As a youngster I was fascinated by the American Civil War. My bookshelves still reflect this fact. I have Freeman’s classic series Lee’s Lieutenants, Bruce Catton’s three volumes on the Army of the Potomac, and Shelby Foote’s three volume series, once considered definitive, on the war. As I grew older my interest waned a bit. As a youngster I was a fanatic in this one area, as I grew my interests spread and while I still enjoy studying the Civil War it is only one among many arenas of study.
One area that has grown in interest for me over the years is the American Revolution. The Revolution is extremely fascinating for a number of reasons. I find it interesting in light of the religious right’s vehement defense of the war1I grew up in the religious right. I have long identified with the Republican party but at this time can no longer identify with any party. I appreciate the social emphasis of the democrats, I appreciate the moral emphasis of the Republicans and I find both lacking in too many ways. I am a follower of Christ but at this time have not found a label to adequately describe the fusion of my spiritual beliefs and politics. I do not agree with many who suggest the two do not need to be nor are interrelated. In my mind life is defined by beliefs. To suggest we can divorce our spiritual beliefs from our political beliefs is to encourage a certain dichotomy of character which is best represented by mental illness.1. I find it interesting in light of the commonalities and contrasts and political background created between the American Revolution and the American Civil War2I wish there was time to debark down this long and wondrous path, but alas, I leave you to your own studies.. I find it interesting because across the landscape it seems common to look at this generation of men and women as the epitomy of American character3 Whether for good or bad I do not pretend to know at this time..
In any case, a set of novels I have enjoyed most thoroughly on this topic are Jeff Shaara’s Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause. Michael Shaara was Jeff’s father and wrote the now classic Killer Angels describing the Battle of Gettysburg (which was made into the film Gettysburg). Michael died before writing any additional volumes but Jeff has followed in his footsteps proficiently. He is probably best known for his series on the Civil War (though he has written about the Mexican-American War, World War I, World War II, etc.) – including Gods & Generals which was made as an unsuccessful sequel to Gettysburg4It was tamed for family audiences, but this alone could be overlooked. The real issue was the attempt to squash two years of an epic war into two hours. Gettysburg, covering one battle clocked in around four hours.
Jeff took the time to read original journals and letters by the characters he portrays and attempts to faithfully depict the events that took place in the founding of this country. His writing is vivid, exciting, and will raise controversy for its crude depiction of some characters. But, it is two volumes well worth reading5The profanity within the volumes is somewhat heavy, reader consider yourself forewarned..