Sunday, September 07, 2008

REVIEW: A Civil General

Title: A Civil General
Authors: David Stinebeck and Scannell Gill
ISBN: 9780865346635
Historical Fiction
Rating: B

First Line: The woods are crashing.

Author David Stinebeck's great-grandfather fought under General George Henry Thomas during the Civil War and recorded his experiences in his diaries. Stinebeck has used those diaries as the basis for this novel, narrated by a young colonel who becomes the general's confidante.

I'm not totally in the dark about the Civil War. Having two rabid genealogists in the family and knowing that my great-great-great grandfather died during the Battle of Franklin helped boost my interest in that time period. However, the only thing I knew about Thomas was his nickname: "the Rock of Chickamauga". Reading A Civil General greatly increased my knowledge of this almost-forgotten general.

He shouldn't be forgotten. He was the most successful Union general, and the reason for his success was due in large part to the way he treated his men. They loved him and would do anything he asked. Other generals would wear their best uniforms for formal occasions. George Henry Thomas dressed up for his men. Part of the reason for his lack of lasting fame in the history books undoubtedly stems from George Henry Thomas himself. A native of Virginia, he was a friend of Robert E. Lee, but his staunch Union beliefs made him an outcast, disowned by his own family. He turned down more than one promotion because he wanted promotion only under his own terms. He saw no reason to kowtow to political lackeys for recognition or advancement. According to A Civil General, another reason for Thomas' lack of fame also lies with some of his fellow officers whom he made very uncomfortable.

I think this book would have been even better if it weren't so short--a mere 159 pages. The subject is so interesting that it deserves a more in-depth treatment. I also found the narration a bit awkward from time to time and would have appreciated it being written from a different point of view. However, I did enjoy reading this book. It made me try to overload Google with searches on General George Henry Thomas. The authors have done us a great service in bringing this man to our notice again. The attention is more than well deserved.

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