A BLAZE OF GLORY
by Jeff Shaara, 2012
A Blaze of Glory is the first of a new 4-book series, set more in the “Western” theater of the Civil War. This first volume covers the Battle of Shiloh. (The title comes from a marvelous quote from General (later President) James Garfield, who was present at the battle).
It’s the spring of 1862. The Confederate army in the West teeters on the brink of collapse following the catastrophic loss of Fort Donelson, on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. Commanding General Albert Sidney Johnston is forced to pull up stakes, abandoning the city of Nashville, and rally his Southern troops in defense of the enormously important rail artery that connects the Western Confederacy to the East, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Hot on Johnston’s trail are two of the Union’s best generals: the relentless Ulysses Grant, fresh off his career-making triumph at Fort Donelson, and Don Carlos Buell. If their combined forces can crush Johnston’s army and capture the railroad, the war in the West will likely be over. There’s just one problem with Federal plans: Johnston knows what Grant and Buell are trying to do, and so, Johnston forms a plan of his own, to launch an audacious surprise attack before the two Federal armies can link together. He will strike Grant’s encampment, a small settlement in southwestern Tennessee anchored by a humble country church named Shiloh.
As Buell struggles to join forces with Grant’s army, Johnston’s army moves northward from their base at Corinth, Mississippi. Marching through the misery of rain-soaked roadways, the Confederate army manages to launch their assault against a Federal army that, amazingly, has no idea what is about to happen. The result is one of the most brutal confrontations of the war, a fight that creates reputations and destroys hopes. What results from the Battle of Shiloh turns the war in a way so appropriate to the most significant actions of the war – changing history in the process.
The story is told through the points of view of four primary characters: Union General William T. Sherman and a young private from the 16th Wisconsin, Fritz Bauer, opposed to Confederate commander Albert Sidney Johnston and a young cavalry lieutenant, James Seeley, who rides alongside the illustrious Nathan Bedford Forrest. Other voices emerge as well: Union Generals Ulysses Grant and Benjamin Prentiss, as well as Tennessee’s governor, Isham Harris, who stands alongside Johnston, and thus witnesses the single most devastating event of the fight.