Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Must Read

From time to time, I like to share with you my recommendations on certain books I have read. This is one of those times. Now, if you have no interest in history or historical fiction, then go on, surf off somewhere else on this here web. For I mean to take up some of your precious time with my thoughts on what I consider a superb work.

As I mentioned in my Damn Yankee post, not that long ago, Ralph Peters' book Cain at Gettysburg was next up on my things to read list. As I mentioned, I picked up this book in Fresno while awaiting my series of cross-country flights taking me from my daughter's place in California back to the banks of Narragansett Bay.

Today I have finished the body of the work. Pickett's Charge has receded, the Army of Northern Virginia has ceded the field to the Army of the Potomac and all that remains is the author's notes at the tail end of the book.

It is the rare book which leaves me sad that it's over. This is one of those books.

Now Lieutenant Colonel Peters (USA, Retired) is something of a controversial figure. A man of strong opinions he has his critics. I don't care. His writing skills are marvelous, he can describe a battle as few others can.

Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters, US Army, Retired

This is not the first book of his that I've read, but this (to me anyway) is his best.

Although knowing the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, reading this novel puts you on the edge of your seat. You almost feel that somehow Lee's army is actually going to win the battle this time. Then again, you can almost feel that Lee's second invasion of the North was doomed as soon as Harry Heth's infantry collided with John Buford's cavalry just outside the town of Gettysburg.

Now the cover of this book touts this as "Surpasses Michael Shaara's classic, The Killer Angels". No, it doesn't. That's marketing hype, written by people with no clue for an audience with even less of a clue. But that doesn't really matter, this book is a superb complement to The Killer Angels.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Both are superb novels looking at the same historical event from slightly different viewpoints.  Both novels are well worth your time. Anything written by these two men is well worth your time.

I would also mention Mr. Shaara's son Jeff Shaara, who completed his father's envisioned Civil War Trilogy (Gods and Generals / The Killer Angels / The Last Full Measure) after his father's untimely death at the age of 60. All of which I've read. All of which are treasured parts of my library.

Jeff Shaara is a superb author in his own right. Both men can describe a battle with "you are there" immediacy. Jeff Shaara has written on the Mexican War in which many of the Civil War generals had their first taste of battle, as well as World War II. I'll buy and read anything he writes!

But I highly recommend Cain at Gettysburg, a book which will haunt me and which brought tears to my eyes as I read of the courage on both sides of that bitter fight.

I also wept at the waste of combat and thought with great bitterness of the stupidity and hubris of politicians both North and South. Then and now.

Never again must be our watchwords. Never again must American raise arms against American. This great land of ours was soaked with far too much blood between 1861 and 1865.

I must get to Gettysburg again. And soon.

To marvel at the courage of those long-dead men who wore the the blue and the gray.

To mourn them and honor their sacrifice.

The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead, CSA - Captain Henry H. Bingham, USA


  1. Well, your book recommendations haven't been wrong so far, and count me in the Not a Fan of Ralph Peters column, but the book is in the mail. Did The Gettysburg Terrain Walk when I was at the Pentagon. Spent my time at Jedi Knight school studying the other battle that ended July 4 1863, so am catching up on Gettysburg.

    1. And my knowledge of the Vicksburg campaign is weak at best. We should compare notes sometime. Preferably over some Texas BBQ and a good beer (or two).

    2. Took Texas out of the war, at least logistically, and that was a big thing.

    3. Just noted a little further down on the kindle page for Peter's book, is Jeff Shaara's book on Vicksburg. Went back and got that one too. I'll let you know.

    4. I didn't know Jeff Shaara had written a book on Vicksburg!

      Must. Have.

    5. I do recall that taking Vicksburg split the Confederacy in half.

      Taking Texas away logistically. Not good as I recall, not good at all.

  2. I too will have a look at the book. I've read many of the books of the War but not anything by Peters.

    1. I thought it was superb. Let me know what you think Cap'n.


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