A rambling if well-researched novel tells the story of the three day (September 14-17, 1862) battle of Antietam from two sides-- that of historical fact and that of some historical characters involved. In this case history wins, and the background of the battle is fully filled in: the skirmishes between McClellan and Lee; the discovery by McClellan's men of lost Confederate orders; McClellan's vacillations; and the battle itself- ""the bloodiest, least decisive and most absurd battle ever fought in the Republic"". In this setting are these characters: the drunken, unhappy Captain Leonard and Private Finnigan of the Army of the Potomac; Bell, the Rebel with a toothache; the newly widowed Elizabeth; the harelipped Tipton; etc., etc. While they talk and think private thoughts some men die and some live and get drunk; two Northern deserters are brutally hanged; the battle begins, and wanes, and at the end-in Elizabeth's words- ""There is nothing to discuss"". What there is to discuss is the useless brutality of war, but how many spectators will stay the course to reach this conclusion is doubtful- over and above those not surfeited with the particulars of this conflict.