War's Relentless Hand: Twelve Tales of Civil War Soldiers (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)

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9780807131909: War's Relentless Hand: Twelve Tales of Civil War Soldiers (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)

A happy-go-lucky soldier falls at Gettysburg. An officer survives a hair-raising escape after capture at Gettysburg, only to die in the Atlanta campaign. A young volunteer retreats into insanity. Though they did most of the fighting and dying in the American Civil War, "ordinary" soldiers largely went unheralded in their day and have long since been forgotten. Mark H. Dunkelman retrieves twelve of these common soldiers from obscurity and presents intimate accounts of their harrowing, heartbreaking, and occasionally humorous experiences. Their stories, true to the last historical detail yet as dramatic as the most powerful fiction, put a human face on the terrible ordeal of a country at war with itself.

These were soldiers from the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, a regiment that Dunkelman has studied for forty years. He weaves a complex and intimate portrait of each man -- portraits that reveal how, even for the common soldier, war was a cataclysmic event forever marking his life and the lives of those around him. Through a vast array of primary sources, Dunkelman reconstructs the lives and legacies of soldiers who died on the battlefield and others who later died of war-related injuries, some who were permanently disabled and others who saw their families undergo trauma.

A reluctant soldier is doomed by red tape. A veteran is crippled for life because of his brutal treatment as a prisoner of war. Father and son are killed at Chancellorsville. A dying private is immortalized by Walt Whitman. Separated by the war, a husband and wife agonize when their children contract a deadly disease. A veteran claiming he was blinded by campfire smoke is at the center of one of the largest pension scandals of the postwar era.

Recalling a lost world, War's Relentless Hand tells of the resilience, perseverance, and loyalty that distinguished these men, the families and communities that supported them, and the faith and character that sustained them. Though the full human cost and grief of the Civil War can never be calculated, deeply felt and carefully retold lives like these help convey its magnitude.

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About the Author:

Mark H. Dunkelman is the author of Brothers One and All: Esprit de Corps in a Civil War Regiment and other books on the 154th New York. An artist, writer, and musician as well, he lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

From Booklist:

Dunkelman, long a fan and student of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, recounts the stories of 12 of its members, using, besides sparse official records, letters, diaries, and other primary sources, many graciously lent by descendants. Each man's story is different, and the war marked each man permanently. Typesetter and journalist Corporal Bouton, who reported to his newspaper from the front and fell at Gettysburg; Private Chittenden, whose wife struggled with their farm and children in poor health while he was away, and who eventually obtained a medical discharge; Private Hawkins, disabled for life by imprisonment at Belle Island and Andersonville; Private Merrill, whose son served beside him, and who fell at Chancellorsville--these and the other 8 arise from the muster rolls and dead lists to become friends and neighbors. Dunkelman's excellent storytelling and characterizations make this, his fourth book about the 154th, attractive to military buffs and general readers alike. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Dunkelman, Mark H.
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