Howard Broslin provides a painless way to read history. This time the setting is Vicksburg, the time, the months leading up to the siege and the period of the siege itself. The South was exultant over its victories, belittled its defeats, and confident of the future victory. The first anniversary of the Confederacy was only one occasion for celebration; parties were still the order of the day, enlivened by uniforms and a certain fever in the air. Four girls, budding socialites, provide the vortex, so to speak, of romance and conflict, as the impact of war alters values and levels social barriers. The story of the Civil War on the Mississippi is woven through with a thread of life behind the scenes, - festivities, lessening as the war tightens belts, brings deprivation, and marks every household with sorrows; races, gambling, fighting personal feuds; and always the tenuous friction supplied by the climate of opinion. None of the characters- except perhaps Joad, the Yankee grandfather of one of the girls -- comes really to life; most of the others remain types, two dimensional. But the mood and tempo, the pace of history lives.