The ALAN Review - Richard F. Abrahamson
The Civil War can be described with contrasting terms like "North and South" or "slavery and abolition." Jules Archer uses this idea of differences to chronicle the lives of Grant and Lee. In alternating chapters, Archer details the generals' lives, from childhood, to roles as military officers, to the surrender at Appomattox, to Lee's life after the war and Grant's rise to the U.S. presidency. The alternating structure makes the differences between these two men all the more pronounced. Words like "dignified" and "polite" are used to describe Lee, while Grant is typified as "gruff" and "sloppy." This contrast continues throughout the book and culminates at Appomattox when a cigar-smoking Grant, wearing dusty mud-spattered clothing, meets Lee, who is dressed in an "immaculate gray uniform, a red silk sash, and ornamented boots." Teenagers will come away from this book with a portrait of two very different men who fought a war that changed a nation. They'll also be presented with a picture of two dedicated patriots who earned each other's respect.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Archer gives young history buffs a lightning tour of the Civil War through the perspectives of Southern gentleman Lee and gruff, no-nonsense Grant. The childhood chapters on each notable cleverly cast insight on their adult personalities-which are not glossed over, even including Grant's classic business ineptitude and struggles with alcohol. The long list of battles during the four-year conflict could easily become overwhelming. Archer, however, peppers these with the two generals' telling correspondence to their wives, reports of what they ate for breakfast, and descriptions of the front line Federal and Rebel troops' human attempts to socialize with each other. A good introduction to the conflict. 1997 (orig.
From the Publisher
“Southern gentleman Lee and drunken maverick Grant were such contrasting characters that examining their lives side by side can only amaze....Archer pulls off a comprehensive history of these two men, while at the same time presenting a clear account of the Civil War....A superb story well told.”
“Well-researched, smoothly written narrative.”
The Horn Book
“It is the little details that make this book so interesting. The numerous quotations from Grant’s and Lee’s writings that pepper the text make this bibliography read like a novel while adding validity to it. This book will appeal to many, not just those who like books about war.”
Journal of Reading