Biographical and background sketches from a pen skilled enough to attract Civil War buffs who seek renewal of their
knowledge about the era's best-known figures without requiring challenging new insights.
Jones, a mathematician writing history, has sketched the portraits of seven Union and seven Confederate leaders who lived
past 1865, only two of them (Jefferson Davis and Andrew Johnson) politicians. While adding nothing to what is already known
of the men or the great conflict in which they were involved, the sketches are nevertheless deft examples of this classic genre
of art—brief biographies that allow Jones to characterize and judge his subjects. He also provides additional non-biographical
chapters on the fall of Richmond and the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, both of which are movingly rendered. All are
based upon appropriately wide reading in the pertinent published sources. Ranging from Robert E. Lee to George Armstrong
Custer, from Phil Sheridan to John Bell Hood, Jones's heroes are the conventional characters in the written drama of this great
war. He never considers how different that drama would have appeared if the worlds of war and its aftermath were filled out and
affected by freed slaves, women, writers like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman, and abolitionists like Frederick
Douglass—all available to Jones but omitted by him. Jones assumes, unexceptionably enough, that his subjects' postwar acts
affected the nation in important ways. But because so much of each sketch is devoted to their pre-war and wartime lives, he ends
up squandering a superb opportunity to examine in larger terms how the years following a war are often more significant to a
society than its years in battle. He indicates what each of his 14 men did after the guns fell silent, but fails to demonstrate that
what they did shaped the nation's history.
What remains is a pleasing journey over well-blazed historical trails.