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Book Review of:
From Fields of Fire and Glory: Letters of the Civil War

Author: Rod Gragg
Chronicle Books LLC,
ISBN 0-8118-3360-7
Copyright 2002, 64pp.

In both format and content Rod Gragg in his little book From Fields of Fire and Glory: Letters of the Civil War, presents a fascinating insight into the human side of this American tragedy.  As Gragg says in the introduction to his book, “…these letters from Americans at war carry a ring of reality that no modern historical text can comparably convey.  Here are the actual words of those who experienced the triumph and the defeat, the loneliness and the fear, the suffering and the sacrifices of life on the battlefield.”

      From Fields of Fire and Glory is composed of 20 short (a page or two) chapters, each of which is accompanied by a facsimile letter on which the chapter is based.  Although Gragg may have been arbitrary in his selection of moods and emotions, his compilation provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the men and women, north and south, who fought or served.  Letters run the gamut from a brief note written by Joshua Chamberlain to his wife after he had been informed by his surgeon that his wounds received at the siege of Petersburg were mortal, to a letter from a Missouri slave to his wife after his owner with Union sympathies allowed him to enlist in the Union army, to a nurse writing to her cousins three days after Gettysburg, to the report home of a young Texas cavalryman on the condition of his unit: “Four has the measles, one has the chils, and one the typhoid newmonia.”

     Gragg in his narrative does an excellent job of putting each letter in context.  In most instances Gragg includes a summary of the outcome of war involvement for each writer.  The text is under-girded by photographs which lend significantly to the impact of the book.  Detailed Endnotes cover sources for the text chapter by chapter.

     Although many collections of letters and diaries have been published, the variety included in this little volume provides one with an appreciation of what life must have been like back then.  Transcriptions of all letters are provided, but the facsimiles give opportunity to try one’s hand at dealing with original sources.

      Exploring From Fields of Fire and Glory: Letters of the Civil War is well worth the short reading time to be exposed to life as it was lived by some who experienced the impact of the Civil War.

Review by Theodore C. Schlack, SRHPF Member

 

 

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