Bloody Promenade: Reflections on a Civil War Battle

Overview

On 5 and 6 May 1864, the Union and Confederate armies met near an unfinished railroad in central Virginia, with Lee outmanned and outgunned, hoping to force Grant to fight in the woods. The name of the battle—Wilderness—suggests the horror of combat at close quarters and an inability to see the whole field of engagement, even from a distance. Indeed, the battle is remembered for its brutality and ultimate futility for Lee: even with 26,000 casualties on both sides, the ...

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Overview

On 5 and 6 May 1864, the Union and Confederate armies met near an unfinished railroad in central Virginia, with Lee outmanned and outgunned, hoping to force Grant to fight in the woods. The name of the battle—Wilderness—suggests the horror of combat at close quarters and an inability to see the whole field of engagement, even from a distance. Indeed, the battle is remembered for its brutality and ultimate futility for Lee: even with 26,000 casualties on both sides, the Wilderness only briefly stemmed Grant's advance.

Stephen Cushman lives fifty miles south of this battlefield. A poet and professor of American literature, he wrote Bloody Promenade to confront the fractured legacy of a battle that haunts him through its very proximity to his everyday life. Cushman's personal narrative is not another history of the battle. "If this book is a history of anything," he writes, "it's the history of verbal and visual images of a single, particularly awful moment in the American Civil War." Reflecting on that moment can begin in the present, with the latest film or reenactment, but it leads Cushman back to materials from the past. Writing in an informal, first-person style, he traces his own fascination with the conflict to a single book, a pictorial history he read as a boy. His abiding interest and poetic sensibility yield a fresh perspective on the war's continuing grip on Americans—how it pervades our lives through films and songs; novels such as The Red Badge of Courage, The Killer Angels, and Cold Mountain; Whitman's poetry and Winslow Homer's painting; or the pull of the abstract idea of the triumph of freedom.

With maps and a brief discussion of the Battle of the Wilderness for those not familiar with the landscape and actors, Bloody Promenade provides a personal tour of one of the most savage engagements of the Civil War, then offers a lively discussion of its aftermath.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Gary W. Gallagher
Bloody Promenade grew out of one perceptive person's nearly life-long attempt to understand the complex meanings of the Civil War. Ranging across a spacious landscape that embraces historic sites, memoirs by participants, works of fiction, and studies by historians, Stephen Cushman has written a contemplative book that should appeal to anyone interested in our great national crisis and why it continues to resonate among so many modern Americans.
Booknews
This is a paperbound reprint of a 1999 book about which Book News wrote: The battle is called Wilderness. In May 1864, Lee, outmanned and outgunned, pinned his hopes on forcing Grant to meet him in the woods on central Virginia. Cushman (English, U. of Virginia) describes the combat at close quarters and the inability to see the whole field of engagement that resulted in one of the most brutal battles of the war. After 26,000 casualties on both sides, Grant's advance was only briefly stemmed. Stories and poems about the battle, detailed maps, and contemporary drawings are part of the account. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813920412
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 295
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Cushman, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, is the author of a poetry collection, Blue Pajamas, and two books of criticism on American poetry.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
In Lieu of a Label xiii
1. Signs 1
2. The Book 7
3. Buff 20
4. Ancestors 26
5. Reenactment 50
6. Eyewitness 71
7. Newspapers 88
8. Weeklies 117
9. Acoustic Shadow 160
10. Memoirs 167
11. Histories 188
12. Fictions 207
13. Poems 230
14. The Ground 254
15. Sesquicentennial 262
A Brief Description of the Battle of the Wilderness 275
A Note on Sources 283
Index 285
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