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Generals in Bronze: Interviewing the Commanders of the Civil War Hardcover – September 1, 2005
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James Edward Kelly was an artist of bas-reliefs and sculptures during the Civil War, sketching battles in the days before cameras and videotapeing were omnipresent. He also sketched famous people and interviewed them during the sketching, and this book is a series of memoirs or diary of an artist's recording of not only the images of the great names of the Civil War, but also the conversations he had with his sitters. Famous names abound in this informative and well-constructed book. We learn about General Custer's constant companion - a canteen of iced tea - and that he possessed a 'boyish chuckle' that is not at all the image of the historical Custer. Ulysses Grant discusses his drinking problem, Mary Todd Lincoln was seen pulling her hair out by the handfuls upon Lincoln's assassination, other generals talk about the complete inadequacy of Gettysburg as a battleground, and so on.
One of the pleasures of this book is that all of the interviews noted by Kelly were after the war: this is a series of retrospective commentary and as such is a sharp lesson in how we have thought about all our previous wars under the tutelage of the artists' eyes and ears and words. A fascinating and humbling document. Grady Harp, October 05
Generals in Bronze is yet another fine book of the kind Mr. Styple is known for. Anyone who is interested in knowing more about these Generals, great battles of the Civil War, the Lincoln assassination, or what these great men did NOT put in their "official" memoirs should read this book!
Kelly, a native New Yorker, was born a scant few years before the onset of the Civil War and although he began as a sketch artist, his works are more remembered now for his statues and bronze reliefs. While Styple astutely begins his book with Kelly's observations of General Philip Sheridan in 1878 and ends with a couple of 1920's recollections of eyewitnesses to Lincoln's assassination, "Generals in Bronze" is largely concerned with reflections from the second tier of Union generals....their remembrances for sure, but also their comments about other generals and, of course, their egos. Kelly, with a discerning eye not only as an artist but with an eye to the future has a rather cheeky and self-promoting way of working his way into his subects' confidences. He captures more of these generals than they could ever have captured the enemy on the battlefield.
That so many generals lived so long after the Civil War and that Kelly, perhaps more than anyone else, was able to relate their collective histories makes him a center point for postwar interest. One of the wonderful things about "Generals in Bronze" is the language itself. How formal it was that people spoke just a mere hundred years ago, or so! Yet with this formality comes a certain humor, freedom and admiration one often finds lacking in today's jargon.
William Styple, through giving us the words of James Kelly and his quotes and assessments on the generals with whom he spoke, has done a great service. I can't recommend this book more highly. It is a serious and unforgettable read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a truly underrated, excellent book, astonishing discovery of interviews with so many civil war figures, mostly generalsPublished 8 months ago by Wayne Soini
As an educator, I value the historical interviews as well as the art! It is a good resource for any Civil War buff!Published on June 6, 2014 by Judy James
This book has sent me into a world of reality historiography that can not be denied.
Seeing the C-Span/ Booktv coverage of this book created complete and total interest in... Read more
Until recently unpublished interviews of some major figures of the Civil War and others--off the cuff conversations with Joshua Chamberlain, Winfield Hancock, Teddy Roosevelt, many... Read morePublished on December 8, 2013 by Nathan Forbes
My husband got this book and talked how good it was. I bought it for a friend that also like history and he loved it too.Published on August 21, 2013 by Heidi Hanes
I often wondered what it would be like to sit down and ask questions of the
great commanders of the Civil War. Read more
First, let me just say, that I see this as a work of great historical worth. I am thankful to Mr. Styple for his excellent work in compiling the diaries and notes of James Kelly... Read morePublished on May 13, 2012 by Jay Stemm