A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh
While Lee and McClellan spar in the Eastern theater of what has become a full-blown war, Union and Confederate forces are squaring off in the West. Union forces are determined to drive Johnston and his Confederate troops out of Tennessee. Early in 1862, Grant’s men take Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Nashville becomes the first state capital to fall to Union forces. Johnston gathers his troops in secrecy close to where the Union troops are encamped near Shiloh church. On April 6th he launches a devastating surprise attack.
What follows is the Battle of Shiloh, by far the bloodiest battle to that date in the American Civil War, with 25,000 combined casualties over the course of two days of fighting.
Shaara, as in his other works, tells the story from the perspectives of the men who were actually there. We see the battle from its prelude through its grisly conclusion, through the eyes of such men as Johnston, Sherman, and Governor Harris. This time, however, Shaara includes the perspective of some of the front line fighters, such as Seeley, who served with Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry, and Bauer, a private who serves in the Union infantry.
Shaara is a masterful storyteller, and I have never read such a gripping account of Civil War combat. He is able to convey the utter confusion and fog of war with tremendous power, along with both the fear and exhilaration that so many combat veterans experience. Despite its grand background, this is a character-driven novel.
A Blaze of Glory is book one of his new trilogy, which will focus primarily on the western theater of the war. I eagerly anticipate the next installment. Highly recommended.