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My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of…

My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg

by Joseph E. Persico

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One of the dilemmas faced by a reader intrigued by the history of conflict is that often the horror experienced by the average soldier gets lost in the strategic grandeur of a movement and its politics. Joseph Persico, a well-known biographer, has provided us with an unusual glimpse of the Gettysburg battlefield in My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg.

Persico has extensively researched the voluminous diaries, letters, and regimental histories to come out of the Civil War to produce this poignant reconstruction of the Gettysburg battle. He has taken actual recollections of the participants and woven them together with fictional narrative where necessary, but he has diligently tried to recreate what they might have said, based on their own reminiscences. I think he succeeded magnificently.

Scattered throughout are sidebars that provide fascinating (often macabre) details to help the reader to understand what a soldier might face.

For example, the minieball fired by the average Springfield and Enfield musket was a cone-shaped, deadly piece of lead that could pierce 11 1" pine boards at 100 yards. At 500 yards, the bullet still had enough velocity to pierce 5.8 1" boards. An experienced infantryman could get off 10 shots in 5 minutes, even though loading the musket was a 9 step process.

Other sidebars acquaint us with artillery, nursing, ambulances and common Civil War tactics.

At Gettysburg, 1 in 4 of the combatants became a casualty. The battlefields ran red with blood and human body parts. Yet the fighting would often cease so that skirmishers or sharpshooters could take water to enemy wounded. Then they would start up after yelling to the other side it was all clear. Shame they could not have cooperated so well before beginning the killing.

( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Although the author specifies that the fictional elements "make up less than ten percent of the whole book" they are a very distracting ten percent. If I wanted a fictional account to make me feel like a witness to the battle of Gettysburg, I would just re-read [b:The Killer Angels|682804|The Killer Angels|Michael Shaara|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1177117936s/682804.jpg|1044737]. Since the author's "novelistic connective tissue" is so very speculative and intrusive, this book fails both as a historical record and as a novelistic interpretation. I certainly will not seek out more books by this author. ( )
  Jammies | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306806924, Paperback)

In July 1863 the invading Army of Northern Virginia, confident from its victory at Chancellorsville, unexpectedly encountered the Army of the Potomac, still without a general Lincoln could trust, at a small town in Pennsylvania. And there, among the verdant hills, rich fields, and sparkling brooks around Gettysburg, the two armies slaughtered each other in fearful numbers. My Enemy, My Brother is a remarkable re-creation of that battle, told not as military strategists have told it, but the way soldiers, doctors, shopkeepers, farmers, and wives lived it. Drawn from the letters, diaries, and memoirs of the people at Gettysburg, Persico's powerful work chronicles the passions and beliefs, the day-to-day routines, the pain and the terror of those caught up in the epic conflict that, for thousands, became their last role on earth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:57 -0400)

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