The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived It. (General Military) by Susannah Ural and Gary Gallagher

Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades by Susannah UralPublisher:  Osprey Publishing
Release Date:  October 22, 2013
Pages:  312

About the Book:  Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades is the story of families enduring the whirlwind of the Civil War, told through the words of famous and ordinary citizens and ranging from the battlefield to the home front, from presidential councils to frontier revivals. The book reveals how Americans on both sides of the Mason and Dixon line withstood four years of brutal, unrelenting conflict. Of the hundreds of thousands of books published on the American Civil War, this is one of the few to approach the nation’s defining conflict from this powerful perspective.

Grounded in rare family letters and diaries, Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades captures Americans’ wide-ranging reactions to the war and their astonishing perseverance. Some of the accounts are entirely unknown to readers, while better-known events are told from unusual perspectives. Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, for example, is shared from the viewpoint of Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancĂ©e (and stepsister) Clara Harris, while Lewis Powell’s attempt on Secretary of State William Seward’s life is seen through the terrified eyes Fanny Seward, who was seated next to her father when Powell burst into the room. Madison and Lizzie Bowler help readers understand how the war brought a Minnesota couple together in marriage and then nearly drove them apart when Madison insisted that his first duty was to his nation while Lizzie believed it was to her and their newborn daughter. A thousand miles to the south, two Texas families also suffered through their soldiers’ absence and tried to explain to their young children why father had “gone to war” with “Santaclause.” And to the north in Kentucky, a runaway slave won freedom for himself and his family by joining the Union Army only to face prejudice as brutal and destructive as the life he’d left behind.

Readers are carried alongside these families, sharing their dreams that the fighting might end this year and suffering with them when the Reaper comes calling. Through these and other stories, Don’t Hurry Me Down to Hades invites readers to set aside previous assumptions to learn about the divisions and range of opinions on both sides from ordinary and famous men and women, black and white, slave and free. Esteemed Civil War historian Susannah J. Ural brings fresh insight into the war by delving into historical archives and private family papers to peal back the passage of time. Her consummate narrative weaves together a textured, powerful portrait of a nation at war with itself.

Wanda's Review:  The Civil War affected a far higher percentage of the American population than any other conflict. Either side could have won this dreadful war and even after the Civil War was ended, the wounds continued to run deep for both the North and South. 

Susannah Ural has cleverly woven together a chronological view of the Civil War through many descriptive documents and letters written from this era. She has truly brought the Civil War to life with rich historical detail. 

Varina Howell Davis was the 2nd wife of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. Varina Davis was very opposed to secession, and her strong opinions, which she was not able to easily suppress, would cause problems for Jefferson Davis, but she was one of his closest confidents. 

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Lincoln, impressed very few people. She was self absorbed and used people in any way necessary to add to her security and her reputation suffered. She became a social embarrassment. She misused government funds for fictitious improvements on the White House. The First Lady lost her husband's attention to an all-consuming war and it took its toll on her. As a result she lived an astonishingly tragic life. 

General Ulysses S Grant had a young son, Fred, who joined his father in camp during the war. While the war was separating nearly every family, North and South, the Grants' were determined to stay together. The General had his 12 year old son tagging along. Grant was a homebody who needed to be surrounded by his wife, Julia, and children. The General had a soft heart and reflective soul and Julia had been her husband's greatest champion. 

Lizzie Bowler had fallen in love with James Madison Bowler when he was a schoolteacher in Minnesota, but now her faith was wavering. In four years of war, they shared only a total of 12 weeks together. And now it was time for him to come home and focus on his family. 

The assassination of President Lincoln is told through Major Henry Rathbone and his wife Clara. The Rathbones attended the Ford Theater with President Lincoln and the First Lady, as their guests, on that fateful night. The Rathbone's story continues with lingering trauma and their lives end tragically. 

So many stories to be told, most of them poignant, but the stories continue to unfold in this beautifully crafted book by this amazing writer. The extensive historical research in this book just astounds me - a wealth of information. Don't miss this one! 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley to read and review. All opinions shared are solely my own.