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Eye of the Storm: A Civil War Odyssey Paperback – May 7, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684863669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684863665
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,289,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

After the attack on Fort Sumter, Robert Knox Sneden decided to do his part to save the Union, signing on with the 40th New York Volunteers. Owing to his skills as an artist, Private Sneden was recruited to become a cartographer within a few months. And owing to his skills as both artist and cartographer, Civil War buffs can enjoy Eye of the Storm.

During his time in the army, Sneden kept a detailed diary and made hundreds of sketches in the field. In 1994, four scrapbooks in a Connecticut bank vault were found to contain some 800 drawings, the vast majority of them based on his original sketches. Soon after, a 5,000-page illustrated memoir based on Sneden's diaries was also discovered. Selections from the scrapbooks and memoir make up this marvelous book, which offers firsthand accounts of the action of the Peninsula Campaign and Second Bull Run--as well as the monotony of soldiering between battles. Perhaps the most compelling portion of Eye of the Storm is Sneden's descriptions of Andersonville, the Confederacy's notorious prison camp:

September 7, 1864: Fine weather, but very hot, 110 degrees anywhere in the shade. This terrible heat helps to kill us off at the rate of 100 per day inside the stockade. Dead men may be seen by the score lying all along the brook which runs through the filthy swamp, while others are tearing off their soiled clothes to get thread from the seams, or patches to put on their own ragged clothes.

Sneden's account lacks the typical Victorian flowery prose, as he writes with an almost analytical detachment about the horrors around him. This detachment lends an immediacy to his memoir, bringing home the brutality of the War Between the States. Dozens of Sneden's detailed drawings illustrate the text, making this a must-have for Civil War buffs. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter in 1861, 29-year-old Robert Sneden joined the 40th New York Volunteer Infantry. Sneden's prewar career as an architect/engineer attracted the attention of higher officers, and the young Canadian was detached as a cartographer for most of his brief military career, seeing action in the Second Manassas and on a few other occasions. On November 27, 1863, Sneden was seized by rebel troops led by the famed John S. Mosby and hustled south to a Richmond prison. In early 1864, he was among the first batch of Union prisoners sent to Andersonville, Ga., where more than 13,000 prisoners died. After transfers to other Southern camps, Sneden was finally exchanged in December 1864. Throughout his army career, Sneden kept a journal and sketched numerous sites of his experiences. Although the journal itself has disappeared, a very journal-like postwar memoir of some 5,000 pages based on his wartime experience and heavily illustrated by him has been found. Editors Bryan and Lankford, of the Virginia Historical Society (which owns the Sneden collection), have excerpted the more important sections of this compellingly straightforward account and provided more than 70 color illustrations of battle fields, city layouts and other scenes that caught Sneden's precise, cartographic eye. Summaries fill in blanks from the larger work, and brief identifications of period people and terms are helpfully included, but it's really the pictures that tell the best story here. The end result is a pleasing palate of vivid (if not quite reflective) descriptions and terrific watercolors from a patriotic man. History Book Club main selection; BOMC and Military Book Club alternate; first serial to Civil War Illustrated. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I hesitate to rate any book five stars, but will do so when it satisfied all my expectations and gives me far more.
George L. Mertens
Thse details are fascinating, but they are encapsulated within a story of great scope -- one man's war that mirrors the entire Civil War.
Patrick McCormack
Sneden has a very matter of fact style of writing that gets to the point and is descriptive without being overwrought.
Wayne A. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 94 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a student of the Civil War and have found compelling naratives of Andersonville missing....this book is a must read. While the book deals with Andersonville only in the last half, it is a wonderful narrative of the average soldiers life before and during that inhuman prison camp. This book and its illustrations are, simply, a must read. I was given a copy as a gift, and am now buying copies to give as gifts. The truly wonderful part of this book is the truly "average" nature of the human, Robert Sneden. He was you and I living the hell of the Civil War. Buy this book now.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By The Free Press on November 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"What makes Sneden's history remarkable is his attention to detail... So compelling was his drive to document the war accurately that Sneden kept notes even while in Andersonville, writing in shorthand on scraps of pages of books that he later sewed into the linings of his cloths to keep hidden.... It is astonishing that such valuable experience could have remained hidden for so long." --Michael Larkin, The Boston Globe
"This is quite simply a wonderful book.... One can virtually hear the soldiers snoring and the mules braying.... Especially moving is [Sneden's] account of the horrible months he spent in Andersonville.... Sneden's all-observing eye was truly `in the storm,' and his belatedly published memoir should soon become a standard in the field." --Ben L. Bassham, Civil War Book Review
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Clint Hunter on January 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Private Robert Sneden of the 40th New York Volunteers was trained in architecture and engineering and assigned to make detailed maps of the unknown terrain being traversed by the Union Army. This assignment gave him unusual freedom to roam the areas and battlefields to which he was assigned. Fortunately he kept a daily journal and made well drawn sketches and watercolor paintings as he went. The book covers the period from September 29, 1861, shortly after he joined McClellan's army encamped at Leesburg, Virginia, to December 26, 1864, when he was finally reunited with his family. With an artist's eye for detail and a surprisingly deft ability with the English language, Sneden provides the reader with some of the most memorable descriptions, watercolor colors of scenes, and eyewitness accounts ever published on the Civil War. Sneden's experiences can broadly be divided into two major periods.
The first general section of his journal concerns the events connected with McClellan's move toward the botched siege of Yorktown, Virginia, and ends with the bloody battles of the 7 Day's War in which Lee attacked the Union forces at Mechanicsville and forced the ensuing retreat. Sneden's almost matter-of-fact descriptions of the fighting, confusion, carnage, small unit movements, individual heroism, death, and destruction are powerful and moving.
The second general section of Sneden's journal concerns the events leading up to his capture by Mosby's Confederate cavalry, his internment first in Richmond and finally at the infamous Andersonville, and his eventual release and reunion with his family. No brief review could possibly do justice to the descriptions of the inhumanity displayed at these prison facilities. Sneden's accounts are strong, detailed, and painful to read.
I highly recommend this book. It is a book which belongs in the collection of anyone interested in United States history and the Civil War in particular.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Elmo Shangnaster on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After discovering this book under my Christmas tree imagine my interest in the discovery of the story of Private Sneden in this volume. This first hand account of the war was far and away better than anything I've read so far including Sam Watkins 'Co. Aytch'. The added bonus of Sneden's watercolors make this book an invaluable source for anyone interested in the war and a fascinating revelation of it. Highly recommended!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By William Thomas on January 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I've read all of the standards--Catton, Foote, McPhearson, Freeman, etc. I've read some first hand journals as well, such as Grant's memoirs, Mary Chestnut, Jefferson Davis, etc. What I haven't ever encountered before is someone who has both the enlisted man's take on the penninsular campaign and Andersonville with the access to the generals Sneden seems to have had. In one paragraph he's getting dragged through the mud hanging from the back of a wagin, and then in the next he's privy to a meeting between Hooker, Kearny, and Heintzelman.
The journal from inside Andersonville is priceless by itself! But there's also the Penninsular Campaign and the early part of the war. Then add to this Sneden's watercolors and you have a unique source that brings the day-to-day activities of the Civil War home like no other book I've ever read.
Buy this book, it's one of the best ground-level views of the Civil War I've ever encountered.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By le_poulet on January 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sneden's memoir and watercolors comprise a remarkable document of a soldier's life in the Union army. A previous reviewer questioned the collection's authenticity for a number of reasons that I didn't find accurate. Sneden's memoir does not indicate that he was at every major battle of the war, nor that he met every major general. He was a cartographer in the Peninsular Campaign, and thus was in contact with the generals (who naturally had an interest in maps) at those battles. Likewise, his role as a mapmaker would explain his access to materials, though as the preface indicates, Sneden probably quickly sketched most of his battle scenes and colored them in later. As for the the word "virus," the OED indicates that it was used as early as 1728 to refer to disease contagion.
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