THE MEMOIRS OF CHARLES HENRY VEIL by Herman J. Viola

THE MEMOIRS OF CHARLES HENRY VEIL

A Soldier's Recollections of the Civil War and the Arizona Territory
edited by
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A century after being written, vivid memories of the Civil War and the American frontier see the light of day. In editing these memoirs, Viola (Ben Nighthorse Campbell, p. 1190) improved punctuation and sentence structure but otherwise attempted to ``retain the charm of Charles Henry Veil's literary style.'' Said charms are, it must be said, partly veiled, as Veil writes in an artless, direct manner devoid of flourish. But this has its benefits. His reporting seems reliable (although Viola reports that Veil confabulated about the most critical moment in his life--his recovery of the body of General John Reynolds on the battlefield at Gettysburg, an act that won Veil promotion from foot soldier to officer). Veil doesn't mince over bloodshed, describing with relish how he killed two cavalry deserters with a single bullet, and how he watched General Custer and men lynch some of Mosby's Raiders. His battlefield scenes pop with action. Out West, the pace accelerates. Veil fights an alligator, gallops through sandstorms, hunts with Custer. Above all, he kills Apache. His text discloses indiscriminate slaughter on both sides, along with frontier prejudices of the day: to Veil, Mexicans are ``greasy,'' Jews are obsessed with money, Indians are ``like animals.'' As the West settles down, Veil turns to financial schemes--mining, land deals, hog farming--and proves a successful entrepreneur. He concludes by proudly noting that where, on his arrival in 1866, he found ``unknown territory inhabited almost entirely by the most savage tribes,'' now rises the city of Phoenix with 15,000 teeming souls. A troubling mix of violence, ignorance, and courage: a valuable piece of Americana. (Sixteen b&w photographs, one map- -not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59463-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993