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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Continuing the series that began with A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara returns to chronicle another decisive chapter in America's long and bloody Civil War. In A Chain of Thunder, the action shifts to the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. There, in the vaunted "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," a siege for the ages will cement the reputation of NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Continuing the series that began with A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara returns to chronicle another decisive chapter in America's long and bloody Civil War. In A Chain of Thunder, the action shifts to the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. There, in the vaunted "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," a siege for the ages will cement the reputation of one Union general--and all but seal the fate of the rebel cause. In May 1863, after months of hard and bitter combat, Union troops under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant at long last successfully cross the Mississippi River. They force the remnants of Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton's army to retreat to Vicksburg, burning the bridges over the Big Black River in its path. But after sustaining heavy casualties in two failed assaults against the rebels, Union soldiers are losing confidence and morale is low. Grant reluctantly decides to lay siege to the city, trapping soldiers and civilians alike inside an iron ring of Federal entrenchments. Six weeks later, the starving and destitute Southerners finally surrender, yielding command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces on July 4--Independence Day--and marking a crucial turning point in the Civil War. Drawing on comprehensive research and his own intimate knowledge of the Vicksburg Campaign, Jeff Shaara once again weaves brilliant fiction out of the ragged cloth of historical fact. From the command tents where generals plot strategy to the ruined mansions where beleaguered citizens huddle for safety, this is a panoramic portrait of men and women whose lives are forever altered by the siege. On one side stand the emerging legend Grant, his irascible second William T. Sherman, and the youthful "grunt" Private Fritz Bauer; on the other, the Confederate commanders Pemberton and Joseph Johnston, as well as nineteen-year-old Lucy Spence, a civilian doing her best to survive in the besieged city. By giving voice to their experiences at Vicksburg, A Chain of Thunder vividly evokes a battle whose outcome still reverberates more than 150 years after the cannons fell silent.


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Continuing the series that began with A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara returns to chronicle another decisive chapter in America's long and bloody Civil War. In A Chain of Thunder, the action shifts to the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. There, in the vaunted "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," a siege for the ages will cement the reputation of NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Continuing the series that began with A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara returns to chronicle another decisive chapter in America's long and bloody Civil War. In A Chain of Thunder, the action shifts to the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. There, in the vaunted "Gibraltar of the Confederacy," a siege for the ages will cement the reputation of one Union general--and all but seal the fate of the rebel cause. In May 1863, after months of hard and bitter combat, Union troops under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant at long last successfully cross the Mississippi River. They force the remnants of Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton's army to retreat to Vicksburg, burning the bridges over the Big Black River in its path. But after sustaining heavy casualties in two failed assaults against the rebels, Union soldiers are losing confidence and morale is low. Grant reluctantly decides to lay siege to the city, trapping soldiers and civilians alike inside an iron ring of Federal entrenchments. Six weeks later, the starving and destitute Southerners finally surrender, yielding command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces on July 4--Independence Day--and marking a crucial turning point in the Civil War. Drawing on comprehensive research and his own intimate knowledge of the Vicksburg Campaign, Jeff Shaara once again weaves brilliant fiction out of the ragged cloth of historical fact. From the command tents where generals plot strategy to the ruined mansions where beleaguered citizens huddle for safety, this is a panoramic portrait of men and women whose lives are forever altered by the siege. On one side stand the emerging legend Grant, his irascible second William T. Sherman, and the youthful "grunt" Private Fritz Bauer; on the other, the Confederate commanders Pemberton and Joseph Johnston, as well as nineteen-year-old Lucy Spence, a civilian doing her best to survive in the besieged city. By giving voice to their experiences at Vicksburg, A Chain of Thunder vividly evokes a battle whose outcome still reverberates more than 150 years after the cannons fell silent.

30 review for A Chain of Thunder

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Shaara continues with his Civil War series with the second novel in the Western Theatre tetralogy. Shaara builds on the first novel's focus on the Battle of Shiloh by turning things towards Mississippi and the vital city of Vicksburg, approximately a year after the aforementioned skirmish. Located on a key route (the Mississippi River) that serves the Confederate Army, General Pemberton seeks to protect this gem while awaiting more troops and instruction from superior. However, fresh from victor Shaara continues with his Civil War series with the second novel in the Western Theatre tetralogy. Shaara builds on the first novel's focus on the Battle of Shiloh by turning things towards Mississippi and the vital city of Vicksburg, approximately a year after the aforementioned skirmish. Located on a key route (the Mississippi River) that serves the Confederate Army, General Pemberton seeks to protect this gem while awaiting more troops and instruction from superior. However, fresh from victory in Shiloh, Union Generals Grant and Sherman seek to push forward and overtake the region, thereby paralysing the Confederates in an attempt to stave off any momentum that might be tanking place further East. Shaara builds momentum up as all generals plot military manoeuvres surrounding the Siege of Vicksburg, which can only end with one army standing. A Confederate loss could commence a devastating domino effect that will reverberate across the South and bring Lincoln the impetus he needs to justify this war to the world. While Shaara offers wonderful troop and general perspectives in the narratives, he introduces a new voice to the war, that of the citizenry. Lucy Spence is a young woman from Vicksburg who has seen her city turned into a chaotic mess, filled both with grey-uniformed Confederates with the Union's blue-uniformed troops filling the horizon. While she has been led to support the views of her southern brethren, Spence is enlisted as a civilian nurse and witnesses the horrors of war from the perspective of blood and gore, which differs greatly from the opening chapter, when things were still formal dinners and balls with the local soldiers. Spence sees war through the eyes of the civilians caught in the middle of fighting, but who suffer more, as the face a war of hunger and depravation, food becoming a commodity that only the Union can offer, which is stronger propaganda than any leaflet. Spence and other citizens of Vicksburg learn that their heroes who had been touting freedom from Washington's grasp and the right to hold slaves cannot be trusted if they cannot keep their own people from starving during the campaign. It is this weaponless war that might turn the tides more than any cannon or musket. When the smoke clears, Vicksburg falls and Grant can forge onwards, seeking to curry additional favour with Washington as the Confederate Army is left to nurse their substantial wounds. A powerful second volume in Shaara's latest Civil War series, sure to stir up significant emotions in the attentive reader. I am a long-time fan of Shaara and his writing style that explore war from perspectives untapped by academics or many historical fiction writers. While I struggled immensely with finding a connection in the first novel, being somewhat more conscientious of what is going on has allowed me to pull more (still not all) from the narrative in this second piece. In reading this collection, I am reminded of the John Jakes trilogy, North and South. Perhaps my bias and memory will sway me as I say this, but Shaara appears to be taking a page from the Jakes book and not only writing from the perspective of a fictional soldier, but now choosing an outsider to speak about the civilian interpretation of war. While Shaara usually chooses to keep the war and battlefields as his settings for all characters, use of a civilian is very Jakesian and does add additional flavour to the story. He does postulate that many civilians were outside the sphere of the War and knew little more than which side they were supposed to support. Key choices or decisions did not impact their choice of sides in the entire affair. As he usually does, Shaara offers a veiled (though it is apparent throughout) commentary on the struggles of war for those on the battlefield as well, be it tactics, marching, or the horrific food on offer. Shaara brings the reader inside and behind the lines to exacerbate the negative side of fighting, while still injecting pride into the act. Strong and regionally-peppered dialogues allow the reader to feel in the midst of the action in both camps, while also learning of their individual struggles as soldiers try to put themselves in the boots of the other. Chapters chock-full of detail, development, and historical portrayals of the settings allow the reader to envelop themselves in all that Shaara has to offer. Dense in spots, Shaara does not water things down, which will require a dedicated and attentive effort. There is not enough praise that can be offered up for this wonderful style of writing, geared towards a target audience. Kudos, Mr. Shaara for another wonderful novel. I am still trying to wrap my head around all that you have to present, but by pacing myself and paying particular attention, I have a much better idea of what happened in the lesser-known Western Theatre of America's Civil War. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Jeff Shaara has returned to the Civil War with this second novel of what has evolved into a four part series following the campaigns in the west. A Chain of Thunder takes us through the build-up and conclusion of the Siege of Vicksburg, one of the most important victories for the Union forces. Unfortunately, the simultaneous victory at Gettysburg overshadows it. With this novel, Shaara hopes to change that. We follow Grant, Sherman, and Bauer--all characters from A Blaze of Glory--for the Union, Jeff Shaara has returned to the Civil War with this second novel of what has evolved into a four part series following the campaigns in the west. A Chain of Thunder takes us through the build-up and conclusion of the Siege of Vicksburg, one of the most important victories for the Union forces. Unfortunately, the simultaneous victory at Gettysburg overshadows it. With this novel, Shaara hopes to change that. We follow Grant, Sherman, and Bauer--all characters from A Blaze of Glory--for the Union, and Pemberton and Lucy Spence for the Confederates. Unlike his previous Civil War novels, Shaara has taken a practice he developed in his WWI and WWII novels and given us the perspective of the front line fighter. And for the first time in any of his novels, he includes a civilian as one of his primary characters. Lucy Spence is one of the many citizens of Vicksburg, and her experiences are gripping and powerful. Fans of military fiction should read this, for we learn of Grant's brilliant campaign in Mississippi. Students of the Civil War should read this to better understand that there was more to the war that what happened in the east. Fans of good fiction should read it for its gripping story. That's what Shaara focuses on. Though he writes true history, his purpose is to draw out the human drama. Highly recommended. P.S. I was able to interview Jeff Shaara on behalf of the Historical Novel Society. Here it is: http://historicalnovelsociety.org/jef...

  3. 5 out of 5

    happy

    This is another excellent look at the Civil War by Mr. Shaara. He uses his tried and true template to tell the story of the Siege of Vicksburg. As in his previous novel in the series, A Blaze of Glory, the Union story is told through the eyes of Gens Grant and Sherman as well as Pvt Bauer. The confederate side is told through the commander at Vicksburg, Gen Pemberton as well as civilian volunteer nurse Lucy Spence. A great percentage of the first half of the book is told from Gen Pemberton’s view This is another excellent look at the Civil War by Mr. Shaara. He uses his tried and true template to tell the story of the Siege of Vicksburg. As in his previous novel in the series, A Blaze of Glory, the Union story is told through the eyes of Gens Grant and Sherman as well as Pvt Bauer. The confederate side is told through the commander at Vicksburg, Gen Pemberton as well as civilian volunteer nurse Lucy Spence. A great percentage of the first half of the book is told from Gen Pemberton’s view point and he does not come off well. He is a Pennsylvanian by birth and is constantly worried about the loyalty of his subordinate commanders to him. He is also worries about his duty to his superior officer Gen Johnston or President Davis who give him conflicting orders, Johnston to abandon Vicksburg and Davis to defend it to the end. In my opinion Pemberton comes off as a very poor leader and commander. In the character of Lucy Spence – a 19 yr old orphan, Shaara brings the civilian point of view to the story. In the character of Miss Spence, Shaara is able to look at how the Siege affected those caught in its vice. She is taken in by her neighbors originally helping tend their children and eventually volunteering as a nurse in one of the military hospitals. In this plot line Shaara looks both at the state of military medicine and how woman esp single women where expected to act and were treated in the South. In telling the Union side of the story, Shaara looks at some of the politics of the Union HQ. Grant fears that Charles Dana is a spy sent by Washington to undermine him, while Sherman continues his hatred of reporters. The sequences with Pvt Bauer are nicely done. Since this is mainly the story of a siege, the battle sequences are not a vivid as his previous books, thou the Battle of Champion Hill is nicely done and well as the assaults on the Confederate lines on May 19th and 22nd. As the battle settles into a siege, the story of the war between the snipers is also well done. Once again Mr. Shaara has brought the Civil War to life. This is a well researched and well told story. I highly recommend this novel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This book is the second installment of the western theater of the Civil War, treating the battle for Vicksburg, MS. The story, unlike the battle at Shiloh, (the first book in the series), is not an account of intense hand-to-hand combat, but one of Southern entrenchment in a city, and the subsequent Northern siege of it. According to the author the importance of this book is that Vicksburg is less known in history. What struck me most was the brutality of war. There is absolutely nothing glorious This book is the second installment of the western theater of the Civil War, treating the battle for Vicksburg, MS. The story, unlike the battle at Shiloh, (the first book in the series), is not an account of intense hand-to-hand combat, but one of Southern entrenchment in a city, and the subsequent Northern siege of it. According to the author the importance of this book is that Vicksburg is less known in history. What struck me most was the brutality of war. There is absolutely nothing glorious about killing each other, and certainly not starving people to death, especially when civilians are also affected. One overwhelming detail was during the siege fighting continued between the entrenchments of each side. It felt like a sporting contest, but the score wasn't points, it was kills. It was horrifying. I can conceive how some of the men must have felt trying to cope with having to kill or be killed, but betting on whether you could kill someone is revolting in any circumstance. The second detail that ripped at my heart was the account of a young woman who chose to serve as a nurse to the southern doctors. The details of horror she witnessed were contrast with the attitudes of the southern gentlemen and ladies she interacted with, none of which were willing to help the wounded as she did. The contrast accentuated the deep irony of war. On one side at the hospital was stark brutality at its worst juxtaposed with men and women affronted by this young women associating with lower class, unsavory wagon drivers who were transporting dead or wounded soldiers to the hospital tents. Her interaction with these men was seen by the upper class as distasteful conduct that would soil her reputation. All this condescension did was cement in my heart the pain that pride and arrogance can cost people. The arrogance of the southerners was at a high point when one elderly upper class women shot and killed an old slave because he would be free. It was just revolting! The book solidified my hatred for war. Yet my fascination with understanding what has happened continues. My fascination is based on wanting to know the cost of our freedom, and Jeff Shaara's research and writing skills certainly do not disappoint. There really isn't much to cheer about in either of the first two books. This just isn't a story that inspires cheering. It's more of a remorseful feeling of "Why couldn't we have solved this dispute without killing so many innocent people?" Unfortunately, when human hearts refuse to listen and minds remain obdurate, sickening death and misery are the toll we pay to right the wrongs we've done. I'm grateful for brave and selfless men and women who fought and served to bring freedom to the oppressed and enslaved of our country, but I'm so saddened and grieved that it cost us so much blood and anguish to pay the price.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ken Hammond

    A Chain of Thunder (Civil War: 1861-1865, Western Theater, #2) by Jeff Shaara First Jeff Shaara book I've given a go, The lead up and scattered running battles at the beginning of the book which all happened prior to the siege was a little hard to follow but some online research made it a little bit clearer, this isn't a statistics or numbers and dates etc... type of book, but more off what the participants would have felt about the many situations and circumstances they were involved in their a A Chain of Thunder (Civil War: 1861-1865, Western Theater, #2) by Jeff Shaara First Jeff Shaara book I've given a go, The lead up and scattered running battles at the beginning of the book which all happened prior to the siege was a little hard to follow but some online research made it a little bit clearer, this isn't a statistics or numbers and dates etc... type of book, but more off what the participants would have felt about the many situations and circumstances they were involved in their anxiety or lack off their fears and also some what the fudge is going on?? without giving anything away I won't elaborate what happened but all the characters are all based on real life people. The mini bios at the back was very helpful, a few Maps also helped, a couple of you tube videos, showed Grant was a true leader, a great horsemen & he really didn't give a damn what the enemy was doing he has his plan and drives it home to completion. It's just a great story and vividly portrayed in my mind the real life struggles and fears of the many men and women. Civil war is such a brutal type of war. The consequences of which have rippled down time to the present and makes what the US is today. I liked this & will definitely give Jeff another go in the future.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    A Chain of Thunder (Civil War: 1861-1865, Western Theater #2) by Jeff Shaara is a historical fiction book from this bestselling author. I have read several of Mr. Shaara’s books previously and was delighted to find this one in my local library even though I did not read the first book in the series. Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton took his army and retreated to Vicksburg fortifying it and getting ready to defend it. Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant, after finally crossing the A Chain of Thunder (Civil War: 1861-1865, Western Theater #2) by Jeff Shaara is a historical fiction book from this bestselling author. I have read several of Mr. Shaara’s books previously and was delighted to find this one in my local library even though I did not read the first book in the series. Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton took his army and retreated to Vicksburg fortifying it and getting ready to defend it. Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant, after finally crossing the Mississippi River pushing Pemberton’s army into Vicksburg. The Union sustains many casualties during their attempts to enter the city and General Grant reluctantly lays siege to Vicksburg. A Chain of Thunder (Civil War: 1861-1865, Western Theater #2) by Jeff Shaara takes place in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi during the American Civil War. The first book, I understand, focuses on the Battle of Shiloh, which is referenced in A Chain of Thunder, however I did not feel I missed anything by not reading it first. As with other books by the author, every chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, most historical figures, but others not. The cast of characters is varied, from Generals Grant, Sherman, and Pemberton to simple soldiers and civilians. I enjoyed the dialog Mr. Shaara puts in the mouth of his characters, especially the local dialect and local flavors. The characters in the book are well written, both historical and fictionalized come to life, we learn about their struggles, their demons, and their success. The author describes very well what it is like to be under siege, and the ones trying to break the siege, the small communities within communities the form whenever a dark turn takes a whole population, whether citizens or soldiers, into a place they’ll never thought they’ll be. The research in this book, as with the author’s other books, demands special recognition. While the book is condensed, almost like a history book, it is very readable and interesting. The Battle of Vicksburg is one that I knew very little about, so it was very interesting to learn more about the battle. For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Jeffrey Shaara has written a number of historical novels focusing on warfare--from the Revolutionary War through World War II. He adopts the approach that his father used so well in "Killer Angels," an historical novel of the battle of Gettysburg. The methods? Select a number of historical characters, from generals to foot soldiers to civilians, to whomever brings a point of view to the story that reveals something about the battle. Here, the focus is the siege of Vicksburg. The characters? A you Jeffrey Shaara has written a number of historical novels focusing on warfare--from the Revolutionary War through World War II. He adopts the approach that his father used so well in "Killer Angels," an historical novel of the battle of Gettysburg. The methods? Select a number of historical characters, from generals to foot soldiers to civilians, to whomever brings a point of view to the story that reveals something about the battle. Here, the focus is the siege of Vicksburg. The characters? A young woman resident of Vicksburg, giving us a civilian's eye view of the harshness of the conflict on ordinary people. John Pemberton, commander of the Confederate forces at Vicksburg. Fritz Bauer, a Union foot soldier, who gives a soldier's eye view of the siege. Then, Generals Sherman and Grant. By adopting this method, as noted, we get a sense of the many facets of the battle. Lucy Spence's travails, including serving as a nurse in Confederate hospitals, gives a sense of the horrors of the operating room. Her interaction with civilians captures the dire straits facing ordinary citizens of Vicksburg. From Pemberton and Grant and Sherman, we get a larger view as to what is transpiring. The novel begins on April 16th, recording the movement of Union ships along the Mississippi as they passed under the guns of Vicksburg. This began Grant's remarkable lightning movements leading to the siege. The last entry is on July 6, 1863, as Bauer reflects on the end of the battle. His story began with the first novel from the West authored by Shaara--on the deadly fight at Shiloh. The Confederates, ironically, surrenders on July 4th, after the troops had run so low on food, ammunition, and so on that their doom was obvious. A nice addition to Shaara's oeuvre. Sometimes, the multi-viewpoint approach loses its power, but it works pretty well here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jim B

    I had planned to read the whole four book series at one time, to get the feel for this part of the Civil War. However, two books in a row was a little overwhelming (imagine how ironic that would sound to someone who actually experienced the brutality and blood of warfare in the Civil War). After a while horror of war gets tuned out when you are not actually experiencing it. So I will read something else after finishing two of the four books in a month. Shaara's book about Shiloh reminded me about I had planned to read the whole four book series at one time, to get the feel for this part of the Civil War. However, two books in a row was a little overwhelming (imagine how ironic that would sound to someone who actually experienced the brutality and blood of warfare in the Civil War). After a while horror of war gets tuned out when you are not actually experiencing it. So I will read something else after finishing two of the four books in a month. Shaara's book about Shiloh reminded me about the ignorant chatter of opinion on the Internet was also in the gossip among the troops and the civilian rumors of the reporters. Vicksburg's story reminded me of the foolish bravado of the "positive" people who refuse to pay attention to any news that might spoil their illusions. Many citizens of Vicksburg wanted to believe that they would be rescued by the Confederate Army despite reports to the contrary. Shaara's strength is his research. Yes, he has to make interpretive choices, but it's interesting to read not only what happened, but often what the development of the experiences were that led to events unfolding as they did. One of my favorite scenes occurs near the end of the story, when a bit of gossip is revealed just as Grant demands that General Pemberton surrender unconditionally. I shared the humorous smile that Shaara put on the face of one of the soldiers!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    Another excellent book by Jeff Shaara. He's at his best when writing about the Civil War. The struggle for Vicksburg was different than other battles, it was a siege. Shaara captures the frustrations of the siege, from the highest commanders all the way to the civilians trapped in the city. While some reviewers are taking issue with the pace and the minutia of this book, they are missing the point. Vicksburg wasn't Gettysburg or Shiloh with their fast moving action, it was a long drawn out chess Another excellent book by Jeff Shaara. He's at his best when writing about the Civil War. The struggle for Vicksburg was different than other battles, it was a siege. Shaara captures the frustrations of the siege, from the highest commanders all the way to the civilians trapped in the city. While some reviewers are taking issue with the pace and the minutia of this book, they are missing the point. Vicksburg wasn't Gettysburg or Shiloh with their fast moving action, it was a long drawn out chess match. Shaara describes it perfectly. I can't wait for the third book of the trilogy!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Don

    A good read on one of the most overlooked developments of the Civil War: The siege of Vicksburg... Oops, I gave it away! Anyway, Shaara's approach of bouncing back and forth among different perspectives makes this book work. The "modern Bruce Catton" is always good for a fine, well-researched story. It isn't Killer Angels compelling, but it's solid stuff and makes use of recent journal discoveries, etc. to give what is certainly an accurate depiction.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gilda Felt

    As it hadn’t been that long since reading A Blaze of Glory, I fell right into the story being told. There is the return of some characters, such as the Union soldier, Bauer, and the introduction of new ones, mainly the young Southern woman, Lucy Spence. All add enormously to the story of the siege of Vicksburg. But one can’t overlook Grant, who is finally coming into his own, and showing the genius that gives him full command of the Union army. And, of course, his loyal second, William Sherman. O As it hadn’t been that long since reading A Blaze of Glory, I fell right into the story being told. There is the return of some characters, such as the Union soldier, Bauer, and the introduction of new ones, mainly the young Southern woman, Lucy Spence. All add enormously to the story of the siege of Vicksburg. But one can’t overlook Grant, who is finally coming into his own, and showing the genius that gives him full command of the Union army. And, of course, his loyal second, William Sherman. On the other side is John Pemberton, a Pennsylvanian who turns his back on the Union to become a Confederate officer. Though perhaps one should, I couldn’t bring myself to feel sorry for him as his career slowly crumbles. Shaara has outdone himself here, the book a magnificent second volume in this tetralogy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Love this series. It talks about the battles that took place during the Civil War west of the Mississippi that didn’t get as much recognition as in the East. In fact this battle took place same time as Gettysburg and the whole town surrounded or they would have starved to death. However you never hear about the battle in Vicksburg. One of the deciding factors for Lincoln making Grant the head of the whole Federal Army. Great book with such vivid detail and human emotion. Can’t wait to read the n Love this series. It talks about the battles that took place during the Civil War west of the Mississippi that didn’t get as much recognition as in the East. In fact this battle took place same time as Gettysburg and the whole town surrounded or they would have starved to death. However you never hear about the battle in Vicksburg. One of the deciding factors for Lincoln making Grant the head of the whole Federal Army. Great book with such vivid detail and human emotion. Can’t wait to read the next in the series.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Kinchen

    One hundred fifty years ago this summer there were two major turning points in the two-year old Civil War: Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Gettysburg was fought from July 1-3, 1863 and the siege of Vicksburg ended on Independence Day, July 4, 1863, with the surrender of Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. Both battles were important, perhaps signaling what Winston Churchill called in reference to an event during World War II, "the end of the beginning," but the defeat of Gen. Ro One hundred fifty years ago this summer there were two major turning points in the two-year old Civil War: Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Gettysburg was fought from July 1-3, 1863 and the siege of Vicksburg ended on Independence Day, July 4, 1863, with the surrender of Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. Both battles were important, perhaps signaling what Winston Churchill called in reference to an event during World War II, "the end of the beginning," but the defeat of Gen. Robert E. Lee by Major Gen. George G. Meade at Gettysburg, Penn. has long gotten more ink than the considerably longer siege of Vicksburg. One thing I didn't know: John Clifford Pemberton (1814-1881) was a Yankee by birth, a Pennsylvanian married to a Southerner, who cast his fate with the Confederate army, the mirror image of native Virginian Gen. George H. Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga" who stayed loyal to the Union side. Pemberton graduated from West Point in 1837 and, like many of the Civil War generals, was a veteran of the Mexican War. Continuing the series that began with last year's "A Blaze of Glory", the story of Shiloh Jeff Shaara returns to chronicle another chapter in the war that killed or wounded more people than all the other wars fought by Americans, the Civil War. In "A Chain of Thunder: A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg" the action shifts to Vicksburg, dubbed the “Gibraltar of the Confederacy” because it controlled navigation on the Mississippi River, most of which was in Yankee hands. The defeat of the rebels at Vicksburg decided for all time the fate of Major Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, as well as that of Gen. William T. Sherman -- and all but sealed the fate of the rebel cause. In May 1863, after months of hard and bitter combat, Union troops under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant at long last successfully cross the Mississippi River. They force the remnants of Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton’s army to retreat to Vicksburg, burning the bridges over the Big Black River in its path. In a preview of things to come the next year in Georgia, much of Jackson, Mississippi's capital, was torched. After sustaining heavy casualties in two failed assaults against the rebels, Union soldiers are losing confidence and morale is low. Grant reluctantly decides to lay siege to the city, trapping soldiers and civilians alike inside an iron ring of Federal entrenchments. Six weeks later, the starving and destitute Southerners finally surrender, yielding command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces on July 4—Independence Day. As he did in "A Blaze of Glory" and previous books, Shaara masterfully weaves in the stories of civilians, like 19-year-old Lucy Spence of Vicksburg and her friends and young German-American Pvt. Fritz Bauer of Milwaukee, and his fellow soldiers, who were also in "A Blaze of Glory." If you've read about the static trench warfare of World War I, much of the narrative of "A Chain of Thunder" will remind you of those grim accounts, with the dead stacked up on the battlefield, often for days at a time in the steamy Mississippi summer. The portrayal of the residents of Vicksburg burrowing into the hillsides to escape the shelling are unforgettable. On one side stand the emerging legend Grant, his irascible second Sherman, and the youthful “grunt” Private Fritz Bauer from Milwaukee, Wis.; on the other, the Confederate commanders Pemberton and Joseph Johnston, as well as nineteen-year-old Lucy Spence, a civilian doing her best to survive in the besieged city. "A Chain of Thunder" is historical fiction with a sound basis in fact at its best. I recommend it without reservation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    The first four days of July 1863 were a decisive turning point in the Civil War. Ending with the repulse of Pickett's charge on July 3, the Union won a decisive victory at Gettysburg. Lesser known, but equally decisive in the West, Grant received the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, opening up the Mississippi as a Union waterway, severing the connection with the western states of the Confederacy. In this work of historical fiction, the second in his series on the Western Theater in the Civil War The first four days of July 1863 were a decisive turning point in the Civil War. Ending with the repulse of Pickett's charge on July 3, the Union won a decisive victory at Gettysburg. Lesser known, but equally decisive in the West, Grant received the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, opening up the Mississippi as a Union waterway, severing the connection with the western states of the Confederacy. In this work of historical fiction, the second in his series on the Western Theater in the Civil War, Jeff Shaara chronicles the series of events leading up to this surrender. We learn of Sherman's futile attempt to attack up the Yazoo the previous December. Then Admiral Porter bravely moves Union transports and gunboats past the Vicksburg batteries to be followed by Grant's crossing the Mississippi south of Vicksburg and his movements between Vicksburg and Jackson, occupied by Johnston's troops. As Grant is on the move, we see the contrast between him and Pemberton, the Confederate general charged by President Davis with holding Vicksburg while ordered by Johnston to move against Grant before Grant takes Jackson. Grant is clearly his own man, despite being dogged by undersecretary Dana and newspaperman Cadwallader. Pemberton is not and only reluctantly moves part of his forces out of Vicksburg and in not enough time to relieve Johnston but in just enough time to lose several battles including that at Champion Hill to Grant, despite the heroic action of some of his generals, especially John Bowen at Champion Hill. Then, instead of taking the chance of joining forces with Johnston, he returns to Vicksburg in a valiant but impossible attempt to defend the city against much superior forces who can wait him out. The seige of Vicksburg occupies the second half of the book. It begins with two demonstrations of the folly of charges upon entrenched positions, strengthened by Pemberton's engineer, Lockett, something it would take military leaders another fifty years to fully grasp, only in the latter stages of World War I. Thereafter Grant and his generals extend their lines and settle in for a seige that lasts from mid-May until July 4. How do you tell the story of a two-month wait? Shaara does so by chronicling the role of sharp-shooters, of whom Fritz Bauer, who we met in A Blaze of Glory, is one. He details the effects of repeated artillery bombardments in terms of the destruction of the town, the sheltering of its people in caves, and the scores of shrapnel wounds suffered. This leads to an innovation in a Shaara novel, the introduction of a civilian character, Lucy Spence, a single woman who becomes a volunteer nurse, braving the horrors of a Civil War field hospital with its ghastly wounds, amputations, and dying men. And we see the most deadly result of siege warfare, the creeping starvation that reduces people to trapping rats and squirrels and leads to increasing desertions. The story concludes with the surrender, negotiated by General Bowen, himself a dying man from dysentery. His previous friendship with Grant and sterling battle record helped overcome both the hard edges of "unconditional surrender" Grant and the pride of Pemberton. Nine days later, he is dead. Shaara gives us a read that sustains our interest through the seige and helps us glimpse once again the nobility and futility that combine in the horrors of war. And for those who feel most of their knowledge of the Civil War is limited to the Eastern campaigns, this helps us understand the decisive role these Western battles played.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeni

    I liked the Shiloh book, but I liked this one even better. Partly because sieges aren't usually shown in books since they lack the excitement of battles, but this was still exciting in a different way. Pemberton was great as a character because I understood his POV, but my god, him and McClellan are great examples of "This is why you should just stay a pencil pusher. There's no shame in administrative work, yes, there's no glory either, but my god, are you not suited for battle command!" He was I liked the Shiloh book, but I liked this one even better. Partly because sieges aren't usually shown in books since they lack the excitement of battles, but this was still exciting in a different way. Pemberton was great as a character because I understood his POV, but my god, him and McClellan are great examples of "This is why you should just stay a pencil pusher. There's no shame in administrative work, yes, there's no glory either, but my god, are you not suited for battle command!" He was just frustrating, yet pitiable. I also liked the new female civilian POV in this book though reading about the rest of her life was just...so sad. My only complaint would be that I wish there were more Grant POVs. For one thing, I like how Shaara mostly keeps to the fact that Grant was known for being quiet and keeping his emotions hidden, to the point where even Sherman struggles to know what he's thinking sometimes. But that's why I like his POVs, so we, the readers do know what he's thinking. While I knew he didn't like McClernand, I didn't really understand that Grant was looking for an excuse to dismiss him until I read about it on Wikipedia. I knew Grant had plenty of enemies who were looking to get him dismissed/disgraced throughout the Civil War (and I appreciated Shaara keeping the drinking at Vicksburg ambiguous -- smart), but I guess I didn't realize the general had dealt with blatant insubordination. Though the entire episode led to one of my favorite scenes in the book, when Sherman was beyond furious in a meeting with Grant about McClernand: "And what will you do? You know very well this is a violation of your own"--Sherman peeked downward, a small scrap of paper pulled from his pocket--"your own Special Order One Hundred Fifty-one." Grant leaned back. "So, you came prepared to remind me of my own orders? Well, go ahead. Recite it." Sherman shoved the paper back into his pocket, thought a moment. "I admit...I do not recall the precise language. But the point is very clear. It is forbidden for anyone in this command to issue to the public any official letter or report."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bobbi

    I purchased this book while I was on a cruise of the Mississippi River. One of our stops was Vicksburg and the National Military Park there. I did not expect the magnitude of the Park. It contained monuments and statues for all the troops at the places they were during the battle, both the Union and the Confederates. There was one hill that was covered by graves. After seeing the site I wanted to learn more about the battle. I chose this book because I did not want to read a dry history, but som I purchased this book while I was on a cruise of the Mississippi River. One of our stops was Vicksburg and the National Military Park there. I did not expect the magnitude of the Park. It contained monuments and statues for all the troops at the places they were during the battle, both the Union and the Confederates. There was one hill that was covered by graves. After seeing the site I wanted to learn more about the battle. I chose this book because I did not want to read a dry history, but something that had a little color. I certainly chose the right book. The story was interesting, seeing the battle from both sides and different positions provided me the color I was looking for. The description at the end of what happened to the characters was perfect.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Thanks to Jeff Shaara (and first to his father Michael) I know a lot more history than I ever learned in school. As does Bernard Cornwell, he provides well-researched accounts of major battles and theaters of operation. I love the way he balances his narrative here between the soldiers (both the brass and the common soldier) and the civilians to provide a full picture of the effects of war. Dramatic in tone this novel of the siege of Vicksburg--and control of the Mississippi River--provides a se Thanks to Jeff Shaara (and first to his father Michael) I know a lot more history than I ever learned in school. As does Bernard Cornwell, he provides well-researched accounts of major battles and theaters of operation. I love the way he balances his narrative here between the soldiers (both the brass and the common soldier) and the civilians to provide a full picture of the effects of war. Dramatic in tone this novel of the siege of Vicksburg--and control of the Mississippi River--provides a sense of first-hand experience. A you-are-there feel. And while it covers generals and other military men we've heard about, if not actually studied in history classes, his warts-and-all approach offers a full picture of the characters, involving us in their thoughts and actions. He also sets the battle in context--it occurred at the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg. A wonderfully involving way to discover history. I also like Paul Michael who has narrated Shaara's recent titles. He's not overly dramatic but he effectively conveys the thoughts and natures of the characters as he lays out the situation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Riordan

    A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara is a historical fiction novel about the battle of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is well fortified and its position on the Mississippi makes it an important target for the Union Army. Grant decides to use a siege to force the surrender of the city after attempts to take the city failed. Capturing the city meant union control of the entire Mississippi making it harder for the Confederacy to fight. The story is told from perspectives on both sides. This was a great historic A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara is a historical fiction novel about the battle of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is well fortified and its position on the Mississippi makes it an important target for the Union Army. Grant decides to use a siege to force the surrender of the city after attempts to take the city failed. Capturing the city meant union control of the entire Mississippi making it harder for the Confederacy to fight. The story is told from perspectives on both sides. This was a great historical fiction novel. Well researched yet still accessible to someone unfamiliar with the subject. I really enjoyed his inclusion of Lucy a Vicksburg civilian to show how the siege and war in general was effecting the people not just the soldiers. Shaara did a good job keeping the book interesting. Sieges aren’t the most exciting military tactic and it would have been easy for the book to become bogged down. This might be my favorite of Shaara’s novels, but I love them all. This is a great book for anyone wanting an enjoyable way to learn a little about the Civil War.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    By the time news of Grant's capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi reached the major cities of the east coast, the Union was basking in the victory of Gettysburg a few days earlier and Vicksburg became something of an afterthought in the popular mind. In the spring of 1863, Union forces had captured most of the Mississippi River waterway, except the area near Vicksburg. Following several stagnated attempts at capturing the city, Grant and his generals (including Sherman) settled in for a long siege t By the time news of Grant's capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi reached the major cities of the east coast, the Union was basking in the victory of Gettysburg a few days earlier and Vicksburg became something of an afterthought in the popular mind. In the spring of 1863, Union forces had captured most of the Mississippi River waterway, except the area near Vicksburg. Following several stagnated attempts at capturing the city, Grant and his generals (including Sherman) settled in for a long siege that eventually starved the city and Confederate forces into surrender. As usual, Jeff Shaara alternates "voices" with each chapter alternating the viewpoints of several individuals from both sides. This is his second book of a planned trilogy chronicling the Civil War in "the west", and while Shaara never fails to impart the lesson that war is hell , he certainly makes the story -- and the continued rise of Ulysses S. Grant's military career -- fascinating.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Neumann

    I really enjoy Jeff Shaara's books. He writes fiction, but it is also history. All the events are historical, but he writes it as a novel. That way you get conversations and thoughts of historical figures that are fiction, but based on historical records. I find this a great way to understand what happened - in this case, the siege of Vicksburg in 1863 - in a way to bring the reader in to the story. As in all his books, some of the people we get to know are famous, Grant and Sherman and Joseph J I really enjoy Jeff Shaara's books. He writes fiction, but it is also history. All the events are historical, but he writes it as a novel. That way you get conversations and thoughts of historical figures that are fiction, but based on historical records. I find this a great way to understand what happened - in this case, the siege of Vicksburg in 1863 - in a way to bring the reader in to the story. As in all his books, some of the people we get to know are famous, Grant and Sherman and Joseph Johnston, and others are privates, sergeants and civilians that are as interesting to meet as the generals. This books gives a detailed history of the siege in a very entertaining way. Highly recommend if you are interested in history.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    The stilted dialog irritated me throughout, especially the exchanges between Generals Grant and Sherman. We're to realize they smoked many, many cigars. Sherman's personal angst was a stretch, as was Pemberton coming across as a wishy-washy, marshmallowy caricature. I couldn't get comfortable in any way with the totally unrealistic way the female character is presented; mainly her wandering about unescorted through a city under siege and filled with soldiers. She seems to happen magically: her m The stilted dialog irritated me throughout, especially the exchanges between Generals Grant and Sherman. We're to realize they smoked many, many cigars. Sherman's personal angst was a stretch, as was Pemberton coming across as a wishy-washy, marshmallowy caricature. I couldn't get comfortable in any way with the totally unrealistic way the female character is presented; mainly her wandering about unescorted through a city under siege and filled with soldiers. She seems to happen magically: her mother has died and her father has left and never returned, providing no income, yet she somehow supports herself and a home by ... ?? The battle history is well researched, but may have been better in a non-fiction format.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brian Paukert

    A Good Story about the Siege of Vicksburg Jeff Sharra does a good job of telling the story of the siege of Vicksburg. He especially does a very well in describing what life was like for the soldier on both sides who were stuck in the trenches; the harrowing world of dirt, artillery, and the dreaded sharpshooter. I thought it was a nice touch to describe what life was like for the civilians within the city who tried to edge out an existence living in caves to avoid artillery surviving on dogs, rat A Good Story about the Siege of Vicksburg Jeff Sharra does a good job of telling the story of the siege of Vicksburg. He especially does a very well in describing what life was like for the soldier on both sides who were stuck in the trenches; the harrowing world of dirt, artillery, and the dreaded sharpshooter. I thought it was a nice touch to describe what life was like for the civilians within the city who tried to edge out an existence living in caves to avoid artillery surviving on dogs, rats, and whatver they could get their hands on. This book is highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A retelling of the Battle of Vicksburg. I listened to the audiotape and found it quite enjoyable. Not only do we have the historical significance, but the author adds fictional characters and we get to share their experiences. We find this with soldiers on both sides and the civilians of Vicksburg who were starving by the end of the siege and forced to eat their animals and whatever they could find in the caves where families were forced to live due to the Federal bombardment.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Much as I admire Scharra's excellent scholarship, he again gets buried in imagined detail, making this piece of historical fiction a long siege in itself. His need to include even the fictional "thoughts" of common soldiers, a Vicksburg resident, and even Sherman and Pemberton slows the narrative immeasurably.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Becker

    My goal has been to read every book Shaara has written and I think I am 1 shy. In this latest one I read, Shaara describes the siege of Vicksburg. It is very good. His description of the citizens and soldiers within Vicksburg is vivid. It must have been awful for them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Spence

    Shaara demonstrates an avidity for American Civil War history. He is very well researched, but the attempt to recreate the Vicksburg story through the eyes of a number of unrelated (willing and/or accidental) players in the drama just didn't quite convince me. A good but not great read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This Shaara book details Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. His stories are always interesting because they not only show what the generals are doing, but also the common soldiers. Great book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard R., Martin

    Another great piece of historical fiction at its finest.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Max Knight

    Jeff Shaara continues his Civil War narrative with the second book in a series focused on the pivotal battles and campaigns fought on the Western Front. Book One, "A Blaze of Glory," chronicled the Battle of Shiloh, a confrontation that resulted in the combined loss of over 23,000 lives. Both sides will claim victory. However, as Book Two begins, Federal forces have been replenished while Confederate manpower continues to steadily diminish. After months of combat the Union Army under Major Gener Jeff Shaara continues his Civil War narrative with the second book in a series focused on the pivotal battles and campaigns fought on the Western Front. Book One, "A Blaze of Glory," chronicled the Battle of Shiloh, a confrontation that resulted in the combined loss of over 23,000 lives. Both sides will claim victory. However, as Book Two begins, Federal forces have been replenished while Confederate manpower continues to steadily diminish. After months of combat the Union Army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant has gained the upper hand forcing Confederate forces under Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton to retreat. The next pivotal engagement will take place at Vicksburg, Mississippi, the "Gibraltar of the Confederacy." As he always does, Shaara recreates the strategies and tactics of both armies. He lets the reader inside the minds of leaders whose names we all know. But, unlike most authors, he actually gets inside the psyches and egos of these generals, letting us understand the hopes, fears, personal animosities, friendships, and political pressures that determined their decisions and the eventual outcome of the war. These insights are fascinating studies in leadership. However, it is his descriptions of common soldiers and their contributions that truly anchor our understanding of what it was like during the war. Their suffering is gut wrenching, as is their devotion to duty. Many had no inkling of the horrors they would face or what their reactions would be. Some rose to heroics, others fled the field. All fought not out of any great hatred of their adversary, but for the love and respect of the men around them. One such individual is Private Fritz "Dutchie" Bauer of Wisconsin. Bauer knows the disgrace of courage lost. At Shiloh he loses his to the unending waves of Confederate soldiers that almost succeed in breaking him and the entire Union Army. Somehow, however, he and his fellow comrades in blue regroup to turn the tide, their baptism of fire turning them into veterans. Bauer transforms from a scared raw recruit into a soldier. He comes to believe in fate, that nowhere is safe on a battlefield, that good men die simply because their time has come. If God has decided your destiny, there is no reason to succumb to fear. The fear is constant, but controllable. At Vicksburg he again survives two failed assaults against the city's fortifications before the decision comes to lay siege and starve the Confederates into submission. Bauer becomes a sharpshooter, patiently picking off any defenders unfortunate or foolish enough to expose themselves from behind the barriers. The brutality of war is not limited to soldiers. Civilians are also tragically caught up in any conflict. Credit Shaara with his depiction of the citizens of Vicksburg forced to leave their genteel lifestyles, abandoning their mansions to huddle inside caves, trapped by the constant bombardment of Federal artillery, witnesses to the slaughter, and participants in the hunger that will in the end bring Vicksburg to its knees. To tell their story he focuses on nineteen year old Lucy Spence. She endures starvation but volunteers as a nurse. While many only gripe about their circumstances, she tries to comfort men whose bodies have been ripped apart by cannon and musket balls. Initially scorned because she has no experience as a nurse and must also bear the malicious comments of her neighbors who believe that a decent Southern woman has no place among soldiers, she eventually wins both admiration and respect. "A Chain of Thunder" is Shaara at his best! He makes us experience the siege by voicing all aspects of the battle and the experience of all participants. And, he also recreates another pivotal moment in history. The fall of Vicksburg will reverberate throughout the South, dealing a monumental blow to the Confederacy by cutting off the Mississippi River as a vital artery for transport of troops and supplies.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

    Shaara continues the story of the Civil War in the “west” with a fascinating but sometimes monotonous story of Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. Having secured western Tennessee and the port of New Orleans, the Union looks to gain complete control of the Mississippi River by capturing the city of Vicksburg, MS. The city sits on a bluff overlooking the river and, with well entrenched canons, is able to prevent the flow of Union men and materiel necessary for the war. Unable to successfully approach the Shaara continues the story of the Civil War in the “west” with a fascinating but sometimes monotonous story of Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. Having secured western Tennessee and the port of New Orleans, the Union looks to gain complete control of the Mississippi River by capturing the city of Vicksburg, MS. The city sits on a bluff overlooking the river and, with well entrenched canons, is able to prevent the flow of Union men and materiel necessary for the war. Unable to successfully approach the city from the north, Grants develops a plan to march his troops through the swamps of Louisiana and cross into Mississippi south of Vicksburg. The speed with which the union carries out their plans catches the Confederate military by surprise and allows Grant to easily move his troops into Mississippi and capture the capital city of Jackson. A symbolic victory, Grant’s men burn the factories, abandon the city, and begin their march to Vicksburg, living off the land, freeing slaves as they go, and meeting stiff but limited resistance from the vastly outnumbered Confederates. Recognizing their inferior numbers, the Confederates withdraw into Vicksburg and set up strong defensive fortifications. Two bloody failed attempts to capture the city lead Grant to commence a lengthy siege. After six weeks of bombardment, sharpshooters, and dwindling supplies, the Confederates surrender and the Union officially gains complete control of the river. Along with the simultaneous Union victory at Gettysburg, July 1863 becomes a turning point in the Civil War; two devastating blows from which the Confederacy will not recover. It also compellingly demonstrates the shifting nature of warfare, as much of the siege of Vicksburg is fought from trenches, and the war shifts from battles between soldiers to “total” war of North be South. Shaara’s writing is excellent and the story benefits greatly from the perspectives of Lucy Spence, a teenage civilian living in Vicksburg, and Fritz Bauer, a young Union soldier. Their experiences demonstrate the brutality of war as experienced by regular folks, something often missing from the perspectives of generals and other leaders. There’s little Shaara can do to fix the plot of the story, however. As a book about a military campaign, the fighting is brief and occasional. Most of the time, everyone is marching or waiting, which, while realistic, is not always compelling. I also find myself disinterested in William T. Sherman, who is one of the primary Union POV characters. He is depicted as an anxious and impatient man, whose positive attributes and contributions I struggle to observe. The story remains fascinating and of great historical significance. One of the best scenes is when soldiers from both sides come face to face during a ceasefire and spend time talking and trading. It bends one’s mind to comprehend the friendliness between two groups of men who are trying to kill one another. I suppose it reflects the argument that wars are between politicians and the only cause of the soldiers caught in the middle is survival. Overall, I give the book 4/5 stars. It is fascinating and thought provoking but at times monotonous and long. I would only recommend it to the nerdiest of Civil War or history buffs. I will continue to read Shaara but doubt this one will get a second read in the future.

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