Email this review


To an even greater degree than Thomas Keneally's Confederates, Jones' new Civil War novel strives for a close-up, life-sized evocation of the conflict--as it follows the men of a self-formed squad within the Thirteenth Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Among the soldiers: the Fawley brothers, tightlipped Zack and raw innocent Noah; genteel but broke Beverly Cass, cousin of despised, fashionable company-captain Maurice Gordy; Liverpool Morgan, a worldly-wise Welsh gambler and slyboots forager with a gift of gab; Martin Hasford (cf. Elkhorn Tavern, 1980), whose beloved family straddles the Arkansas-Missouri border pestered by Yankees; Lt. Guthrie Scaggs, circuit-rider judge turned rebel officer; old drinker Sidney Dinsmore; and Captain Gordy's halfcaste batman Tug (Bev Cass' whelp by a Gordy house slave). Some of the men sail together downriver to Virginia to enlist in the Arkansas regiment, then march and entrain with the regiment to Lynchburg for training--hellbent to kill Yankees and get the war over in a month or two. But once into the Shenandoah valley, General Stonewall Jackson keeps them moving, until the impatient troops have passed through five states without firing a shot in anger; their shoes are ragged, toes out, bodies liceridden. And then in Maryland, at Antietam, they find themselves facing tens of thousands of the Army of the Potomac (which becomes a beloved enemy). Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Richmond follow--some men falling, some wounded, some taken prisoner. There's gambling and whoring between bouts of bloodshed. And, while less eloquent and less firmly focused than Keneally's intense evocation, this is sturdy, above-average Civil War fiction--strong on unromanticized detail and day-to-day grit.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1982
ISBN: 0451232534
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston