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To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Civil War Paperback – May 8, 2012

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  • To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Civil War
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Editorial Reviews


“Masterful storytelling.” ―William E. Butterworth IV, New York Times bestselling author of The Saboteurs, on Pearl Harbor

“Creative, clever, and fascinating.” ―James Carville on Gettysburg

“Compelling narrative force and meticulous detail.” ―The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Gettysburg

“Gingrich and Forstchen write with authority and with sensitivity.” ―St. Louis Post Dispatch on Gettysburg

“Grim, gritty, realistic, accurate, and splendid, this is a soaring epic of triumph over almost unimaginable odds.” ―Library Journal on To Try Men's Souls

“With each book… Gingrich and Forstchen have gone from strength to strength as storytellers.” ―William Trotter, The Charlotte Observer, on Never Call Retreat

“The authors' research shines in accurate accounts of diplomatic maneuvering as well as the nuts-and-bolts of military action.” ―Publishers Weekly on Pearl Harbor

“The writing is vivid and clear.” ―Washington Times on Gettysburg

About the Author

NEWT GINGRICH, former Speaker of the House and Presidential candidate, is the bestselling author of Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor and the longest serving teacher of the Joint War Fighting Course for Major Generals at Air University and is an honorary Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Professor at the National Defense University. He resides in Virginia with his wife, Callista, with whom he hosts and produces documentaries, including their latest, A City Upon A Hill.

WILLIAM R. FORSTCHEN, Ph.D., is a Faculty Fellow at Montreat College in North Carolina. Forstchen's doctoral dissertation on the 28th USCT was one of the first in depth studies of a USCT regiment.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312607091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312607098
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When it comes to adding "color" to a historical event, I don't do a great job in my mind. I can read a paragraph spanning weeks or months of history, and that's as far as my mind takes it. I miss the pain, suffering, glory, and everything else that actually occurred. It's for this reason that a good historical fiction novel can open my eyes and help me understand some event on a much deeper emotional level. Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen are masters of the historical fiction genre, and they once again hit a home run with their new novel Battle of the Crater. I was offered an advance reader copy of the book, and was blown away by the raw emotion that Gingrich and Forstchen add to the Civil War battle also referred to as the Battle of the Mine Explosion (depending on what side of the conflict you were on).

Battle of the Crater focuses on a battle that occurred on July 30th, 1864 during the Civil War. Northern and Southern troops were faced off outside of Petersburg, Virginia. The South had to hold the line, as a break there would likely allow the North to take Petersburg and Richmond and end the war. They were dug into trenches and had a fortress (Fort Pegram) that was well situated to hold their position and break the siege. A plan was devised and presented to Major General Burnside that was audacious in its effort and scope. A group of soldiers who were also miners would tunnel under the open battlefield, ending up under the fort. They would pack the mine full of explosives and blow a hole in the Confederate line, followed by an immediate charge of black soldiers who would be trained especially for this operation. In the course of a few short hours, they could take Petersburg and Richmond and deal the death blow to Lee's army.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sierra Foothills on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Newt Gingrich and Bill Forstchen collaborate to weave another best seller historical novel, The Battle of the Crater. The title conjures up images of large holes in the ground, but where and how? The authors chronicle the build up to and the terrifying consequences of a little known American Civil War battle between units of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Centered in the Eastern Theatre of action in Virginia and the battle for Petersburg, a key stronghold of the South protecting the confederate capital, Richmond. The novel focuses on a young man from Ireland, James Reilly, who is thrust into the war as an illustrator for Harper's Weekly, a New York based magazine that featured political cartoons, illustrations and news of the day.
Reilly has long had an association with Abraham Lincoln, first as a young law office assistant for Lincoln, and later as a confidant for the President reporting his observations and drawings of battles. Reilly notes that men of the Union Army, fearing death, pinned hand written notes to their shirts so they might be identified following a battle. They seldom were.

The novel introduces the USCT, United States Colored Troops, thousands of black soldiers fighting for the North who were trained for a special mission involving an intricate tunnel designed to deliver explosives under the rebel fort, to pierce and divide the defenses of the South. The men who designed and constructed the tunnel were a mining engineer and experienced coal miners from Pennsylvania. They used their experience with mining tools such as a theodolite, a survey instrument designed to provide information about angles and distances. Few other essential tools were provided, but the digging continued.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Willington on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Battle of the Crater is Gingrich and Forstchen's fourth historical novel on the Civil War, and the first that is not a "what-if" or "alternative" history--but it is also one of their very best.

The Battle of the Crater is the heroic story of the largest combat deployment of African American troops in the Civil War. The 28th Indiana regiment was composed largely of freemen born in the north, who volunteered to fight at a time in the war when it was increasingly difficult to recruit white soldiers to the Union war effort. The regiment was highly trained for a top-secret, spec ial mission concocted by miners from Pennsylvania who dug under a Confederate fort in order to blow it up from below. The story of these men is inspiring, heroic, and tragic, as bickering in the highest ranks of the Union army results in last-minute changes that lead to disaster.

Gingrich's and Forstchen's training as two historians with Ph.D.' s shines through, with fascinating and often jarring details that drive home the incredible horror of the war as well as the sacrifice that so many made. When we see, in the first chapter, soldiers pinning their names addresses to their backs in advance of a perilous charge, we understand the human dimensions of history in ways we cannot through history books. And when we meet Abraham Lincoln in an hour of self-doubt and political vulnerability, we begin to grasp something of the personal trials he faced as he tried to restore the union.

The story itself is told through the eyes of James Reilly, an illustrator for Harpers Weekly, one of the most important magazines of the time, who has an additional, secret mission when he is on the front lines of battle observing the for his sketches.
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