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Showing 1-10 of 75 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 106 reviews
on June 16, 2014
I will confess upfront that I do not read "war books", but like a vineyard book that I read for a book club, I presumed I'd learn something. I was right: I learned that in 1862 the Confederates started the first war draft in the US, with exceptions granted to men owning 20 slaves and to men who could afford to hire substitutes -- often drunken Irish were recruited. The first draft inspired the phrase, "A rich man's war but a poor man's fight." So some things never change. False bravado doesn't seem to change either, evidenced by, "We will die in the last ditch!" I sympathized wholeheartedly with Junius Browne when he said he'd rather run guns in Vicksburg than listen to persistent idiots. Having grown up in the East as a Yankee, we were given the impression that the South were all pro-slavery, but this is not the case. Pro-Slavery was a rich man's concern. The poor were forced to take sides and absorbed great risk to help Yankees get back North. Some men signed up & then went AWOL, some went rogue and helped the underground transit. In general, slave owners were despised as "hateful aristocracy" and 'arrogating themselves to decency, talent and respectability'. I was very disturbed by Richardson's separation from his wife and children and I am glad the book addressed the matter. I was saddened that he made the choice to be a better journalist and good buddy to his friend, rather than a father to his kids and husband to his wife; the untold part of this story is their lives and how they must have suffered as well. This is a very sad part of Richardson's life, although he made the best of it in prison, tending to the sick and dying. Upon return home, Richardson showed remorse and was haunted over his choices which belied his proclamation of his wife being "dearer to me than all the world beside". I appreciated the focused, straight-forward manner of details, feeling as if I too were walking quietly along creeks and rivers, or carefully, single-file in snow, as weather, pain and fear ripped into our well-being and souls. I felt grateful with them when they found respite in only a barn loft with hay, for a small slice of temporary safety. For me this book has the familiar tone of "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang", and although I previously mentioned this is not my preferred genre, I greatly enjoyed the trip.
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on July 29, 2013
I am drawn to books about the Civil War, but this one wasn't just a re-hash of history, it was an immensely readable story about the experiences of two young journalists. The one thing I find regrettable is the title -- I think it has a light-hearted ring, whereas the story is anything but that. Yes, there are a few smile-worthy moments, a few places where we might shake our head at the wit and antics of these two young men; but the majority of the story is pretty grim. This was wartime; men were being killed by the thousands on battlefields in more than a dozen states. What these two men and several other of their "Bohemian" friends endured in rebel prisons is beyond my imagination. I can't imagine the feel of the bitter, icy cold, the gnawing hunger, weary with fatigue and having to sleep on a stone floor with no blankets, fighting to survive typhus and pneumonia, enduring brutality by sadistic prison guards, dead bodies stacked up all around me, knowing that rebel journalists in Union prisons were being returned to their homes while the same treatment was denied to me, then escaping after almost two years and walking hundreds of miles, sick/filthy/hungry/cold, to safety and freedom in Union-occupied territory. This is not a textbook, it's not an academic work of history, but it's a very good story and I found it hard to put down. For an interesting and different take on the Civil War, I recommend this book.
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on April 25, 2016
Not quite a rollicking odyssey, but one, as you would expect for prisoners of war during the Civil War, that was filled with misery. That said, and without giving any spoilers, Junius & Albert we imprisoned as non-combatants, but as journalists who incidentally worked for one of the North's most anti-Confederate newspapers. So you can imagine how they were singled out from others. In all my reading on the Civil War I'd never come across any threads of this story or it's two main players, so it was nice to pick up new history. Carlson does a great job of bringing the characters to life and pulling in all the relevant details, with a narrative that keeps you engaged in their story. One of the thoughts that kept playing in my mind as I read this was how today's journalist are treated when captured by the enemy - in most cases that's a story whose end is mostly not a good one. Anyway, this was a nice find and a good addition to my Civil War library.
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on June 16, 2014
A good read,read by this Yankee from Connecticut,currently residing in the heart of secession,Charleston,for whom some are still living the war. I say that,as there is resentment passed down through the generations of locals and their desire to pay tribute to all of their heritage through monuments,historic sites and homage to their war heroes. I understand it to some degree as far as states' rights and the desire to secede and remove themselves from the situation,but slavery was another issue,which was undoubtedly morally and horribly wrong,was intertwined into the secession. One thing they always preached up North that it was primarily about slavery and taught very little about infringement on states' rights.

This was an interesting, well written book. My genre of reading is usually fiction or historic fiction, and never usually with a war theme. And almost never a biography,but for this book club, I've now read three,lol. The history of wars has never interested me to read or learn about them. Grown men trampling one another for prestige and power is ages old and all with the same somber theme- death.
I made a few observations: the Civil war was more "civil" than I had imagined. Prisoners were allowed correspondence,money and belongings. A " gentleman' s word" was sufficient for allowance of the exchange of prisoners that they may not engage in battle after the exchange. I was surprised at the number of journalists that were covering the story at their own peril. And not surprised by the number of stories fabricated by them, as this seems commonplace, even today.
So strange too, is how our language has devolved from flowery prose to its current poor state. Loved the quotes by Junius, an example,"a gentleman seemed more out of place there than the Angel Gabriel would be in a prize ring or the Pope of Rome at a five points dance house." And he had the satisfaction of knowing he could "die trying to win his freedom, a fate more befitting an American citizen,than passively wasting away in captivity."
Common themes of suffering and death,of liberty and freedom for slaves,prisoners, and the general public who were unwilling participants in the war, captive by inability to escape it.
Curious and ironic that Junius the bachelor settled down and married with children when he was so set against it. And Albert's eventual fate which I would have been expected to be Junius'.
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on September 23, 2016
This is such an adventure that I had to keep reminding myself that I was not reading fiction. It offers good insight into the role of the newspaper reported during the Civil War, to include some lighthearted moments. The hardships suffered by the imprisonment of these reporters and their observations of the even more severe hardships of many of their fellow captives is hard to read. However, it is the final few chapters covering the escape from Salisbury Prison in North Carolina and the escapees trek across hundreds of miles aided by slaves and pro-Union families that makes this book a must read. It also introduces readers to some legendary heroes to include a teenage mountain girl on a black horse leading escapees through winter nights and a mountaineer who led hundreds to freedom. This is a "can't put it down" book.
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on June 14, 2014
On a trip to Gettysburg fifteen years ago, I walked past fields and stone monuments and visited the cyclorama, a breathtaking visual account of that terrible battle. I certainly felt the emotions that go along with visiting the site of such a horrific scene. Thus, I was extremely interested to read this true account of life during the Civil War.

It is unique that was written from the perspective of journalists who interacted with guards, prisoners, and the brave men and women who assisted them in their escape and return to Union lines so they might be able to tell the stories. The friendship between Browne and Richardson was truly, truly special. Although each had ideas of giving up at various points, they relied on each other to keep going through the long imprisonment. It was extremely disconcerting to read about the inhumane treatment that was put upon the prisoners, but the reporters also shed light on the kindness that existed in those horrible places.

I cannot begin to imagine the strength these men had to endure the ghastly conditions at the prisons, as well the long winter trek back to Union lines, some with no shoes, coats, hats, or horses and, above all, no weapons.

Carlson makes it easy to learn about historical facts, and places them in just the right parts of the book to make them very memorable.

This was an excellent book, I am recommending it to others.
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on May 15, 2016
A vivid and enveloping account of the experiences of two journalist buddies from the New York Tribune, who are captured and imprisoned by the Confederacy. Despite the detailed and horrifying descriptions of the prisons and the state the prisoners endured, author Peter Carlson manages to keep the story moving forward, with occasional humorous asides, without getting bogged down. A good read (and another book that would make a great movie).
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on September 23, 2013
I won't give saw the story away, but this is a fun, fast paced book that will hook you until the last page. While these journalists' stories were popular and well known after the Civil War, I am glad Mr. Carlson brought them to light in the 21st century. The book isn't a scholarly tome with thousands of footnotes (thankfully), but it does contain a really good list of sources that a reader can research for more information.
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on November 9, 2015
I caught the Civil War bug after reading "Our Man in Charleston" by Chris Dickey. The CV nuances and perhaps even the big tale itself was lost on me in my HS days forty years ago. But I'm digging in now! This was another POV tale from a couple of Yankee journalists (read: adventurers), who despite their journalistic "passes" were imprisoned in the CV South. A heck of a tale as to their eventual escape and guidance through towns bordering both north and south loyalties. A fun fast highly recommended read.
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on March 4, 2014
I considered purchasing this book for several months and finally bought it. It is an enjoyable and quick read that documents the story of two war correspondents during the Civil War. The two reporters were covering the war for the New York Herald, a newspaper famous for its strong anti-slavery views. When the two reporters, Albert Richardson and Junius Browne, were captured by the Confederates, they were imprisoned along with other Union soldiers and sailors. The story of their capture, long imprisonment and ultimate race for freedom is told in an entertaining style. The surprise ending to this book is heart breaking and I will not spoil it for readers. This is a fine book and I recommend it to all who are interested in the Civil War.
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