A Novel of the Battle Of Shiloh
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Keep those men out of there! They will not pass!”
Seeley’s words were harsh, loud, the men around him doing all they could to obey. The shotguns hung by each man’s side, and the lieutenant felt a shaking nervousness, was not ready to give the order that would point the long guns at these civilians. Like him, most of these troopers had never fired their weapons at anything but crude targets. Now the targets were men, surging toward him through the darkness, pushing their way toward the gaping doorways of the supply depot, a massive warehouse close to the river. Seeley had positioned his six horsemen in an even line, to block the way of the crowd, but the crowd was a mob, desperate and mindless, their goal the precious food and bundles of supplies that lay in the warehouse. A few cavalry meant nothing at all, and quickly the mob pushed into them, some slipping past, between the horses. He felt his own frustration rising, could feel the tinder box explosiveness of the mob, and he shouted out again, could not help the higher pitch, his voice betraying the fear.
“You will stand away! These are government stores!”
Close between him and the next man, a civilian shoved hard, jostling his horse, punching it.
“Get out of my way! Damn you!”
Seeley steadied the horse, his outrage more of instinct, protective of the animal. He drew his saber, but the man ignored him, punched the horse again, and the saber rose high, came down hard against the man’s shoulder, flat- sided, the man collapsing right below him. The civilian rolled over, crying out, shielding himself with one hand above his face. There was no blood, not yet, the lieutenant trying to get control, the horse calmer, the man crawling out through the horse’s legs. The lieutenant felt relief, did not want blood. He raised the saber again, mostly for show, but most of the mob ignored him, ignored all the horsemen, still pushed into the warehouse, spreading out in the dark. Behind him a lantern was lit, the glow filling the vast building with soft light reflecting off the mounds of boxes and barrels, bundles of cloth.
More cavalrymen galloped close, and he looked that way, hoped to see wagons, the army’s own efforts to gather up the supplies, to move them out of this vulnerable place. But there were only men, a sergeant leading six more, and so Seeley was the only officer, was still in command, the sole authority. The horse jostled beneath him again, men still slipping by him in a rush, and he felt the saber in his hand, could not just assault these people, could not add to what was fast becoming a riot. But still . . . there were the orders, the strict need to guard what was piled up behind him. He steadied the animal with the reins, shouted toward the other horsemen, “Formation here! Beside us! No one is to pass! We must protect the depot!”
The other cavalrymen had already seen the futility of that, were as uncertain as he was. He wanted to shout again, but the mob was growing, more people coming down the side streets, noisy and energetic, women alongside men, shoving their way past, seeking anything they could carry. Some came past him the other way, from inside, weighed down by loot, by the very goods he was supposed to protect. He fought for it in his own mind, how to control these people, how to obey the orders he had been given, the responsibility for this one depot.
“Stop them! They must not pass!”
Copyright © 2012 by Jeffrey M. Shaara
In the first novel of a spellbinding new trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Jeff Shaara returns to the Civil War terrain he knows best. A Blaze of Glory takes us to the action-packed Western Theater for a vivid re-creation of one of the war’s bloodiest and most iconic engagements—the Battle of Shiloh.
It’s the spring of 1862. The Confederate Army in the West teeters on the brink of collapse, forcing General Albert Sidney Johnston to abandon the critical city of Nashville and rally his troops to defend the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Hot on Johnston’s trail are two of the Union’s best generals, Ulysses Grant and Don Carlos Buell, who are intent on taking the railroad and winning the war in the West. There’s just one problem: Johnston knows of the Union plans and is poised to launch a surprise attack outside a humble church named Shiloh.
By the end of the second day of fighting, as Grant’s bedraggled forces regroup for what looks like a last stand, two major events—one of them totally unexpected—would turn the tide of the battle and perhaps the war itself.
Drawing on meticulous research, Shaara takes us inside the maelstrom of Shiloh as no novelist has before.
Hardcover Book : 464 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc./Random House ( May 29, 2012 )
Item #: 13-579373
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 1.05inches
Product Weight: 25.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Very well written. Characters are very well developed and I could identify with all of them. The horror that was Shiloh is very well presented. You can feel the frustration on both sides and understand the strategy of the battle without a boring scholarly work. Here is hopng the next two of this trilogy as as good as the first.
I didn't exactly find this book spell-binding though there is no doubting Schaara's expertise where the Civil War is concerned. He treats us here to the nitty-gritty of the war, not from the lofty view of commanding generals but from the perspective of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb.
There is a short build-up to the battle, the Union soldiers arriving at Pittsburgh Landing, scouting, skirmishing, false alarms, Sherman's utter lack of awareness that an entire Confederate army was descending on his camps. The two Union privates, Fritz Bauer, who is German but called "Dutchie" and his glum friend Willis, are quickly swept into the maelstrom of violence and confusion and we follow the battle from their perspective as they are driven back toward the landing. From the Confederate side we see the battle approach through the eyes of Lieutenant James Seeley, scouting for Forrest as the Union forces approach.
The story flits from character to character which leaves a muddle of confusion in its wake. You cannot follow the story from any one character's perspective - there is no sense of a developing "last stand" as noted by the book's description - the Union soldiers seem confident; reinforcements are arriving and they are determined to do some damage themselves after being kicked around on the first day.
It is a difficult read - almost too many characters from too many perspectives from too many places on the battlefield. It made for a difficult read and not only because of that: Schaara's technical expertise is far better than his storytelling. I just didn't find any of the characters compelling enough.
He describes the battle in all its gory details, the various ways in which men were wounded and killed. It is easy enough to feel Bauer's fear as he hides behind a tree, watching men around him torn apart while under similar cover. It's a shame is does not read better.
Reviewer: Steven T