The Common Soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade, C.S.A., and the Iron Brigade, U.S.A.
Email this review


A masterful and engaging account of the Civil War from the perspective of the soldiers who fought it, by the author of Custer (1996) and General James Longstreet (1993). Wert examines two brigades, one each from North and South, that found themselves at such battles as Manassas Junction (Bull Run), Fredericksburg, Sharpsburg (Antietam), Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg—battles that were vividly recounted at the time in memoirs, letters, and other firsthand reports. The Stonewall Brigade, from Virginia, received its name because of the leadership of Brig. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson; the Iron Brigade was made up of men from Wisconsin and Michigan. Wert covers the recruitment, training, and initial deployment of each unit. But more important than these military details is the light he sheds on the reasons why men are drawn to fight in a war that is sure to be bloody (—We are in the midst of a great revolution,” wrote one Southern officer of his people’s fight “to maintain their rights—). Throughout the account, the words of enlisted men and officers dominate the narrative, and this firsthand testimony helps create a history that is far more vivid than any remote account could be. Wert skillfully interjects his own voice only when needed to guide the tale along. The voices he brings back to tell of the war’s progress and its rigors are voices of frustration (aimed at their leaders), fear, and homesickness mixed in with a healthy dose of everyday concerns; in their immediacy, they leap across the gap of 130 years that separates us from their era. Wert writes history the way it ought to be written: with clear prose, a deep understanding of his sources, and with the voices of ordinary men—all of which make the events as real to us as if they had only happened yesterday. (13 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-82435-3
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


NonfictionCIVIL WAR BARONS by Jeffry D. Wert
by Jeffry D. Wert
NonfictionA GLORIOUS ARMY by Jeffry D. Wert
by Jeffry D. Wert
NonfictionCAVALRYMAN OF THE LOST CAUSE by Jeffry D. Wert
by Jeffry D. Wert