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History At It's Best!

The Fateful Lightning: A Novel of the Civil War - Jeff Shaara

Shaara continues his run of outstanding historical novels! The Fateful Lightning is about the ending days of the Civil War, seen through the lens of Sherman's "March To The Sea". As he has done before, Shaara once again lays his story out by telling it through the eyes of multiple characters. The main character, General Sherman; two Confederate soldiers; and, perhaps most interesting, a slave who was freed by Sherman's army. As with all of his books, it is extremely well researched. It vividly describes the day to day struggles of the march as well as the battles along the way. And allows you insight into what may have been going through the character's minds at the time.
I have studied a lot of Civil War history, but have to admit that I really never considered it through the eyes of a slave. But when you think about the situation they found themselves in, freed from their "owners" without any real knowledge of the world outside their plantation, it's amazing. Not to provide any spoilers, but I found several instances worth mentioning. On seeing money being exchanged for the first time, Franklin (the slave) states, "If we're being delivered, God won't be needing none of this. I ain't seen nothing in the Bible about tradin' paper to get into heaven". Also interesting was Franklin's amazement at something as simple as a letter, which he couldn't believe could be used to communicate over long distances. He was far from ignorant though, as when asked why the poor Southern white men would fight for the rich, he stated, "When the war broke out, the rich folk told the poor folk that if they win the war, they can have the land up north, and all the coloreds they want".
Even though the book was very well written, and the plot moves along well, I found myself purposefully slowing down, in order to savor the book for as long as I could. I'm sorry that Shaara's series has come to a conclusion. I wish he could go on and on, but then, all good things must end eventually. Bravo, Mr. Shaara!
 

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