assassination, this book would be a
good starting point.
The Last Wolf
by Thomas Cox.
Inspired by Henderson's Marine Sniper, Cox, a former National Guardsman and a college
graduate, enlists in the Marine Corps with one goal in mind: to become a scout-sniper. In
top condition, he survives boot camp without a hiccup and is assigned to the Heavy
Weapons platoon. He meets the chief sniper sergeant of his battalion who encourages him to
try out for it. He does, but his lieutenant turns him down in favor of a more senior marine.
Salt is rubbed into the wound when that more senior marine washes out in less than a day.
Cox and his unit are sent to Okinawa for jungle training. He injures his knee but recovers in
time to try out for the sniper squad. This time he is selected and is made a pig (professional
instructed gunman). Suddenly, the platoon looses a lot of their snipers and five pigs are
selected to go to sniper school. They undergo intense training under the eye of their sergeant
before the selection is made. Cox makes it, but washes out on the stalk. He returns and on
his second try, passes and is admitted as a hog (hunter of gunmen) and is given the hog's
tooth to wear around his neck. He sees action in Iraq ('94) as part of the diversionary attack
in Kuwait. In one incident, he is compromised when an orange picker comes too close and he
rises up from the ground in his ghillie suit and startles the woman. She runs away screaming.
While waiting for his emergency extraction, her husband approaches (unarmed) and thanks
him for not harming her and invites him dine and have tea (he declines). He sees some
combat and kills one fellow at over 600 yards. While on one mission, he uses his M-16 to kill
another who was firing blindly at advancing marines. Cox returns home and resumes
training his new pigs. He is charged under Article 15 of the UCMJ for hazing his pigs (he
hosed them down with water), is demoted to corporal and kicked out of his beloved platoon.
He does not reenlist and returned to college where he learned to be a respiratory technician.
He reconciles his loss with the help of his wife who loves him whether he remained in
uniform or not. He still loves the Corps, but has moved on with life.
No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864.
by Richard Slotkin
Slotkin explores the Battle of the Crater beginning with the stalemated trench warfare both
armies find themselves locked into. Convinced that a mine could be dug beneath a
Confederate salient, Col. Henry Pleasants convinces his superior to attempt it. If nothing
else, it keeps the men busy and out of trouble. Slotkin's book has the best description of the
training of the USCT, the Fourth Division of Burnside's Ninth Corps, for the assault that
would follow the blowing of the mine. Doubt sets in with Meade, who ordered Burnside to
select another division. First, the USCT has seen little fighting and second, should they fail,
the political repercussions would be immense. As we know, the inept Ledlie draws the
shortest straw and his division is selected to lead the assault. Burnside instructed Ledlie to
storm the crest on Cemetery Hill. Ledlie takes advantage of an ambiguity and orders his
men to storm only to the outer edge of the crater. The attack is bogged down and Slotkin
covers the attack of successive divisions as they attempt to expand the bridgehead in face of
increasing Confederate resistence. The last to attack, the USCT storms the second
Confederate line, but being unsupported, is thrown back. Slotkin relies heavily on letters,
diaries, journals, the O.R. as well as the Court of Inquiry's records. He has written the best
account to date of the fateful battle.
The Diary of a Union Surgeon in the Virginia & North Carolina Marshes,
edited by Thomas P. Lowry
Thomas P. Lowry is no stranger to the Civil War reader. His previous books include
Tarnished Eagles: The Court-Martial of Fifty Union Colonels and Lieutenant Colones, The
Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War and more recently, Tarnished Scalpels.
In Swamp Doctor, he introduces the diary of Surgeon William M. Smith of the 85th New
York Volunteer Infantry. Smith hails from a medical family and his father was a country
doctor. As a medical practitioner, Smith had the benefit of medical schooling which, while
primitive by today's standards, was as complete a medical education one could receive in the
mid-nineteenth century. His regiment is initially assigned to the defense of Washington
before joining McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. Unfortunately, Smith's diary covering the
early part of the campaign has been lost but it picks up before the Seven Days Battle. After
their ignoble retreat where McClellan saves (?) the army from total destruction, they are
sent to Southern Virginia and caught up in the battles of Kingston and Goldsboro.
Afterwards they participated in the defense of Washington (NC) against a force led by A. P.
Hill that is ten times their size.
Reflecting the morals of the period, Smith converses with fallen women, but does not use
their services. He is also entangled in the politics of the regiment when their major accuses
his assistant surgeon of going AWOL and then attributes the accusation to Smith. Smith
secures the original documentation and the major is allowed to resign for his ungentlemanly
conduct. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the book is Smith's examination papers where
he is certified by an examining board to be eligible to hold his post as Surgeon. For
instance, he is asked, "Describe a disinfectant and describe the several classes of
disinfectants" or "What are the conditions on which secondary hemorrhage after
amputation depend, and what are the best modes of treating them?" Microbes and bacteria
were unknown in those days but there was some knowledge about hygiene. Other
questions are entirely irrelevant to the medical field. Under what circumstances did the
House of Hannover succeed to the British crown? or What were the causes of the last war
with Great Britain and in what year did it take place? For a re-enactor working on his
medical impression, the examination papers alone makes the book worth its price.
The Rebel and the Rose
by Wesley Millet and Gerald White.
Whatever happened to the lost Confederate gold? As a subject of speculation with even a
movie loosely based on it, it is a mystery that haunts us today. In the wake of Richmond's
evacuation, the gold bullion and Mexican silver of Confederate treasury of was moved south
to escape the approaching Union army. Until recently, our knowledge was limited to it
being escorted south by armed midshipmen of the Confederate Navy under command of
navy paymaster James A. Semple. Authors Wesley Millett and Gerald White spent years
reseaching every clue. While no gold was recovered by them, they have accounted for most
of it in their historical novel, "The Rebel and the Rose." Unlike most historical fiction, the
authors' approach is unusual in that "The Rebel and the Rose" is thoroughly endnoted like a
non-fiction work. Semple's movements are tracked as well as his relationship with Julia
Gardniner Tyler, former first lady and step-mother to Semple's estranged wife, Letitia.
Millet and White account for the money as it is disbursed on Semple's column fled south -
sometimes in company with Confederate President Jeff Davis. Men are paid off as they are
discharged. Additionally, outstanding Confederate debts are paid as Semple disburses the
bullion and reduces his responsibility. The final disbursements are made when the
midshipmen are paid off and the remaining money is entrusted to Confederate loyalists
whom they identify. Not surprisingly, some was siphoned to Tyler. Not everything is
accounted for, and some $26,000 in gold alone remains unaccounted for, but in tracing
Sewell's movements, Millet and White have given us the most up to date look into the
mystery of the Confederate gold.
Crusade in Europe
by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ike has a crisp to the point writing style. He succinctly illustrates what the difficulties were
which he and others encountered before, during, and, to some degree, after the Second
World War. He gives very favorable treatment of Generals Marshall, Patton, and, Bradley,
as well as Naval figures such as Admirals Stark and King, the latter having been described
as having been so feared by his subordinates that Ike once was rumored to have said that
King shaved with a blowtorch. One of the more pertinent topics which Eisenhower covers is
the lack of an effective and coordinated intelligence organization and the difficulties which
this presented when the United States entered the war. Another was the need for a unified
defense system, which later came about in the Post War period with the establishment of the
Defense Department Ike also develops why the Allies adopted a defeat Germany first
program. The body of the opus is, as the title implies, about the European Campaign. The
Decisions to use Great Britain as the main depot for the allies, as well as the decisions to
invade North Africa and the Italian Peninsula as well as the invasion of "Festung Europa",
i.e., the European Fortress of the Germans, is covered in very clear terms. Ike, for
instance, describes the reason for going into the Saar area of Germany in the final months
of the war.
In the ensuing decades, with revelations such as the existence of "Ultra" and the "Venona"
projects, and with the release of the Eisenhower Diaries in the 1990's, historians have a
new found respect for this key figure of the twentieth century who was instrumental in
shaping the post World War II era. "Crusade in Europe" lends to understanding and
appreciation of this historical figure and the times in which he lived and served. The memoir
was written shortly after Eisenhower retired from active duty and assumed the Presidency
of Columbia University. Eisenhower would pen other works in later years, such as "At
Ease, Stories I Tell to My Friends" and his Presidential Memoirs.
Mike McAdoo, Past President, SFCWRT
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