In this collection America’s most distinguished popular historian has turned his attention to the tragic struggle that came close to destroying the American nation. Drawing on letters and diaries as well as military reports, Brown recreates the human face of the conflict and includes accounts of the most important battles fought west of the Mississippi. With his characteristic genius for bringing history to life, he tells of daring raids, brilliant strategies, tragic miscalculations, and pigheaded blunders; times for both sides when everything that could go wrong, did; and times when extraordinary good luck seemed to suggest divine intervention.
Combining military history and some of the most unusual and dramatic events of the Civil War, this collection of short pieces will be welcomed by Dee Brown’s many admirers–and by all readers with an interest in the great sagas of the Civil War and the American West. It offers the balanced judgment and compassionate vision that make Brown one of our greatest historical writers and the most appealing to the general reader.
Brown describes the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, termed “the Bull Run of the West”; the Battle of Westport, the biggest engagement fought west of the Mississippi; and other battles–some that produced unexpected results. He recounts the exploits of John Morgan and Benjamin Grierson, cavalry commanders on opposite sides who were famous for their expeditions deep into enemy territory. Brown includes the personal stories of commanders and foot soldiers who describe the unspeakable horrors they witnessed, as well as the astonishing heroism and gallantry of soldiers on both sides, and moments when compassion for the enemy replaced the murderous rage of battle. Among the most remarkable stories are Brown’s accounts of a conspiracy to free Confederate prisoners who were then to form a Northwestern Confederacy; a poignant love story told in letters; and the tragic tale of the final collapse of the Confederacy and capture of Jefferson Davis.