Francis, John, and William Poore were three brothers from Mississippi who fought the span of the Civil War, from Francis at Manassas to John at Appomattox. All three survived. These men are relatives of author Ralph Poore. By tracing their steps, he has given us a stunning insider's account of the day-by-day toils of fighting for the Confederacy. Extremely well-researched, Poore Boys in Gray is by turns thrilling and horrifying as it relates, battle by battle, the fortunes of the Army of Northern Virginia from the brothers' imagined perspectives. It is a pulse-pounding book.
Seen from within the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, the Civil War as a story unfolds from the exhilaration of rebel yells and victories, through grinding lengthy standoffs, sudden defeats, and piles of corpses to the idle boredom of winter camp, periods of starvation and insufferable hardship, and eventually the desperate "Alamo" of Fort Gregg and heartbreaking defeat. It is a long, sad trip home to a devastated South for the Poore boys.
Poore Boys in Gray is packed with information. We learn the military strategy and terrains and fortifications and casualties for each battle. We read copious, documented first-hand accounts of surprises on the battlefields and the soldiers' variations in morale. We suffer with them through disease outbreaks, stark fluctuations in food and clothing supplies, and exhaustion from interminable battles. Both Francis and William were prisoners late in the war, and the deadly conditions of two Yankee prison camps are described in detail. John surrendered at Appomattox as one of the last 74 soldiers from an original Mississippi Infantry Regiment of 1,000.
Before I read the book, I thought of the Civil War from a historical distance. Now I can fully imagine what it was like to be a soldier in that terrible and ravaging war.