5.0 out of 5 stars
A book that brings the horrors of war and the contrast of humanity in the most inhumane of conditions
While I cannot admit to being more than a passing knowledge of the American Civil War, I am obsessed with the Ken Burns / PBS / History Channel viewpoints of the different battles and the people who waged them. While walking us through the horrors that are warfare after the days following the battle of Gettysburg by following soldiers, one from each side, we are given an entrée into the scene: as gripping as it is graphic. The story, however, really focuses on the lives and days of characters not immersed in the actual battle: but are battling through the aftermath nonetheless. Surgeons, freed slaves, embalmers and citizens all play a part in this story, giving it a sense of grounding and even normalcy in a very traumatic and far from normal time.There are some fairly gruesome scenes: medical procedures are detailed and described in ways that shock our modern sensibilities and beliefs. Surgeons working while nearly asleep on their feet as they try to save one more, when the dirt, the lack of sterile fields, sheer volume of wounded and the weather all conspired against that goal. Not surprising to me was the despair often felt by the surgeons, the small glimpses into their lives `pre-battle’ and the dichotomy that rages within some as they battle the demons of doubt and hopelessness to keep moving forward.While I didn’t particularly connect with any one character, probably because McDaniels spins a story that hit me with a visceral punch, I had guarded myself against becoming too involved. I did, however, find myself fascinated with Jupiter Jones, snake-oil salesman and talented embalmer with his assertions that the dead speak to him, and maintains a certain attention to providing dignity to his clients in a situation where dignity and decorum are often passed over for expediency.This is a book that brings the horrors of war and the contrast of humanity in the most inhumane of conditions possible. I suggest this book for anyone studying war, the American Civil War or American History.I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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