Sacred Ties: From West Point Brothers to Battlefield Rivals: A True Story of the Civil War

Written by Tom Carhart
Review by John R. Vallely

Six young West Point graduates were both friends at the Academy and destined to serve as exceptional officers and warriors for both sides in the U.S. Civil War. Pre-war friendship challenged by this most cruel of American wars has long been a staple of Civil War writing. Sacred Ties takes it into uncharted territory by studying six cadets who go on to brilliant war service: the well-known George Custer and John Pelham, and the less widely-known Dodson Ramseur, Henry DuPont, Tom Rosser, and Wesley Merritt. The reader follows these six fascinating personalities through their cadet years at West Point and then into the cockpit of war in some of the most savage combat between Union and Confederate armies in the East. The Union’s Wesley Merritt and Henry DuPont would enjoy distinguished postwar lives, while “Audie” Custer would die at Little Big Horn in 1876. For the Confederates, Tom Rosser would survive and go on to serve in Union blue as a general in the Spanish-American War. Both Dodson Ramseur and “The Gallant” Pelham would be killed in action. Carhart, a West Point graduate, reminds us of the human side of war.