THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)

"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016


"One of the best Civil War novels I have ever read." -- James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

Martin Hasford, torn between his love of his family and devotion to their welfare on the one hand and a sense of loyalty toward his state on the other, reluctantly enlists in the Confederate army.

It is his hope that his unit will remain in Arkansas and defend it from a Yankee invasion.  But as fate would have it, his regiment is sent to Virginia and, as we saw in Jones' Elkhorn Tavern, a major battle erupts back home in his backyard.  To add insult to injury, Hasford learns that his daughter has married a wounded Yankee officer. 

Meanwhile, his regiment sees action in some of the biggest, most significant, most lethal battles of the war -- Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness.  They are even transferred west of the Appalachians for a period of time where they fight in the battle of Chickamauga.

Antietam: the Civil War's deadliest day
Among Hasford's closest friends in his company are the Fawley brothers -- Zack and Noah -- and a Black Welshman by the name of Liverpool Morgan.  This is their story, too.

In a brief introduction, Jones writes a perfect summation of the book:

This is a story of the common soldiers.  It is not a story of causes or politics or social systems, not of generals and grand strategy, but of simple soldiers and how they were in some ways amazingly different from modern soldiers, and in others amazingly the same.  There were a great many like these who, despite all odds, at least attempted to do whatever was asked of them.

"...this is a sturdy, above-average Civil War fiction -- strong on unromanticized detail and day-to-day grit." -- Kirkus Review

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