A Civil General by David Stinebeck and Scannell Gill
General George Henry Thomas was an interesting man. Although born and raised in Virginia, he chose to fight for the North during the Civil War. That decision cost him his family. Despite his sacrifices, he was still viewed with some suspicion by his fellow officers. It was his drive, determination, wisdom and dedication to his troops, however that earned him the utmost respect from his troops. As Colonel Swain, A Civil General’s narrator, described so well, the way in which he worked with his men made them so devoted to him that they would follow him to a sure death if that was what he asked of them. After Thomas’ death five years after the war, 10,000 people attended his funeral, including President Grant.
After reading just a few chapters of A Civil General I realized that this book is really a love story written from the point of view of one soldier to another. Colonel Swain clearly believes that General Thomas is the best military leader he has ever met. Despite being taken into the General’s confidence on the way to Chattanooga, Swain remains in awe of this man. As he relates the story of Thomas’ last meeting with his friend General Robert E. Lee, it is obvious that Swain took to heart all that Thomas told him. This was the type of man Swain hoped to become.
A Civil General is a fitting tribute to an American hero. General Thomas was a man who, when called upon, put his country before his family and friends. However much it must have pained him to do so, he never let it show because he knew that he was not alone in making sacrifices. He felt it was his duty to ensure that no one made the ultimate sacrifice unnecessarily. At just over 150 pages, this was a fairly quick read. It did go into some depth during the battle scenes and, as a military novice, I did have some difficulty following exactly what was happening. This didn’t prevent me for enjoying the book, though. This would make an excellent addition to the library of anyone who is interested in the Civil War or military history in general.
To learn more about George Henry Thomas, here is a link to his page on Wikipedia.
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