From Library Journal
A historian with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Power has written an excellent study of life in the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War's final year. The result is an outstanding example of the new military history similar in type and quality to Reid Mitchell's Civil War Soldiers (LJ 9/15/88) and James McPherson's For Cause and Comrades (LJ 3/15/97). Exhaustively researched, this revised doctoral dissertation is based on a wide variety of letters and diaries drawn from manuscript sources throughout the Confederate South. In chronological fashion, Power traces the men's cautious optimism after the Wilderness campaign, where soldiers wrote of "high spirits," to the rampant despair of the spring of 1865. Power covers the standard topics: morale, rations, home front, and the like. His very well-written book gives readers a you-are-there experience, and the final chapter is a superb historiographical overview of recent titles in the field. A final note on the title: Victor Hugo's classic had just been translated into English when some of Lee's more literate soldiers adopted the title to suit their own situation.?Stephen G. Weisner, Springfield Technical Community Coll., MA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In an exceedingly solid volume, Power depicts the Army of Northern Virginia during its last year. His portrait is based in thorough study of the correspondence of hundreds of officers and enlisted men, far too many of whom did not survive the fighting, poor medical care, disease, and sheer starvation that together hammered Lee's army down to the shadow of itself that surrendered at Appomattox. The letters discussed every possible aspect of the soldiers' existence, with the usual nineteenth-century exception of their sex lives. As Power cites them, they movingly indicate the continued devotion of so many Confederates to their increasingly doomed cause, and they are frank about the extent to which declining morale, straggling, and outright desertion set in toward the end of 1864. Although casual Civil War buffs may find Power's work somewhat daunting, serious students of the conflict will find it thoroughly compelling. Roland Green