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Showing 1-10 of 68 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 91 reviews
VINE VOICEon February 29, 2012
The Battle of the Crater is not one of the Army of the Potomac's best moments. Conceived as the attack that would break the stalemate at Petersburg it became a bloody fiasco. A regiment of coal miners dug under a Confederate fort several hundred feet away. They place a large amount of black powder in the mine. You can still see the resulting crater at the park. A specially trained USCT Division would attack as the dust settling, break through and cut a vital road. Lee's army, split in two would be force to withdraw, Richmond would fall and Lee's surrender would occur in 1864. A series of bad decisions disrupted the plan turning a masterstroke into a bloody disaster. This battle is the first time Lee's army fought Black men in uniform.
Historians writing non-fiction face limitations on what they write. While they may speculate, they may not state. They cannot create conversations, no matter how logical or realistic. They cannot tell what motivates the participants nor can they state why they took the action they did. Historians writing fiction are not as limited. While staying within accepted historical facts, they may include what is suspected but not proven. This allows for a more dramatic, personal and definite look at an event. The more the authors know about history, the better they can make the story.
Gingrich, Forstchen & Hanser have been working together for several years. They can couple training in history with excellent writing skills. This produces a very accurate novel that sits on a firm historical foundation. Their books can be enjoyed by history buff and general readers. I feel that the more the reader knows the more enjoyable the book is.
Lincoln, Grant, Meade, Burnside and a host of historical and fictional characters hope, plan, bicker, fight and die. The relationship between Meade and Burnside is excellent. The authors capture the seniority and position problems with certitude. The portrayal of each man is excellent. Meade, smarting under the sting of Gettysburg, his army "commanded" by Grant served under Burnside at Fredericksburg. He has definite feelings about the man and his abilities. Burnside has his own set of problems. Early in the war, he was a genius. Antietam and Fredericksburg ruined that. His good work in Kentucky forgotten. Burnside reports to Grant but receives instructions through Meade. Burnside's corps is the "bastard child" at the Army of the Potomac's family dinner.
We follow the USCT through the eyes of Sergeant Major Garland White. From digging graves at Arlington to fighting in the Crater, we see what being Black was like. In training, we see the Irish and the Negros interact in honest, frank writing that can be uncomfortable. Combat is brutally honest, bloody and deadly. The actions of white Union soldiers are well documented and presented factually, with no apologies.
This is a "Historical Novel" not a history. The Crater is informative, entertaining, challenging and very enjoyable.
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on June 30, 2013
I like this book and his other set in the American Revolution. They released this one during the 2012 primaries and so the other reviews, positive and negative, have some bias. There is a better historical treatment they drew from for this book but I want an audio book. It was well read and worth the time. They praised the US Colored Troops units; possibly to a fault but considering they were volunteers in a country where they did not have equal rights this is understandable. Sadly, with I could not find historical documentation about the telegrams mentioned in the book but I did not do very deep research. Overall, I think the book and reading were well done and is value-added as a historical fiction for this remarkable, sad, and relatively unknown battle during the siege of Petersburg.
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on August 29, 2014
Superb historical fiction about a little known Civil War battle. This story is about a very important but little known battle late in the Civil War. The book exposes some of the politics of the Army of the Potomac. This was one of the first battles in which entire regiments of black solders were committed in battle. The author takes us into staff meetings and strategy sessions with the commanders and discusses civil war tactics in a very detailed fashion. It reads like a novel. I highly recommend this book for any civil war buff or any military buff for that matter.
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on April 15, 2012
Gingrich and Forstchen have written one of the most meaningful Civil War novels to date. It reveals the northern general's blunders and also reports hereto unknown information on the brave United States Colored Troops ( the USCT ). After reading this historical novel, I wonder how the Union won the war? The missteps and bobbles by Generals' Meade and Burnside are mind boggling! Sending thousands of troops to their meaningless death is unconscionable, if not criminal! Why would leadership send wave after wave of Union soldiers against Confederate troops hidden in protective trenches only to be slaughtered like sheep?

The novel is narrated by a Harper's Weekly artist and illustrator, James Reilly. He is also a friend and visual spy for Abraham Lincoln. Reilly's job is to be at the front lines sketching what he sees and listening for officer and troop reactions towards the war. Shortly after the Union debacle at Cold Harbor in Virginia, James Reilly meets up with the 28th USCT of the 4th Division- Ninth Corps. They are led by Sergeant Major Garland White under white Colonels' Russell and Pleasants. After laboring as a burying detail at Arlington, Virginia; the black unit is finally going to see action near Petersburg, Virginia. Once at the site of the conflict, the black troops are trained every day by battle hardened sergeants. The plan by Col. Pleasants is to tunnell underneath the Confederate lines to their fort and blow it up, while the colored troops charge the shocked Johnny Rebs and continue the attack all the way to Richmond, thus ending the war. The plan was approved by a enthused, but shaky General Burnside and begrudgingly by his disobliging superior General Meade. Just before the operation, Gen. Meade changes everything! You will have to read all 364 pages to obtain the unpleasurable results of his decision.

This is the third novel I have read from authors' Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen and it is by far their best. The empathy I felt for all the characters is a direct result of the authors excellent prose and character development. The black Sergeant Major Garland White was a real person and had actively recruited blacks for the famous 54th Regiment of Massachusetts as seen in the movie 'Glory' . Do I recommend this novel? Does a one legged duck swim in a circle? You betcha!!
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on April 15, 2015
I REALLY LIKE CIVIL WAR HISTORY. THIS NOVEL FLESHES OUT THE MILITARY THAT WAS INVOLVED IN THE WAS. WE LEARN THE NAMES AND DATES IN SCHOOL BUT WE NEVER SEE THE WAR FROM THE PROSPECT OF THE SOLIDER. YES, THIS IS A NOVEL BUT THE HISTORICAL PART AND THE DATES AND NAMES OF THE BATTLES ARE TRUE. ANY ONE WHO ENJOYS READING ABOUT THIS PERIOD WILL LIKE THIS BOOK.
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on November 29, 2012
Excellent book! I read the entire work in one day. I couldn't put it down. Amazingly well written and engrossing. It really makes history come alive. I highly recommend this book to all Patriotic Americans.
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on December 29, 2012
I visited the Crater over the summer and saw this book at the gift shop. I wrote the title down and when I got back from vacation, I bought it. I have always been a Civil War buff and have a passion for reading. I started this book a couple of days ago and have sailed through it. I was impressed by the background given the attention to the 28th and how it showed their dedication. Very enjoyable book and well worth reading.
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on December 2, 2016
This is truly a wonderful book, written in a manner that will make the reader realize the sacrifices made to achieve this great nation so many take for granted.
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on May 25, 2013
What a gret addition to my library. This book has helped me so much to understand this battle outside of Petersburg and the use of or the improper use of th (USCT), United States Colored Troops. It has also piqued my interest in a more indepth study of the USCT's throughout our history as a nation. Dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Great read for any US History buff.
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on August 15, 2015
As far as the narration is concerned, the book is a novel and is written as such. The different characters speak and there is narrative as well. I don't know what one would call that style of writing, other than "it's a novel."
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