Shelby Foote’s THE CIVIL WAR: A NARRATIVE: VOLUME 3: RED RIVER TO APPOMATTOX
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
Volume 3 of Shelby Foote’s monumental Civil War history is depressing. The Confederate cause is doomed. Atlanta burns. Thousands continue to be maimed and killed on battlefields. Sherman marches and torches towns and countryside. Richmond burns. Lee surrenders. Lincoln is assassinated. Davis tries to escape.
What makes this such depressing reading is how people were so willing to prolong this death spiral. They didn't have the benefit of being able to see the future. They take orders. Having seen their comrades die, they rise to fight another day.
The prolonged agony is deftly and sometimes poetically presented by the author in a series of self-contained yet interrelated sequences: politics; battle; speeches; an officer rides past a group of disapproving ladies; a dug-in soldier calls out insults to the hidden enemy just a few yards away; heart-wrenching letters to home.
Foote almost succeeds in making sense of the whole thing.
I say "almost" since I still have a hard time imagining that much of this really happened “just down the road" from where I sit here in Alexandria Virginia. How was such carnage sustained for so long? Stubbornness? Pride? Poor communications? A fundamentally different view of the value of human life?
Pondering such questions seems inevitable upon reading books like this. My hat is off to the author for such an accomplishment. He has presented great volumes of facts and history while telling a coherent story of momentous, long-ago events that still seem all too recognizable.
Review copyright © 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald. Scroll down to see more reviews like this.