Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Civil War: The Third Year Told By Those Who Lived It

Edited by Brooks D. Simpson

“The Civil War: The Third Year Told By Those Who Lived It,” is the third volume in The Library of America’s four volume series of first person accounts of the American Civil War.  Spanning from January 20, 1863 to March 10, 1864 this volume covers the third year of the war.  Like its preceding volumes, its multiple viewpoints cover the war’s third year from nearly every conceivable angle: Union and Confederate; from the home front to the front lines; soldiers, civilians and politicians.

Editor Brooks D. Simpson has culled from thousands of newspaper articles, diaries and journals, letters, memoirs and official documents, collected the richest of these historical documents and presented them chronologically.  One hundred and fifty years after the guns fell silent, readers of this book know how the it all will end.  But those who lived through it did not, and that gives an immediacy to these documents, the lives of their authors and the war itself, that one does not often get from reading biographies, histories of the war, or about the battles themselves.

Reading through its Table of Contents is like reading a “Who Was Who” of notable Civil War personalities from 1863, from Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis to Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George G. Meade and Robert E. Lee.  Official documents as well as private correspondence help to illuminate the war’s most tumultuous year.  Also included in this collection are many unfamiliar names, who wrote letters and diaries.  These entries, the war at home as well as the news from the front lines, give this collection a deeper, more intimate and personal meaning.

One of the highlights of this collection are items dealing with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, featured in the movie Glory, from its formation to the burning of Darien, Georgia and its defeat at Battery Wagner.  Of cource,1863 being the watershed year of the war, the Battle of Chancellorsville and the death of Stonewall Jackson also receive treatment, as well as the Gettysburg Campaign, The Vicksburg Campaign, and the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Mr. Simpson has prefaced each document with a short introductory paragraph, placing the document that follows in its proper historical context, and giving additional information wherever warranted.  The documents, however, speak for themselves, separately and collectively as a whole.

The Library of America’s “The Civil War: Told By Those Who Lived It” is an indispensible work not only for serious students of the Civil War, but also for those with a casual interest in the war as well.

ISBN 978-1598531978, Library of America, © 2013, Hardcover, 936 pages, Maps, Chronology, Biographical Notes, Note on the Texts, Notes & Index. $40.00.  To purchase this book click HERE.

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