Crusty old bearded generals from the past come to life as young, hotheaded, playful, smart, and wily soldiers united by a devotion forged at their school, West Point. The tight, closely disciplined community at the Point was riven by the onset of the Civil War; geographic loyalties were tested by the extreme loyalty the students had for one another and their school. Many resigned from the Point to fight for the South, while others graduated and joined the Union forces. Later, many met again as opponents. Fleming follows the students' struggle to choose sides, then follows the men themselves: Grant, Lee, Custer, Davis, Sherman, Pickett, Sheridan and others. Their personal feelings toward the war and their actions in battle, shown through quotes and incidents, make plain the pervasive quality of the West Point ethic throughout the conflict. ""Honor, truth and duty"" mark the heroic, gallant, sometimes flamboyant gestures and actions of the soldiers in charge. Fleming chooses his anecdotes well; he also writes well: ""Grant. . .proceeded to weave a ring of fire around the dying Confederacy.