Shelby Foote's THE CIVIL WAR: A NARRATIVE, VOLUME II, FREDERICKSBURG TO MERIDIAN
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
One of the people I would like to meet in heaven and have a beer with is author Shelby Foote.
The second of his three volumes about the CivilWar focuses mostly on 1863 and early 1864. Major battles are discussed and as in volume 1 Foote skillfully interweave’s military with social and political events.
As with volume 1 I’m again in awe of this writer’s power and skill. The mental energy that went into creating this narrative out of the vast array of available sources that had to be reviewed and distilled must of been enormous. The manner in which words and sentences flow through both the momentous and mundane is nothing short of miraculous and extends far beyond the mere recitation of facts. This is some of the clearest writing I have ever experienced.
Whenever I read about the CivilWar my general reaction is one of gloom. So many deaths and disasters. So many mistakes and wandering about due to poor communication. Battlefield horror and panic on both sides are displayed against the emerging reality that, through sheer weight of numbers, the South cannot win its desperate struggle to, among other things, preserve its “right” to enslave other human beings.
As the alien says to Ellie Arroway at the end of the movie Contact, “You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares.” In this book, a long nightmare predominates but is real.
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald