From Publishers Weekly
It's perhaps through individual lives that we can best understand the social impact of the Civil War. As Louis Menand, in The Metaphysical Club
, explored the war's impact on Oliver Wendell Holmes, here first-time author Bundy examines the life of another Boston Brahmin of the time, and Bundy's is easily the best account we have of the life of the brilliant, magnetic and tragic Charles Russell Lowell Jr., examining how he became a martyr for the cause of freedom. Born into one of the poorer branches of the prominent Lowell clan on January 2, 1835, valedictorian of his Harvard class, Lowell was a youthful idealist, drawn to the cause of abolition. Accepting a commission as captain in the 3rd (later 6th) U.S. Cavalry, the once-tubercular Lowell immediately made a name for himself as a reckless adventurer on the battlefield. Serving on the staff of General McClellan, Lowell chomped at the bit as the copperhead commander hesitated to wage necessary battles. Later on, Lowell helped found the famous 54th Regiment of black volunteers, fought against Mosby's insurgents following Gettysburg, and--as a part of Sheridan's forces--played a key role in implementing Grant's Shenandoah Valley Campaign in Virginia. In October 1864, aged 29 and by then a colonel, Lowell was felled at the battle of Cedar Creek by a Confederate bullet. Bundy does an excellent job of telling Lowell's tale and explaining the ethic of selfless sacrifice out of which he emerged. This is an admirable life of an admirable man. Photos not seen by PW
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This massive, scholarly work is a biography of a Boston Brahmin killed in the Civil War--Charles Russell Lowell Jr., whose death provoked much cogitation among those who had known him about the value of the sacrifice being made for the Union. What the book may provoke, one cannot say, but Bundy merits high praise for her thoroughness, relative readability in so scholarly a tome, and the admirable lack of psychobabble in her analysis of motives and relationships. Lowell's family's fortunes had already suffered a downturn when his father went bankrupt, and he had battled tuberculosis after graduation from Harvard. He stepped briskly forward, however, when the war broke out and served in the infantry, in staff assignments, and eventually as commander of a brigade of cavalry, at whose head he was killed at Cedar Creek, Virginia, in 1864. Meanwhile, he managed to marry a sister of Robert Gould Shaw's, and he left many memories behind. In Lowell's biography, Bundy also offers a group portrait of the era's Boston elite at war. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved