In this long and challenging book Edmund Wilson presents a critical analysis of the works of some 30 men and women, novelists, generals, poets; politicans, diarists, who saw the Civil War at first hand and who wrote of what they saw. "The period of the Civil War", Wilson says in his introduction, "was not one in which belles lettres flourished, but it did produce a remarkable literature .... of speeches, pamphlets, private letters and diaries, personal memoirs and journalistic reports." From this literature, beginning with Harriet Beecher Stowe and ending with Justice Holmes, he has culled fascinating examples, with them presenting excellent pocket biographies of their authors. Great men -- and lesser ones -- are seen through their own works and the eyes of men who knew them: Lincoln and Lee; Sherman and Mosby; the Confederate Richard Taylor, to whom Stonewall Jackson was hero; Grant, an amazing man, whose memoirs "may well rank as the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar" -- and many others. Women are represented by a fine chapter on Harriet Beecher Stowe, and by excerpts from the diaries of the mulatto teacher, Charlotte Forten; and three Confederate ladies, staunch Secessionists who loathed slavery: Kate Stone, Sarah Morgan, and the incomparable Mrs. Mary Chesnut. No book for hurried reading, this brilliant study will appeal to discerning readers both North and South; it belongs in public and university libraries, and in all comprehensive collections of American literary criticism.