A very interesting look at one of the most critical moments in the Civil War. The Confederate commander, Braxton Bragg has always been considered oneA very interesting look at one of the most critical moments in the Civil War. The Confederate commander, Braxton Bragg has always been considered one of the chief architects in the South's eventual defeat, a man who was uniquely able to alienate and infuriate practically his entire command and who has drawn all but universal condemnation from his contemporaries and every Civil War historian since.
Bragg allowed his forces to be completely outmanuvered from the outset of this campaign, resulting in the all but bloodless loss of Chattenooga, a critical industrial city, and opening up Northern Georgia to further invasion threatening Atlanta. However, his forces were well placed to launch a devastating counterattack against the Northern forces and completely turn around the war in the West and perhaps for the entire South. He was determined to try and was reinforced by an entire corps from the Army of Northern Virginia led by Lee's Old Warhorse himself, Longstreet. Things fell apart from the beginning of the campaign, but even so Chickmauga still almost completely unhinged the Union forces, but not quite. And that not quite led inevitably to the fall of Atlanta, Sherman's March to the Sea, the capture of Savannah and Sherman's march north into South and North Carolina. It's hard not to throw rocks at Bragg.
The book goes a long way to explaining why Bragg's plans fell apart and for Powell, much of the blame falls on Bragg's two cavalry commanders, Nathan Bedford Forrest and most especially Joe Wheeler, and Powell makes a very persuasive case. Readers will be hard put to find any works critical of Forrest in particular, given his success and heroics from the beginning to the end of the war. But at this point, Forrest had never served as a corps commander and he spent this entire campaign getting on the job training. His penchant for personal observation and involvement in every battle worked against him as corps commander, making it difficult to impossible to direct and coordinate his forces, and as a result, his units failed repeatedly to provide Bragg with accurate and up to date intelligence on Union positions and strength. and at one critical moment, his information was simply and utterly wrong.
However, while Forrest comes in for serious criticism, Joe Wheeler comes in for round and endless condemnation. His forces were undisciplined and lax in follwing their orders, failing at almost every task given them, leading Bragg to micromanaging Wheeler's forces. As a result, Bragg was repeatedly misinformed and often unaware of Union positions and strength, all but blind at critical moments. Anyone familiar with Bragg will come to the conclusion that Bragg would have managed to mismanage everything even if he had been given perfect information by his commanders. But, in the end, after the battles, Bragg dismissed Forrest, took his forces and gave them to Wheeler, mostly because Wheeler remained loyal to Bragg, and Bragg had one heck of a time finding anyone who would be loyal to him.
The book is very well written with a surprising amount of information given the relatively short length of this book. No one will come to love Bragg after reading this, but perhaps they'll hate him a bit less. Any critical look at Forrest is worth reading for anyone seriously interested in Civil War military history and his problems with Bragg after the battle is given context almost entirely lacking elsewhere. ...more
One of the most beautifully written books I've read in quite a while. But if you're looking for some light summer fare, go elsewhere. This book requirOne of the most beautifully written books I've read in quite a while. But if you're looking for some light summer fare, go elsewhere. This book requires the reader to put some real effort into it, but the rewards are pretty worthwhile by the end of the tale. The book takes place almost entirely in Sierra Leone and the story shifts back and forth in time and back and forth among the major characters. We learn over time just how closely related all of these people are and how their stories are intertwined, but slowly over time.
The main characters are quite complicated constructions, capable of both good and sometimes, profound evil, and it's not always possible to trust their personal narratives as several of them are trying desparately to convince others and perhaps themselves of their comparative innocence in the events that unfold in the horror that became Sierra Leone in the 90s. One of the major characters is a British psychologist who visits the country after the war, with the intention of staying a short time to help mental patients damaged by the events of the war. One of the more interesting themes becomes what does it mean to cure someone of mental illness only to turn them out into an insane world? The well meaning but rather shallow and ineffective doctor, Aidan, becomes a major focal point of the entire chain of events, both as actor and active listener, as we discover over time how his patients and friends became these people we come to know after the war.
One of the peculiarities of the novel for me is that all of the major active characters are men. There are important female characters, but we hear very little in their own voice. We meet them as wives, daughters, victims, etc. but we learn very little from them directly, which given the fact that the author herself is of course female as is the face on the cover of the book, but the women here are almost as silent as that face. We hear their stories but from some distance. I don't know what to make of that, other than to observe it.
But, the book is quite moving in its study of the human character under extreme duress. And, as I said while it will take some effort to make it through its storyline, the trip is quite worthwhile and memorable. ...more
an interesting story, moderately well told. the final fighting scenes are decent enough, but Fox's prose can be pretty flat at times. His mention of tan interesting story, moderately well told. the final fighting scenes are decent enough, but Fox's prose can be pretty flat at times. His mention of the death of A.P. Hill for example merely mentions that he went out and got shot by a couple of Yankee troops. I don't know why he even brought it up if that was all he had to say about the death of one of the most famous Confederate battle leaders only days before the war ended. But the battle itself deserves to be remembered and this book does serve that purpose....more
This book was written over 70 years ago and it creaks in many ways, but anything reasonably done on Bedford Forrest still makes for lively reading, anThis book was written over 70 years ago and it creaks in many ways, but anything reasonably done on Bedford Forrest still makes for lively reading, and this is no exception. There just aren't that many commanding generals who personally lead from the front, charging headfirst into hand to hand combat, often ahead of his own troops, surrounded time after time and personally cutting his way out and through the Yankee forces. and, of course it wasn't just a matter of his courage or skill with pistol and sword, he was clearly the true self-taught military genius of the war. This is a peculiar sort of historical work, with nary a footnote to bless yourself with, so one must take a lot of what the author says on faith, or not. It's a very preachy work in the first half, as Forrest represents the ideal yeoman farmer for the author and he goes to considerable length early on to promote this thought while denigrating the wealthy cotton plantation owners who solely pursue financial profit from the land. For those of you who are William Faulkner fans, you may find this fascinating, but the rest of humanity in the 21st century will likely find this portion dreadfully dull. And, to counterbalance Bedford Forrest as the ultimate ideal of the Southern farmer, the author feels compelled to present the devil himself for Forrest to wrestle with over and over again in the war, not Sherman or Grant, but Braxton Bragg. The author is so obsessed with the archdemon Bragg that for a considerable amount of the first half of the book it deals so much with Bragg that Forrest himself tends to disappear and we learn next to nothing about his pre-war life, aside from a few stories of his youth, when he kilt a bar when he was only three. Jefferson Davis and John Bell Hood also come in for a number of deserved lumps, but no one else gets the Bragg treatment.
The book really gathers steam though when the author decides to concentrate on Forrest and his depictions of the various campaigns and battles are stirringly told. Some of the campaigns will be difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the geography to follow though as almost no maps appear anywhere in the book. But, the battles are the thing here and no other figure of the Civil War comes close to Bedford Forrest in raising and arming his own troops, often behind enemy lines, overcoming long odds against a wide variety of foes in highly original fashion, while constantly exposing himself to every conceivable danger from the very beginning of the war to its very end. Frequently wounded in personal combat and once by one of his own officers, with numerous horses shot out from under him, often more than one of the same day, the main wonder of his story is that he actually survived the war. It's also clear that he received a lot more respect and recognition from his foes than he did his own commanders.
It should be noted though that this book is more than simply non- PC. It was written more that 70 years ago, by a man who was very much a product of his time and place. The N word repeatedly appears throughout, but it's not simply that. He likes to add comic and unnecessary asides from time to time to provide a little "color" to his prose. It's clear he bears no respect whatever for the black Union troops who served in the war, and can never bring himself to actually refer to them as soldiers. Usually, when they are referenced, it's along the lines of some battle had 3,000 Union forces and 500 negroes, as if they were some sort of mob. The final chapter of the book deals largely with Forrest's role as the first Imperial Wizard of the KKK, an organization the author openly regards as heroic and praiseworthy in its efforts. The interesting thing for me was to read the forward, published by the author himself some 50 years later without apology or even acknowledgement of these things. It's clear enough that as brave and heroic and relentless as Forrest was during the war, he remains a figure of considerable controversy to this day even within his home state of Mississippi, given the very recent flap over the proposed state license tag bearing his name and image. ...more
For those of you familiar with Brooks works, there is much that will be familiar here, but little terribly original or new as in the Gypsy Morph saga.For those of you familiar with Brooks works, there is much that will be familiar here, but little terribly original or new as in the Gypsy Morph saga. The plot carries on some 500 years after the setting of the last novel and while it makes for interesting reading, there's little particularly riviting unlike some of his more recent works. It all feels rushed, like there were timelines to meet and bills to pay, and none of the new characters are especially well drawn or unique. It makes for a quick read and while I'm sure I'll read the next chapter when it comes out, I don't see any reason this couldn't have been concluded in a single work, except for the fact that we'll all now pay twice for the pleasure. ...more
certainly well worth reading. if we had 1/2 star options, I'd give it a 3 1/2. The second story, Snakes is overwhelmingly the most interesting story ocertainly well worth reading. if we had 1/2 star options, I'd give it a 3 1/2. The second story, Snakes is overwhelmingly the most interesting story of the lot with a highly unexpected and original ending. the other stories are decent, but didn't grab me in the same way, maybe it's a guy thing. I did find some of the endings disturbingly abrupt, feeling that there really should be more there, so perhaps for me the stories weren't as self-contained as I would have prefered. ...more
Furst novels are almost always more about atmospherics than plot or substance and Spies of the Balkans is not the exception that proves the rule. FursFurst novels are almost always more about atmospherics than plot or substance and Spies of the Balkans is not the exception that proves the rule. Furst is exceptional at setting the stage for each play, and his novels do create a sense of being there, a bit like waking up in a Bogart movie from the 40s, with Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre lurking somewhere in the background, wearing different costumes appropriate for the occasion. Furst fans always have a pretty good idea what to expect in these novels except for location which invariably changes from one book to the next, and today, it's Greece, with a smattering of Hungary and France. And I like Greece, having lived there for a few years. Once again, the Hun is at the gate and brave deeds must be done or civilization may fall. It's fun reading, but in the end, not terribly suspenseful, as Furst fans also know that somehow while Bogie will be forced to pay his dues, he will invariably survive to fight another day. ...more