FOR COUNTRY, CAUSE AND LEADER by Stephen W. Sears

FOR COUNTRY, CAUSE AND LEADER

The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon
edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An important addition to the growing number of diaries, memoirs, and other primary source materials on the Civil War made accessible to the nonspecialist reader. Sears (To the Gates of Richmond, 1992, etc.) has skillfully edited 19 pocket diaries that the ``good soldier Haydon,'' a 27- year-old lawyer from Decatur, Michigan, painstakingly wrote, transcribed, and sent home to his father from 1861 to 1864. Haydon was a college graduate who read The Atlantic and quoted scraps of poetry to combat the boredom of army life, but the real value of his daybooks is historical and emotional rather than literary. Rising from sergeant to lieutenant colonel, Haydon saw action at or on the edges of both Bull Run battles and at Fredericksburg, more seriously during the ``Seven Days'' on the Peninsula. In 1863, he joined Grant at Vicksburg and was badly wounded leading an assault at Jackson, Mississippi. Unless you're a memoir-gourmet, Haydon's diaries aren't easy reading: Descriptions of the weather and of the awful, inadequate food become repetitious. Nonetheless, there's scarcely a day's entry that doesn't contain some stirring observation or moving reflection, all conveying a genuine mid- Victorian sensibility preserved amid unparalleled carnage. Haydon was obsessed with doing his duty, not only for the Union but in order to be seen as dutiful. (At one point, he writes that there's so much false illness that ``good soldiers sometimes suffer much pain and inconvenience rather than incur the suspicion of shirking duty.'') Readers who would otherwise wonder at troops like those who pinned their names to their coats for the purpose of identifying their corpses as they prepared to run into the cannon's mouth at Cold Harbor will here receive the authentic feel of the era's moral imperative. Survivor of many battles but weakened by his wounds, Haydon died of pneumonia in 1864, while on furlough. In this book of his own making, aided by Sears's introduction and deft chapter transitions, he at last receives his true memorial.

Pub Date: July 21st, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-66360-1
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993




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