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March fifth, 1847
THEY HAD SAILED EARLY, CUTTING SOUTHWARD THROUGH THE quiet water, the rugged coastline barely visible to the west. Lee had moved to the bow of the tall ship, staring out quietly, tasting the salt air, the cool wind that pushed into the great sails above him. At first he was alone, but then more of the officers were moving forward, and like Lee, they stared to the front, watching for any sign, the first glimpse of the rest of the great fleet.
Lee glanced to one side, saw a small figure, thought, My dear friend Joe ... you look awful. He would never say that to the man's face, knew Johnston was embarrassed, sensitive about his seasickness. The agony had been on Johnston's face even before the ship had left Tampico, and it made no difference if the weather rolled them about or, like this morning, was ghostly calm. Joe Johnston would never be a sailor.
Lee moved toward him, eased along the heavy wood rail. "You all right, Captain?"
Johnston, weary, his eyes heavy, looked at Lee, nodded, said nothing. Lee glanced at the dome of exposed scalp on Johnston's head, looked away, would not let his friend catch him staring. He knew Johnston was a vain man, frustrated with the baldness that had shown itself when he was still young. He had a small frame, thin, and some at the Point had even used the word fragile to describe him. It had made Johnston furious, and Lee knew his vanity had been a form of self-defense. Johnston had begun to comb his hair straight forward, covering his high forehead. But today there was none of the self-consciousness, and Lee could not be pleased about that, knew it meant that Johnston was feeling sick indeed.
Lee, still looking away, pointed out beyond the bow. "We'll be there soon I think. The masts should come into view first."
Johnston nodded, looked now toward the horizon, his expression a mix of hope and a silent plea for the trip to end.
Lee put a hand on Johnston's shoulder, felt the rough wool of Johnston's coat, felt Johnston sag beneath his grip. He pulled his hand away, thought, Maybe best to just let him be. He leaned out again on the rail, and now the sun had come up, full above the flat ocean to the east. He looked toward the warmth, felt the energy, felt a light salty breeze drifting across the deck. There was a new sound now, birds, the high call of the gulls, gathering, dancing in the air, near the stern of the ship. He looked up, smiled slightly, stared into the deep blue of a cloudless perfect morning. Suddenly there was a voice, behind him, high up on the lookout.
The men around Lee pressed forward, and Lee stared again to the front, saw now a fleck of orange, a brief flicker of sunlight reflecting on ... something. The others saw it as well, the soldiers betraying their excitement, while all around them the sailors seemed only to do their work, and if they paid any attention at all to what lay in front of them, they would not reveal it to these men who fought on land.
Lee saw more reflections now, and someone had a pair of field glasses, passed them along the rail, and as each man took his turn, there was a smile, a small sound, recognition. Now the glasses came to Lee, and he raised them up, and the flecks of light were suddenly clear. He felt his heart thump hard in his chest, could not help but smile, thought,Yes, a ship! He lowered the glasses, offered them to Johnston, who took them and without looking, passed them along. Lee wanted to say something, encourage his friend, to help him put the sickness aside somehow. Still Lee's attention was drawn to the front, where there were a great many more reflections, and it did not take the glasses to see that before them, spread across the wide gulf, was an enormous fleet.
The first big ship was plainly visible now, and Lee could feel the Massachusetts turning, the helmsman steering General Winfield Scott's flagship to a path closer to the warships. Lee was still feeling the excitement, examined the big ship as though he were a small child. He was stunned by the size, the great rows of small black eyes, the enormous firepower of the big man-of-war. He had seen ships like this before, near the forts in the East, but this was very different, moving past so close, the view from the deck of another great ship, so near the mouths of all those guns. Lee stared into the open gun ports, felt a sudden chill. My God, he thought, the pure power. So much artillery in one place. He had never seen a naval bombardment, certainly had never seen two great ships at war, swirling around each other in a violent fury of sound and smoke. He blinked, thought, No, you have never seen much of anything to compare to this.
Copyright© 2000 by Jeff Shaara. All rights reserved.
Posted March 3, 2012
Since the Mexican War happened so close to the War Between The States, not as much has been written about that war. This is a typical Jeff Shaara book that tells the story through the mouths of those who were there. I learned a lot that had been unknown to me previously.
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Posted January 25, 2012
As usual I was not disappointed with Jeff Shaara; his look at all these people in their earlier years before the Civil War is enlightening.
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Posted March 20, 2013
This is another one of the excellent Shaara historical novels. While the Mexican War is not one of the biggest or longest wars in our history, The author does a very good job of chronicling the Mexican War through the major soldiers involved. I only began reading historical novels in the last 2 years and the Shaara's have to rank up there with the best.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2013
This was the 9th novel written by Mr. Shaara that I have read. Once again he brings history to life. We learn of the early days in the careers of soldiers who play critical roles in the American Civil War. Amongst those are Robert E' Lee, U.S. Grant, George Pickett just to name a few. I heartily recommend this book to anyone intersted in American History.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 29, 2012
Jeff Shaara took you into the heart of the battles. He made you feel what the characters were feeling, and made you see what the soldiers saw around them. It shows you that battles aren't all about the victories, it's also about your friends and comrades that have risked and sacrificed their lives. At some points in the book, I was actually getting nervous about what would happen next.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 2, 2012
This is the 5th book by Mr. Shaara that I've read recently and he continues to amaze me how interesting he makes the events and characters come to life. I didn't know much about the Mexican-American War before this book and didn't realize how important the outcome was to our history. Also you see how future Civil War leaders began their military careers working together not knowing years later many of them would face each other on the battlefield. A really great read with plenty of action and a great insight into Robert E Lee as a young officer.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2012
This protrayes and excellent view into the Mexican war as seen through the eyes of a Young Robert E. Lee. It also gives aus a peek as to his development that made him such a powerful leader in his later years during the Civil War.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 5, 2011
Jeff Shaara has done all who have loved the Civil War series he and his father gave us a great service with "Gone for Soldiers". Not only does this book offer us the same almost-personal view of the Mexican War, it introduces the people who played such an enormous role in the later Civil War. All of these books have given me a much better sense of history than even more detailed military history books have given, and I find I'm now able to read those other more scholarly works with more enjoyment, having finally grasped the context and the sweep of events.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2011
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Posted September 15, 2010
Manifest Destiny knew few boundaries. If we could breathe under water, we wouldn't have stopped when we reached the Pacific. Truly, we make the Louisiana Purchase (like it was France's to sell?) then MAKE Mexico sell us half its land in this GRAB. From sea to shining sea, and lock down the borders. Nice to meet Lee, and other soon to be household names.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 13, 2010
I knew nothing about the Mexican War when I picked this book up and I must say, in usual Shaara fashion, he drew me in. Read how legends of the Civil War like Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Ulysses S. Grant, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson became battle-tested soldiers. The Americans, under the leadership of one of its greatest generals, Winfield Scott, outmaneuvered the Mexicans. I was also interested to learn of the political dabbling and intrigue that plagued the army to some degree. The men in Washington dabbling in things they don't know enough about and causing problems. The political aspect is something I've noticed in all of Shaara's books. The myth that those things only developed later in American society and politics is torn down...this has always been a problem from our fight for independenced to the present day. Shaara does an excellent job of bringing that aspect of the story to light without overdoing it and losing the book's focus. Another splendid book by Shaara. If you know nothing of this war and have little interest, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you read it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 17, 2009
Did I like this book? I thought it was a pretty good book. And since I'm saying it was pretty good most people would probably think it's great because I REALLY don't like to read AT ALL! I liked it because it was very interesting and informative. We learn about the Mexican-American war in school but it was mostly about the battle of Santa Anna, so most people don't usually learn about the other historic battles that happened in the Mexican-American War. Things that stood out were that the book was mostly about only two characters Robert E. Lee and Winfield Scott, but sadly some other major military leaders were almost totally ignored in this book. Such as General Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, James Longstreet, and Stonewall Jackson. But at the same time it did give good looks at some battles that I never heard of. So that mostly makes up for it I feel. I would recommend this book, I thought it was a book that was very easy to be able to "connect" with be able to stay focused on reading I actually read a lot more than usually would because I really liked what was happening and wanted to know what happened next. Would I recommend it to a high school student? It really depends on the student, if they aren't committed to reading it then probably not because it does take a while to read it is a long book. If they are a student who wants to learn about the Mexican-American war that wasn't explained in detail in your book, then yes it has some very good information. I feel that I know a lot more about the war now. In the school text books the Mexican-American war is based almost totally about the Alamo, I knew very little about the battle of Vera Cruz.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This is a very good fictional account of a war most Americans know little or nothing about. Jeff Shaara is excellent in his use of fiction to bring historical figures to life. This war was not only important to an expanding young nation but also was the proving ground for many men who would become the leaders from both sides of the American Civil War.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 18, 2006
Posted January 25, 2006
Posted February 20, 2004
I'm not really interested in the Mexican war, but it great reading about officers like Lee and seeing his growth into the leader that he became.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2003
Posted January 3, 2003
I knew nothing about the Mexican-American war before I read this....and I mean nothing. This book is unlike many other history books, because it puts you in the minds of the people fighting, and not just giving you a bunch of facts. I would suggest reading Jeff and Michael Shaara's Civil War Trilogy after you read this because it flows right into the next book which is God's and General's.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 12, 2002
The book "Gone for Soldiers" was pleasing for a war story for someone who does not enjoy this subject. I was expecting it to be long and boring just like the other old war stories I¿ve read. But the author goes into great detail during the war scenes which I particularly liked. Jeff Shaara¿s style of writing also helped me get along through the book. I liked how we saw what was happening through the eyes of the soldiers (mainly General Scott and Captain Lee) and not from the third person. The only thing that bothered me was some of the reading in between the war scenes. It felt like he digressed and it made it uninteresting. Other than that, the book was enjoyable for me; the plot was unpredictable, the characters are unique and it portrays what the Mexican American War was really about. I would definitely recommend this for people who love war stories but if not, it wouldn¿t hurt to try it because you just might like it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2001
Like all the Shaara books by both father and son, the storytelling and character development are excellent. The reading of 'Gone for Soldiers' has become even more interesting in the days following September 11, given the similarities between the Mexican-American War and the war in Afghanistan. In both, the United States is viewed by its enemy as 'the devil.' And, in both, America and its soldiers struggle to understand a foreign religion that the enemy holds dear. While today, it is the Muslim faith we try to understand. In 1847, it was Catholicism.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.