VOICES OF THE CIVIL WAR by Richard Wheeler


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A Civil War history composed of eyewitness accounts of battle, smoothly spliced by the author of a similar compilation, Voices of 1776 (1972). The chroniclers include chaplains, foreign journalists, reminiscing generals, and soldiers writing home. Wheeler aims at a linear, fast-moving, accurate account, but also shows each side's perceptions and misperceptions of the other's strength (hearing the 99th Rhode Island Regiment mentioned, a Confederate soldier exclaimed, ""If Rhode Island has ninety-nine, how many must New York have!""). The brutality of battle is underlined, but high morale is shown to outweigh bitterness toward commanders or the enemy; indeed soldiers are seen exchanging tobacco, newspapers, and exhortations across the lines. Though civilian ordeals like the bombardment of Fredericksburg and the resort to caves at Vicksburg are briefly referred to, the focus remains on the course of battle. What makes the book fresh and memorable is not any specific eyewitness incident so much as the style of the accounts--terseness under fire, 19th-century sentimentality, and a genuine eloquence about ""the fortunes of war.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1976
Publisher: T.Y. Crowell