Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Courage Under Fire by Wiley Sword

Courage Under Fire: Profiles in Bravery From the Battlefields of the Civil War by Wiley Sword
I had a some trouble wrapping my mind around this book. My opinion is somewhat mixed. The first two sections mainly cover a variety of forms of courage. These run the whole range of types of courage and situations. There are the men who are convinced they will die in the next battle and how they deal with that. There are the men who do extraordinary things in a battle. For instance I had never heard the story of the attempted capture of the USS Michigan in Lake Erie. That was an interesting story that was quite minor in the grand scheme of the war but had its own heroic moments.
The last part of the book though deals more with the mental aspect of courage. There is a chapter on Shiloh which details some of the decisions and thoughts made by Johnston and Grant at the battle. I did not think that this section was the strongest in the book. There is a chapter on Cleburne and his slave proposal and the moral courage he needed to bring this proposal forward in the social climate of the South. True, but not the strongest part of the book.
I got this book from the library and I'm not sure if I'd buy it or not. I know a review should end with a thumbs up or down but for this particular book I really cannot decide. I'm a fan of Wiley Sword's but I'm not sure this is his best book from cover to cover. For me if he had expanded the early sections and done less of the last section I think it'd be a better book. I guess my final recommendation is that its a worthwhile read but I would not keep it in my library for future reference.

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