The Gingrich and Forstchen (military historian) “what-if” take on the Civil War gathers some steam.
After Lee’s glittering Gettysburg triumph (ending volume one of what bids fair to be at least a trilogy) the tactical question becomes—what next? Strike at the now vulnerable enemy capital? The decimated Army of the Potomac appears unable to protect Washington, and if Lee can occupy the city—as President Jefferson Davis is certain he can—perhaps the nightmarish struggle will be at last resolved. Failing that longed-for consummation, France and/or England might be willing to regard the Confederacy as legitimate and worthy of an alliance. But Lee’s vaunted Army of Northern Virginia isn’t what it once was. Victories have been costly. Manpower shortages are everywhere and critical. And, in the west, there’s this new player, a worrisome Union general named Ulysses S. Grant, fresh from his own monster victory at Vicksburg. Urged on by the overconfident Davis, Lee attempts to storm Washington, where he meets much stiffer resistance than predicted—mounted, among others, by the elegant and aristocratic Colonel Robert Shaw (Matthew Broderick in Glory) and his legendary fifty-fourth of Massachusetts. (“Lincoln saw the columns of veterans beginning to shake out into the battle line, the men professional-looking, moving sharply. . . and they were colored.”) The bloody chess game continues. Bold gambits are countered by desperate defenses as the armies maneuver for position, and always, always, with horrific slaughter of young men. Lincoln throws his full support behind Grant. Unaccountably, Jeff Davis’s support for Lee begins to waver. As this second installment ends, Grant seems headed for Richmond. Is that where Gingrich–Forstchen’s champion heavyweights will finally slug it out?
Those iconic figures manage more human-speak than they did in Gettysburg (2003), and the battle scenes continue war-lovingly rendered. Civil War buffs will be entertained.