A BLAZE OF GLORY
By: Jeff Shaara
Shaara has returned to the Civil War, beginning a trilogy that will deal with the war in the West. This one, remember that Shaara writes historical fiction but with a high degree of accuracy with regard to historical events, deals with the battle of Shiloh (or Pittsburgh Landing depending upon your persuasion). And what a battle that was! 100,000 soldiers engaged with causalities as high as 24,000, the first really big battle of the war.
Had Condfederate General Albert Sidney Johnston been able to make his surprise attack on Grant’s army on Saturday, April 5, 1862 as planned, Union General Carlos Buell would have not been able to able to save Grant’s bacon as he did on Monday, April 7th. But the larger “what if ” lies with Johnston’s own death on the afternoon of April 6th. Having known that Johnston was killed in the battle, I was unaware that Johnston’s style of leadership put him in harms way, and that his death was likely as a result of that exposure. I was also unaware that Johnston had just sent his surgeon away to help some northern wounded soldiers, and that had the surgeon been at his side when he was struck by that bullet, he could have applied a simple tourniquet to stop the bleeding artery.
Shaara tells his story through the eyes of a Union infantryman, a Confederate cavalry officer, and several generals both north and south. His battle descriptions are vivid; one feels that he is on the field, as was future U.S. president James A Garfield, whose observations about the battle became the title of Shaara’s book. Though not as great as Killer Angels, this is still a good read.
-- Tim Merrill