Books by Larry J. Daniel

Released: April 1, 1997

The first full-length history of this epic Civil War battle in two decades delivers Homeric gore minus the sweep and poetry. Granted, Daniel (History/Murray State Univ.) isn't trying to be Homer. His densely annotated study is a solid, even remarkable piece of scholarly reconstruction that stresses historical preciseness over drama, right down to its frequent, often clinical descriptions of wounds. The human dimension of the first large-scale slaughter of Americans by Americans remains strangely and unfortunately muted, buried beneath an avalanche of facts and figures documenting troop strength and tactical maneuvers. Telling details, like a rebel soldier's recollection of shivering in his tent on the eve of battle as a band played ``Home Sweet Home'' in the nearby Union camp, are too few and far between. Daniel's explication of the egotism, self-interest, and insecurity that hindered the judgment of both Union and Confederate commanders and the politics that guided staffing and strategy textures the blow-by-blow tactical commentary with some human interest. The inclusion of so many minor figures, while confusing, also shorts in-depth analyses of major players like Union general Ulysses Grant, who remains remote. Daniel's major accomplishment is that he effectively dramatizes the chaos of war—the traffic jams, bungled orders, and terror-stricken confusion that constitute the ragged improvisation of battle. But Daniel too often fails to rise above that chaos, miring the reader in it as well. Stepping back more frequently to add analyses to the description would provide badly needed perspective and scope, making the account more accessible to novices who don't know a regiment from a brigade. Though he purports to settle differences among historians, Daniel's tone is closer to mediation than finality. Exhaustive but workmanlike, this will be of interest to academics and hard-core Civil War buffs. (maps, photos, not seen) (Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club selection) Read full book review >