Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg

I've been to the Gettysburg National Park twice, and have watched the movie at least three times over my actual visits to the battlefield. 
While I know the overall history of the American Civil War, or as wargamers abbreviate it "ACW," I've read very few specific books on the subject, so I don't have a fine grasp of the details.
And I've never read any personal accounts of the war, until a few days ago.  I unearthed the booklet, Through Blood & Fire Gettysburg, that a former coworker gave me and I had stashed away in a file cabinet.
The booklet is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's account of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment's valiant defense of Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg
(Image of Chamberlain played by Jeff Daniels in the movie Gettysburg)
Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg was originally published in Harper's back in 1913 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the battle.  This particular copy was published by Stan Clark Military Books back in 1996, of which the back half is composed of maps and photos.  I think my friend picked this up at the Gettysburg Museum Gift Shop.
As to the story itself, I have very little to offer other than praise.  Nothing I write here can compare to Chamberlain's lofty and eloquent prose.  He was a firm believer in the Union's cause, and his narrative is heavily influenced by his religious convictions.
Chamberlain calls little attention to himself, and instead focuses on the gallantry of the soldiers--both Union and Confederate. 
Most of his praise was of course heaped on the soldiers of the 20th Maine.  According to Chamberlain; regimental clerks and cooks, along with the walking wounded joined-in the fight.  Everyone knew what was at stake.
When the do-or-die moment was upon them, Chamberlain said one word:  Bayonets.
And every solider still standing knew what to do.
Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg is an epic poem of the American Civil War.
(Image:  Don Troiani's painting Lt. Col Joshua Chamberlain)
Most reviewers (18 out of 20) on gave the booklet high praise, giving it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The 1 & 2-star raters thought this was a rip off, because the booklet either didn't go into details about Gettysburg as a whole, or that half of it was "filler" with maps.
Even if I had purchased the book, I doubt I'd give this less than a 5-star rating.  It's hard to take-down a first-hand account, especially from such a notable historical figure.
Now I have to admit, ever since reading The Killer Angels and watching the movie Gettysburg, I've become a Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain fan.
When my youngest sister was stationed in Maine, we stumbled across Chamberlain Museum, after her wedding and she bought me a T-shirt at the gift shop.  I had it for years until it became unserviceable.
On the left breast was a small bust of Chamberlain and below were part of his words spoken at the Commemoration of the Monument to the 20th Maine:

No comments: