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Hell or Richmond: A Novel (The Battle Hymn Cycle) Hardcover – May 7, 2013
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*Starred Review* The author of Cain at Gettysburg (2012) now offers what is intended to be the first of a trilogy taking the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia through their last and worst year of fighting. The setting, superbly researched and brought to life, supports three masterful battle pieces: the Wilderness, the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania, and the doomed Union assault at Cold Harbor. The real strength of the book is the way the characters, all of them historical, are given life, even if some of them have to be reconstructed. We have a dysentery-ridden Robert E. Lee and an authentically laid-back Ulysses S. Grant. We meet Francis Barlow, a New England aristocrat; Stephen Oates, an Alabama brawler; and John B. Gordon, a Georgian with a natural gift for both combat leadership and inspiring speeches. We meet the Fiftieth Pennsylvania, a motley array of veteran canal men seen through the eyes of Sergeant (and later reluctant Lieutenant) Charles Brown. This is not a book for the squeamish—the effects of canister against massed troops and the uncensored language of Stephen Oates and Generals Charles Griffin and Philip Sheridan come to mind. But none of this should daunt readers who want to pick up one of the great Civil War novels of our time—and are prepared to risk not being able to put it down until they are done. --Roland Green
“Firmly grounded in the historical record, Hell or Richmond recounts the horrific bloodbaths of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor with the skill of an accomplished novelist...gripping you-are-there urgency...enthralling historical fiction of the highest order.” ―Gordon C. Rhea, author of The Battle of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor
“A towering work of historical fiction, majestic in its ferocity, strangely beautiful in its expression, cold-eyed honest in the truths it tells about men at war.” ―William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter
“Authenticity has always been Ralph Peters' trademark. In this superb novel, he blends phenomenal research and historical imagination to achieve it in capital letters.” ―Thomas Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Trial of Robert E. Lee
“A profound reflection on the relationship of men and violence. Ralph Peters continues to be the most reliable, insightful and readable historian of our times...and he never loses sight of the human beings, great and small, caught up in war's vortex. An outstanding read.” ―Gen. Sid Shachnow, U.S. Army Special Forces (Ret.)
“One of the great Civil War novels of our time...superbly researched and brought to life...[be] prepared to risk not being able to put it down.” ―Booklist, starred review
“[A] landmark of historical fiction...the finest Civil War novelist writing today.” ―The New York Journal of Books
“Hell or Richmond is an America epic, a prose Iliad of the Civil War. It is stunningly well researched and beautifully, poetically written.” ―Guy MacLean Rogers, author of Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness
“Harrowing...swift-moving...[Peters] writes with a fine balance of historical accuracy and drama” ―Kirkus Reviews
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General LEE, while having exquisite manners as Virginian aristocracy, also had some very hard breaks in his youth, giving way to many hidden but real insecurities in his adulthood . The author defines the problems which haunted LEE being the son of a great but weak warrior who squandered the family fortune and disgraced his family; it was the lifelong goal of LEE to bring honor back to his blue-blooded family.
That said, Peters does finally show a side of LEE which unveils his pride and other weaknesses which I knew must have been part of his personality (because, after all, the man was human), but have seemingly been omitted from any and all novels and history books I have read. But when you see what happened to Pete Longstreet after he dared criticize Lee , is it any wonder that authors have looked the other way when it comes time to mention LEE's faults? After all, it was not until Michael Sharra "Killer Angels" in the 1950's that Longstreet finally was vindicated. I must admit that even I who am a devoted admirer of Robert E. LEE, was relieved to see him humanized as a modest ,proud victim of "the runs," and also the stubborn,"proud" General who allowed his soldiers to suffer atrocious indignities as they lay dying on a battlefield for days and nights while LEE refuses to allow them medical help until General Grant compromises terms favorable to Lee' s ego. Which he eventually does , but too late to help the poor souls waiting out eternity on that battlefield. Ralph Peters, through his own General's insight, allows us into"true" mind and heart of this General while facing the last battles of the Civil War, a war which LEE has begun to accept (but not quite yet) that he will lose.
I recommend "Hell or Richmond" by Ralph Peters as a very realistic, picturesque and brutal version of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. It is not a novel for the easily nauseated, but for someone who craves honesty of those who fought and masterminded these battles ,you should read! I now await as Peter's completes his next novel about Petersburg and then of course the road to Appomattox. You won't be able to put "Richmond" down once you start it and will be like me in wanting Peter's to get on and write the next one!
Peters puts you there as if you were present with Grant and Lee. He gives fair and accurate treatment of Grant and the intense pressure that he gets from Washington. Likewise, he deals with Lee's ability (always outnumbered and out resourced) to check Grant's every move towards the Confederate capital of Richmond.
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Soldiers of both sides.