A DIARY OF BATTLE: The Personal Journals of Col. Charles Wainwright (1861-1865) by Allan-Ed. Nevins
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A DIARY OF BATTLE: The Personal Journals of Col. Charles Wainwright (1861-1865)

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Edited by a well known scholar, an expert on the Civil War, and drawn from 1700 handwritten pages recently found in New York, this battle diary gives us an intimate picture of life on the Potomac front. One great virtue of the diary is that it was kept by an officer who was widely read and travelled and literate beyond ordinary expectancy. Another advantage is that this same officer (he ended the war as a Brigadier General) while often in a policy-making position, yet was actively involved in the fighting and close to the men who drew the daily war plans. Thus we get a portrait in depth of what the Civil War was like and why its great battles occurred where they did and when they did. Add to this the contribution made by the editor in historical narrative between the entries which gives an overall picture of what was happening. But the fact remains that Wainwright's own entries are the most fascinating. We read of the hard work, the trying conditions in the field, the ever-present problem of inefficiency which plagued Mr. Lincoln's army. We read the intimate thoughts about men like Halleck, Hooker, McClelian and others charged with the prosecution of the war. We see Fair Oaks, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. One marvelous entry is a lively recounting of a dialogue between Wainwright and General Hooker. Despite the flood of Civil War books, there can never be enough of the quality of this. Its balance of experience both in policy and fighting makes this diary unique.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1962
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World