Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Blaze of Glory and A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara

During the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, I heard lots of recommendations of books related to the civil war. Somewhere, I heard about a set of fact-based fictional books telling the stories of the battles in the west. I read both A Blaze of Glory and A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara. The third and fourth books are still to come.

A Blaze of Glory specifically deals with the Battle of Shiloh on the Tennessee/Alabama border. A Chain of Thunder details the siege of Vicksburg. Both use both actual historical figures as well as fictional characters. 

Because reality has a large cast of characters, the first book had me confused. Too many people with too similar names. I learned my lesson and in the second book I kept a list of characters and some identifying characteristics. This made the books so much more understandable. 

I recommend these books because telling history in this way can be much more memorable than a dry history book. I certainly learned a lot more about the two battles in a way that will stick better than simple facts and figures. In addition, he focuses on the battles in the West because the East got a lot more press. These battles my be known to us by name, but the details are few.

He treats both the Union and the Confederacy as equals, with no appearing to take sides. I realized after a while that he was jumping back and forth from one side to the other with each new chapter. This gave the book a “meanwhile, back at the farm” kind of feel that gave humanity and credibility to both groups. He details the thoughts and actions of both generals and townspeople, thereby linking these two diverse groups as well.

I’m curious to see what the next two books will be about. 

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