Shelby Foote's SHILOH
This novel follows several Confederate and Union solders during the two days of the 1862 battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. This is not a view of politics and grand strategy. This is the view from the ground from the soldiers’ perspective. Each speaks in a different voice that varies with education, social status, and age. All are honest, detailed, and real.
I’m always depressed when I read books like this about the Civil War. It’s hard believing that state loyalties could lead to citizens taking up arms against each other; but the result was real and ferocious. The other impact of this novel is its universal representation of soldiers in combat. Foote captures real details and real personalities, with nearly every paragraph showing evidence of detailed research. The characters themselves may be fictitious but the people and situations they come into contact with ache of death and reality.
My only complaint: the book lacks maps. True, the descriptions of place and time are crisp and clear, but locating the events on a map would have helped.