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Testament: A Soldier's Story of the Civil War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 23, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Civil War buffs will relish this extraordinary new history from Bobrick (Wide as the Waters), based on a collection of letters written by his great-grandfather, Benjamin "Webb" Baker. The letters date from 1861, when the 19-year-old enlisted in the Union army, to 1864, when he was honorably discharged a corporal. As a private of Company E of the 25th Regiment of Illinois Voluntary Infantry, Baker saw action at Pea Ridge, Ark.; Perryville, Ken.; Stones River, Tenn.; and Chickamauga, Ga.; and on Sherman's march to Atlanta. Repeatedly wounded, he was patched up and sent back to duty. That he survived the bad food, poor sanitary conditions and ghastly medical treatment (pus was considered a sign of health), let alone wounds sustained during battles that killed thousands, is remarkable. Webb's letters home are honest, affectionate and surprisingly good-natured considering what he endured. "We had a heavy skirmish in the evening....A ball struck John Hawkins square on the belt buckle. It made him grunt....He picked it up & is around every day now bragging that he is bullet proof," he wrote in 1862. Bobrick weaves excerpts of the correspondence throughout the narrative and includes his great-grandfather's letters in their entirety in an appendix to the book. This is a compelling story, rendered in vivid, graceful prose that should find an enthusiastic audience.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The soldier of this valuable book is Bobrick's great-grandfather, Benjamin ("Webb") Baker, of the 25th Illinois. Growing up in rural Charleston, Illinois, Webb enlisted in 1861 and served a full three years. He saw a great deal of action in the western theater, including Pea Ridge, Perryville, Stone's River, Chickamauga, and the Atlanta campaign, as well as a lot of hard marching, short rations, bureaucracy, delayed pay, and officers and comrades who were as menacing as the rebels. He also lost some use of his left arm to wounds, and a brother and a stepbrother to death, but somehow managed not to lose weight, even on army rations. Bobrick weaves excerpts from Baker's expressive letters, most of them addressed to his mother, into his own excellent narrative continuum that conveys Baker's milieu and the progress of the war so clearly that even readers new to the subjects should be engrossed. Complete texts of the letters constitute part two of this worthy, betimes heart-rending addition to the Civil War literature. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743250915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743250917
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,390,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Testament: A Soldier's Story of the Civil War by Benson Bobrick is one of the most insightful contributions to the ever growing body of work devoted to this war. There are other first hand accounts of combat and general living conditions faced by soldiers of both sides....far too many to elaborate here. However, there is something touching almost beyond words about the letters young Benjamin "Webb" Baker wrote his mother.
Benson Bobrick does a good job in weaving Webb's (Bobrick's great-grandfather) letters into a coherent narrative about the war. The narrative covers Webb's entire enlistment period from 1861 to his discharge in 1864. Civil War buffs will recognize the battles included: Pea Ridge, Perryville, Stone's River, Chickamauga, and finally the Atlanta victory. Perhaps of equal value are the letters themselves, neatly placed into an appendix at the end of the book...each included in their entirety for the casual reader to pour over and ponder.
Its all here, the descriptions of battle, of camp life, of marching,...insights into the officers that lead these men, and a general view of the times. The letters read true as anyone who has served in the military will recognize. Red tape is red tape no matter the century.
I encourage Civil War buffs to read Testament. If you haven't read much on the Civil War then this is a good book to start with.
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Format: Hardcover
Of the many books published on the Civil War, "Testament" rises above the others. From the first chapter on, the reader is transported back in time and place. The uniqueness of presenting this story using the the diary of a soldier is simply spellbinding. The words from this soldier's diary are intricately woven with narrative so descript and vivid one can truly understand all that a war encompasses. The emotion that pours from the pages is overpowering. The soldier's sense of duty and honor countered by his fear of war's consequences is conveyed so realistically, the reader can not help but feel the internal conflict of morality just as he did. Beautifully written and timeless in nature, this book is a must read for civil war buffs - and - for anyone wanting an understanding of the horrors of war.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the letters in this book thoroughly. It is a marvelous collection that explore everything from the mundane to the horror of battle to the deep feelings for family and country. Bobrick set the stage for the letters well and gave a wonderful account of this man's life. I did think that his history lesson was a little overdone and assumed that readers would know absolutely nothing about the Civil War or the conflicts that led up to it. This took away slightly as I was anxious to get back to the "story" during these lessons. But this does nothing to dim the eloquence of the letters themselves. They are particularly poignant as we have young men and women in harm's way again today. You can't help but draw parallels as you read. This book is truly a Testament.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While the letters are quite interesting, they constitute a very small part of the book, the bulk of which is a very traditional narrative of the Civil War. I was expecting something more focused on the original documents - so I was disappointed to realize that little of this book is original testimony. The item description makes it clear that there is more than the letters in the book, but I was not expecting the letters' material to constitute so little of it. So beware - if you are looking for a solid (but by no means original) narrative of the Civil War, buttressed by limited, but interesting material from a private's letters, this is for you. But if you are looking mostly for first hand testimony, you might be disappointed, as I was.
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Format: Hardcover
Civil War buffs will relish this extraordinary new history from Bobrick (Wide as the Waters), based on a collection of letters written by his great-grandfather, Benjamin "Webb" Baker. The letters date from 1861, when the 19-year-old enlisted in the Union army, to 1864, when he was honorably discharged a corporal. As a private of Company E of the 25th Regiment of Illinois Voluntary Infantry, Baker saw action at Pea Ridge, Ark.; Perryville, Ken.; Stones River, Tenn.; and Chickamauga, Ga.; and on Sherman's march to Atlanta. Repeatedly wounded, he was patched up and sent back to duty. That he survived the bad food, poor sanitary conditions and ghastly medical treatment (pus was considered a sign of health), let alone wounds sustained during battles that killed thousands, is remarkable. Webb's letters home are honest, affectionate and surprisingly good-natured considering what he endured. "We had a heavy skirmish in the evening....A ball struck John Hawkins square on the belt buckle. It made him grunt....He picked it up & is around every day now bragging that he is bullet proof," he wrote in 1862. Bobrick weaves excerpts of the correspondence throughout the narrative and includes his great-grandfather's letters in their entirety in an appendix to the book. This is a compelling story, rendered in vivid, graceful prose that should find an enthusiastic audience.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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