The Better Angels of Our Nature
The title, a phrase from Lincoln’s 1861 inaugural address, haunts the brutal Civil War that followed. The phrase also describes the young orphan boy, Jesse Davis, who joins Union general William Tecumseh Sherman before the battle of Shiloh. Jesse exemplifies angelic behavior amidst the destruction of war. We see horrific battles through the youngster’s eyes, some of the most vivid Civil War battle scenes you will ever read. Yet Jesse demonstrates kindness, love and self-sacrifice amid the chaos and cruel mass murder of war. To Gylanders’ credit, she creates a creature that seems real and believable while also being ethereal. Jesse stays with Sherman through Shiloh, the siege of Vicksburg and on toward Chattanooga, touching many wounded lives along the way.
Gylanders also provides a strikingly realistic description of Sherman. You see the lines of emotional distress etched on his face and smell cigars and whiskey on his breath. By the end of the book you will swear you can hear the great general’s voice just outside your window.
Jesse’s identity becomes a mystery that moves to center stage of the story. Where does Jesse come from? How can a person with such innocence demonstrate such wisdom? What has Jesse been put here to do? These are the questions that will keep you reading this worthwhile book.