Such an interesting and informative book. I thought I knew something about Ireland and the Civil War but this book was a revelation. I saw the authorSuch an interesting and informative book. I thought I knew something about Ireland and the Civil War but this book was a revelation. I saw the author on BookTV being interviewed and knew I had to get this book.
Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced Mar) is man too few Americans know about it and should know about: aristocrat, orator, revolutionary, warrior, soldier, and governor of Montana. He lived only 41 years but those years had more living than many octogenarians experience. He lived a rich life as an Irish aristocrat and was banished to Tasmania after the 1848 uprising against the British. He was an orator and writer with a huge following in Ireland and a clear and present danger to the Crown. Sentenced to death, he and others were rescued from the hangman's noose only to be exiled forever from Ireland. He escaped from Tasmania to the United States where he achieved some fame prior to the Civil War. He never forgot what the British did to the Irish doing the famine and spent his whole life trying to return to Ireland and get justice for his people.
Indeed the famine was created by the English as they refused to allow food in Ireland to go to the Irish. Food was exported during the famine years from Ireland as the British refused to interfere with the invisible hand of the free market. Aid to the Irish was viewed with disdain by the British authorities and when little bits of it were provided it was not free. Most everyone has heard and knows of the famine but few know that the British made a bad situation worse and used it as a form of population control.
I'd heard of the Irish Brigade of the Union Army during the Civil War but not its commander-Meagher. He was in the thick of the fighting and instrumental in the recruiting of thousands of Irish into its ranks. Bull Run, Fair Oaks, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville- Meagher was there and witnessed the destruction and deaths of so many friends. These heavy losses turned the Irish back in the cities against him. Egan paints a picture of a man who made his own decisions and did what he thought was right. He supported Lincoln, a Republican when most of the Irish were Democrats.
Like President Garfield, he was a man with much left to contribute to this country and left us far too early. His last days dealing with a right wing vigilante group in Montana were tough. If you think the current headlines are bad you need to go back in time with Meagher when things were really bad to appreciate how far we've come as a nation....more
I've read enough books about Custer and what could one more say what already hadn't been said? Well, lots-the title says it all. A very engaging and tI've read enough books about Custer and what could one more say what already hadn't been said? Well, lots-the title says it all. A very engaging and thoroughly researched book. The intro is just fantastic. I've never been a fan of Custer considering him an impetuous loser but I really enjoyed all the sidebars in this book about Eliza, his African American cook, as well as his personal demons. He was a womanizer and a gambling addict. He was his own worst enemy. He was a racist. Two courts martial before his date with destiny. A hypocrite. Inconsistent. A northerner who loved the South. A romantic doing battle with the new and technocratic meritocracy. How ironic that he is thought of as a loser when for all his military career he was tactically sound and competent on the battlefield. I like too how the book is about Custer and not the battle that has enshrined him in notoriety. LBH is only covered in the epilogue....more
Ran across the author on an old CSPAN episode and had to read this book. It didn't disappoint. Growing up in DC I was aware of the forts encircling DCRan across the author on an old CSPAN episode and had to read this book. It didn't disappoint. Growing up in DC I was aware of the forts encircling DC but not too familiar with the battle or how close it was to a catastrophe for the Union. The battlefield wasn't even a site to visit when I was growing up like Gettysburg or Antietam. I'd always been amazed at how close DC was to the Confederacy yet it had not been raided. Jubal Early came close in July, 1964. So close it's scary. He basically ran out of gas. His men were exhausted from the heat and their pace. Also the forts were formidable in their design and fields of fire. Lew Wallace, soon to be author of Ben Hur and future governor of New Mexico, slowed Early's force down at the Monocacy River east of Frederick. He bought a day for Grant to shift forces from Richmond to DC. Lincoln actually visited the front lines and drew sniper fire at Fort Stevens near 16th St. Wallace was relieved of command for his failure to stop Early but later had it restored. Leepson goes into all the hindsight critics and their opinions on the consequences of Early's decision to not attack the forts. Early was aggressive and a formidable commander. I think he made the right call by withdrawing and not entering the capital. A well told account. Could have had better maps and better placement of the few maps....more
Fact meets legend. A very thorough and well balanced account of the epic fight that's maybe not so epic. Desjardin tells the whole story of the 20th MFact meets legend. A very thorough and well balanced account of the epic fight that's maybe not so epic. Desjardin tells the whole story of the 20th Maine before the battle and afterwards as well. He also covers the 15th Alabama with equal thoroughness and evenhandedness. Maps and pictures as well as very detailed appendices are all here. We learn much more about the men to include the XO of the regiment, Ellis Spear, who after Chamberlain left the regiment, served a cowardly and absent CO. Spear did all the work and became a defacto commander without the pay and honors. A PA regiment refused to attack the Big Round Top so after their defense of the Little Round Top, the 20th Maine pressed on for that too. Desjardin was an advisor for the film Gettysburg and talks at length how the book Killer Angels and the movie have brought this fight to the public's attention. The last chapter talks all about the iconization of this fight....more
Garry Wills has written 189 pages and another 100 or so pages of appendices and notes about a speech of 272 words. It's formidable and at times dry buGarry Wills has written 189 pages and another 100 or so pages of appendices and notes about a speech of 272 words. It's formidable and at times dry but it's thorough. He discusses: Lincoln's mentors and influences; the displacement of Roman allusion by the Greek Revival movement at Lincoln's time; the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as they relate to the Gettysburg address; detailed rhetoric analyis of the words, structure, and clauses of the speech- to name a few. There's a discussion on cemetery design and landscaping during the 19th Century. Lincoln loved words and saw them as weapons. He was a word nerd and what he achieved with his remarks was transformational. He wasn't even the key speaker for the event. The most popular speaker of the time, the President of Harvard talked for two hours and nobody remembers what he said. Lincoln spoke for a few minutes and his words are memorized by school children. This book will tell you more than you want to know but there's so much we don't know about Lincoln and how he came to write this masterpiece. Be prepared to learn much but be prepared for a slow and excruciating read at times. ...more
Swanson deftly picks up from where his book, Manhunt, left us and expertly gives us a day by day view of the USA as it mourned Lincoln and pursued JefSwanson deftly picks up from where his book, Manhunt, left us and expertly gives us a day by day view of the USA as it mourned Lincoln and pursued Jeff Davis. Davis had already fled Richmond when Lincoln was killed. He was not the object of interest until after Lincoln's death. Lincoln visited Richmond and was walking its streets shortly after its fall. It would have been like Bush walking around Baghdad. No President has been so close to a warfront. How ironic that he was killed in his city, Washington, after being so exposed in the theater of war. Lots of interesting and strange stories about both men. The Lincoln mourning train was very interesting. They would actually stop in the major cities and debark the casket, parade it through the city, and have it on hand for viewing. In Philadelphia they displayed Lincoln right next to the Liberty Bell. Davis had his own mourning train from New Orleans to Richmond when he died some three decades later. Swanson has a good discussion of the Lost Cause with Davis and the martyring effect of Lincoln as a secular saint. People have been coming into the library looking for Bill O'Reilly's book on Lincoln which has long wait lists, so I immediately recommend Swanson's books as an immediate read. They are meticulously researched and the products of a man with a passion for the subject. Well kept secrets that more folks need to read and enjoy....more
Good, well researched account of Booth's infamous act. Lots of parallels to today with Stanton hiding the body of Booth just like OBL in Pakistan. AlsGood, well researched account of Booth's infamous act. Lots of parallels to today with Stanton hiding the body of Booth just like OBL in Pakistan. Also the issue of trying the assassins by military tribunals like Guantanamo. Booth shot down just like OBL too. Booth wasn't much of a planner. He saw an opportunity and acted impetuously. I'll be moderating a panel with the author in April. Looking forward to meeting him and seeing what his next book is about....more