The Last Full Measure

( 61 )

Overview

In the Pulitzer prize–winning classic The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara created the finest Civil War novel of our time. In the bestselling Gods and Generals, Shaara’s son, Jeff, brilliantly sustained his father’s vision, telling the epic story of the events culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg. Now, Jeff Shaara brings this legendary father-son trilogy to its stunning conclusion in a novel that brings to life the final two years of the Civil ...

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Overview

In the Pulitzer prize–winning classic The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara created the finest Civil War novel of our time. In the bestselling Gods and Generals, Shaara’s son, Jeff, brilliantly sustained his father’s vision, telling the epic story of the events culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg. Now, Jeff Shaara brings this legendary father-son trilogy to its stunning conclusion in a novel that brings to life the final two years of the Civil War.
 
As The Last Full Measure opens, Gettysburg is past and the war advances to its third brutal year. On the Union side, the gulf between the politicians in Washington and the generals in the field yawns ever wider. Never has the cumbersome Union Army so desperately needed a decisive, hard-nosed leader. It is at this critical moment that Lincoln places Ulysses S. Grant in command—and turns the tide of war.
 
For Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg was an unspeakable disaster—compounded by the shattering loss of the fiery Stonewall Jackson two months before. Lee knows better than anyone that the South cannot survive a war of attrition. But with the total devotion of his generals—Longstreet, Hill, Stuart—and his unswerving faith in God, Lee is determined to fight to the bitter end.
 
Here too is Joshua Chamberlain, the college professor who emerged as the Union hero of Gettysburg—and who will rise to become one of the greatest figures of the Civil War.
 
Battle by staggering battle, Shaara dramatizes the escalating confrontation between Lee and Grant—complicated, heroic, deeply troubled men. From the costly Battle of the Wilderness to the agonizing siege of Petersburg to Lee’s epoch-making surrender at Appomattox, Shaara portrays the riveting conclusion of the Civil War through the minds and hearts of the individuals who gave their last full measure.
 
Full of human passion and the spellbinding truth of history, The Last Full Measure is the fitting capstone to a magnificent literary trilogy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Riveting . . . Vivid . . . Brilliantly depicted. . . . THE LAST FULL MEASURE IS MORE THAN ANOTHER HISTORICAL NOVEL. It is rooted in history, but its strength is the element of humanity flowing through its characters. . . . The book is compelling, easy to read, well researched and written, and thought-provoking. . . . In short, it is everything that a reader could ask for."
—Chicago Tribune

"A WORTHY COMPANION TO ITS TWO PREDECESSORS . . . These characters come alive as complex, heroic, and flawed men. . . . You are with [Robert E.] Lee, a deeply religious man, as he first begins to wonder if the Confederate cause will prevail. . . . You ride with [Ulysses S.] Grant to see the mounds of Union dead at Cold Harbor, and you share his sickening realization that thousands are dead because of his miscalculation. . . . You are at [Joshua] Chamberlain's bedside as he fights to recover from nearly mortal wounds. . . . Each book is masterful in its own way and taken together, they are unmatched in the body of Civil War literature."
—The Baltimore Sun

"AN AMBITIOUS WORK . . . [Shaara] writes with considerable sensitivity and skill, setting vivid scenes and adding drama and suspense to a familiar tale."
—The Seattle Times

"Exhaustively researched, infused with a profound understanding of the great issues of a nation and the small quirks of the human heart and ego, The Last Full Measure is fiction that brings history brilliantly to life."
—Newsday

Chicago Tribune
The Last Full Measure is everything that a reader could ask for.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Concluding the Civil War trilogy that began with his father Michael's Pulitzer-winning The Killer Angels, Shaara (Gods and Generals) chronicles Lee's retreat from Gettysburg and his valiant efforts to defend northern Virginia from Grant's superior, better-supplied forces. Seen alternately through the eyes of Lee, Grant and Maine abolitionist Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the narrative begins with the successful Union ambush at Bristoe Station in October 1863. It then details Lee's 18-month cat-and-mouse game as he outmaneuvers Grant, despite overwhelming odds and terrible deprivation, concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Impressively researched, this deeply affecting work can't be faulted for inaccuracy or lack of detail. But the occasionally coarse grain of Shaara's characterizations is a problem. Haunted by Stonewall Jackson's ghost, 56-year-old Lee frequently appears to be a semi-senile neurotic. Grant, more concerned about his supply of cigars than battle losses, comes across as a dolt. This tendency toward caricature notwithstanding, Shaara has produced a stirring epigraph to his father's remarkable novel.
Library Journal
The late Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels), about the Battle of Gettysburg, is a classic Civil War novel. His son Jeff has written two novels that bracket it and complete a trilogy about the Civil War in the East. In his Gods and Generals, Shaara followed the fortunes of several men destined to fight one another in the great battles of Antietam and Chancellorsville, and in this book he writes about the course of the war in Virginia from Lee's retreat from Gettysburg to his surrender at Appomattox Court House. Ulysses S. Grant has come East to assume command of all Federal forces and to confront Lee, and the war they make is marked by such horrendous battles as The Wilderness and Spotsylvania. As characters, Grant and Lee dominate this book, overshadowing such other historical figures as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and John Gordon. Civil War buffs will find Shaara nodding on some small details, but they generally will be delighted with this book. More general readers, however, may find it lacks the dramatic intensity of his father's riveting novel. While not ranking with the very best Civil War fiction, it does take its place along side such fine ones as William Safire's Freedom.
— Charles Michaud
Kirkus Reviews
Concluding volume of the Shaara family's lightly fictionalized chronicle of the Civil War, one of the more unusual (and successful) recent projects in publishing. Michael Shaara (who died in 1998) wrote the Pulitzer-winning The Killer Angels (1974), a novel that dealt with the pivotal three-day battle of Gettysburg, and matched a shrewd reading of character to careful research. In 1996, Shaara's son issued Gods and Generals, a fictional treatment of the war's early years. This new story traces the war's sad progress from a few days after Lee's retreat from Gettysburg until his surrender, in 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse. While The Killer Angels used the war to probe basic issues of human nature, the more recent works in the series are more focused on catching the war's day-to-day reality, which they do quite successfully. Both focus largely on the experiences and reflections of a group of officers, Union and Confederate, at the center of the fighting. This time out, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are principal characters, and Shaara is careful to hew closely to the historical record in describing their moods, thoughts, and actions. Through their eyes, and the eyes of a half a dozen other figures, we follow the bloody campaigns in the Wilderness, the siege of Petersburg, the collapse of Southern resistance, and the surrender of Lee's army, in a scene rendered with great precision and vigor. Shaara's battle episodes nicely balance an admirable grasp of strategy with an understanding of the war's horror and cost. While it's hard to see how the younger Shaara's books offer anything new as either fiction or history on the subject, their swift pace and greataccuracy do make for a vivid—and sometimes moving—review of a defining moment in American history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345434814
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/2/2000
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: 1 MASS MKT
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 107,294
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.87 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Shaara

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of A Chain of Thunder, A Blaze of Glory, The Final Storm, No Less Than Victory, The Steel Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure—two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic, The Killer Angels. Shaara was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives again in Tallahassee.

Good To Know

Shaara didn't begin writing until he was 42 years old. In our interview, he explains, "My father had been the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Killer Angels, and died never fulfilled, nor successful as an author. I had no inclination to pursue writing at all, but was inspired by the suggestion of filmmaker Ron Maxwell, who suggested I continue the Civil War story my father had begun."

For 24 years, Shaara was a dealer in rare coins and precious metals. "The polar opposite career choice and lifestyle of an author," Shaara admits. "My criminology degree was inspired by a serious drive to find fulfillment as a wildlife officer (a game warden). With my coin business thriving, I never pursued the career."

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    1. Hometown:
      Kalispell, Montana
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Brunswick, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.S. in Criminology, Florida State University, 1974
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

By July 1863 the Civil War has been fought over the farmlands and seacoasts of the South for better than two years, and is already one of the bloodiest wars in human history. It is a war that most believed would be decided by one quick fight, one great show of strength by the power of the North. The first major battle, called Bull Run in the North, Manassas in the South, is witnessed by a carefree audience of Washington's elite. Their brightly decorated carriages carry men in fine suits and society matrons in colorful dresses. They perch on a hillside, enjoying their picnics, anticipating a great show with bands playing merrily while the young men in blue march in glorious parade and sweep aside the ragged band of rebels. What they see is the first great horror, the stunning reality that this is in fact a war, and that men will die. What they still cannot understand is how far this will go, and how many men will die.

In the North, President Lincoln maintains a fragile grip on forces pulling the government in all directions. On one extreme is the pacifist movement, those who believe that the South has made its point, and so, to avoid bloodshed, Washington must simply let them go, that nothing so inconsequential as the Constitution is as important as the loss of life. On the other extreme are the radical abolitionists, who demand the South be brought down entirely, punished for its way of life, its culture, and that anyone who supports the southern cause should be purged from the land. There is also a great middle ground, men of reason and intellect, who now understand that there is more to this war than the inflammatory issue of slavery, or the argument over the sovereign rights of the individual states. As men continue to volunteer, larger and larger numbers of troops take to the fields, and other causes emerge, each man fighting for his own reason. Some fight for honor and duty, some for money and glory, but nearly all are driven by an amazing courage, and will carry their muskets across the deadly space because they feel it is the right thing to do.

From the North come farmers and fishermen, lumberjacks and shopkeepers, old veterans and young idealists. Some are barely Americans at all, expatriates and immigrants from Europe, led by officers who do not speak English. Some are freedmen, Negroes who volunteer to fight for the preservation of the limited freedoms they have been given, and to spread that freedom into the South.

In the South they are also farmers and fishermen, as well as ranchers, laborers, aristocrats, and young men seeking adventure. They are inspired first by the political rhetoric, the fire-breathing oratory of the radical secessionists. They are told that Lincoln is in league with the devil, and that his election ensures that the South will be held down, oppressed by the powerful interests in the North, that their very way of life is under siege. When the sound of the big guns echo across Charleston harbor, when the first flashes of smoke and fire swallow Fort Sumter, Lincoln orders an army to go south, to put down the rebellion by force. With the invasion comes a new inspiration, and in the South, even men of reason are drawn into the fight, men who were not seduced by mindless rhetoric, who have shunned the self-serving motives of the politicians. There is outrage, and no matter the issues or the politics, many take up arms in response to what they see as the threat to their homes. Even the men who understand and promote the inevitable failure of slavery cannot stand by while their land is invaded. The issue is not to be decided after all by talk or rhetoric, but by the gun.

On both sides are the career soldiers, West Pointers, men with experience from the Mexican War, or the Indian wars of the 1850s. In the North the officers are infected and abused by the disease of politics, and promotion is not always granted by performance or ability. The Federal armies endure a parade of inept or unlucky commanders who cannot fight the rebels until they first master the fight with Washington. Few succeed.

In the South, Jefferson Davis maintains an iron hand, controlling even the smallest details of governing the Confederacy. It is not an effective system, and as in the North, men of political influence are awarded positions of great authority, men who have no business leading soldiers into combat. In mid-1862, through an act of fate, or as he would interpret it, an act of God, Robert Edward Lee is given command of the Army of Northern Virginia. What follows in the East is a clear pattern, a series of great and bloody fights in which the South prevails and the North is beaten back. If the pattern continues, the war will end and the Confederacy will triumph. Many of the fights are won by Lee, or by his generals—the Shenandoah Valley, Second Manassas. Many of the fights are simply lost by the blunders of Federal commanders, the most horrifying example at Fredericksburg. Most, like the catastrophic Federal defeat at Chancellorsville or the tactical stalemate at Antietam, are a combination of both.

By 1863 two monumental events provide an insight into what lies ahead. The first is the success of the Federal blockade of southern seaports, which prevents the South from receiving critical supplies from allies abroad, and also prevents the export of raw materials, notably cotton and tobacco, which provide the currency necessary to pay for the war effort. The result is understood on both sides. Without outside help, the Confederacy will slowly starve.

The second is the great bloody fight at Gettysburg. While a tragic defeat for Lee's army, there is a greater significance to the way that defeat occurs. Until now, the war has been fought mostly from the old traditions, the Napoleonic method, the massed frontal assault against fortified positions. It has been apparent from the beginning of the war that the new weaponry has made such attacks dangerous and costly, but old ways die slowly, and commanders on both sides have been reluctant to change. After Gettysburg, the changes become a matter of survival. If the commanders do not yet understand, the men in the field do, and the use of the shovels becomes as important as the use of muskets. The new methods—strong fortifications, trench warfare—are clear signs to all that the war has changed, that there will be no quick and decisive fight to end all fights.

As the Civil War enters its third year, the bloody reports continue to fill the newspapers, and the bodies of young men continue to fill the cemeteries. To the eager patriots, the idealists and adventurers who joined the fight at the beginning, there is a new reality, in which honor and glory are becoming hollow words. The great causes are slowly pushed aside, and men now fight with the grim determination to take this fight to its end; after so much destruction and horrible loss, the senses are dulled, the unspeakable sights no longer shock. All the energy is forward, toward those men across that deadly space who have simply become the enemy.

————————————————————————————————————————
Robert Edward Lee

Born in 1807, he graduates West Point in 1829, second in his class. Though he is the son of "Light-Horse" Harry Lee, a great hero of the American Revolution, late in his father's life Lee must endure the burden of his father's business and personal failures more than the aura of heroism. Lee is devoutly religious, believing with absolute clarity that the events of his life are determined by the will of God. On his return from West Point, his mother dies in his arms. The haunting sadness of her death stays hard inside him for the rest of his life, and places him more firmly than ever into the hands of his God.

He marries the aristocratic Mary Anne Randolph Custis, whose father is the grandson of Martha Washington, and whose home is the grand mansion of Arlington, overlooking the Potomac River. The Lees have seven children, and Lee suffers the guilt of a career that rarely brings him home to watch his children grow, a source of great regret for him, and simmering bitterness in his wife Mary.

Lee is a brilliant engineer, and his army career moves him to a variety of posts where his expertise and skill contribute much to the construction of the military installations and forts along the Atlantic coast. He goes to St. Louis and confronts a crisis for the port there by rerouting the flow of the Mississippi River. In 1846 he is sent to Mexico,and his reputation lands him on the staff of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Lee performs with efficiency and heroism, both as an engineer, a scout, and a staff officer, and leaves Mexico a lieutenant colonel.

He accepts command of the cadet corps at West Point in 1851, considered by many as the great reward for good service, the respectable job in which to spend the autumn of his career. But though his family is now close, he misses the action of Mexico, finds himself stifled by administrative duties. In 1855 he stuns all who know him by seizing an opportunity to return to the field, volunteering to go to Texas, to command a new regiment of cavalry. But even that command is mundane and frustrating, and there is for him nothing in the duty that recalls the vitality and adventure of the fighting in Mexico. Throughout the 1850s Lee settles into a deep gloom, resigns himself that no duty will be as fulfilling as life under fire and that his career will carry him into old age in bored obscurity.

As the conflict over Lincoln's election boils over in the South, his command in Texas begins to collapse, and he is recalled to Washington in early 1861, where he receives the startling request to command Lincoln's new volunteer army, with a promotion to Major General. He shocks Washington and deeply disappoints Winfield Scott by declining the appointment. Lee chooses the only course left to an officer and a man of honor and resigns from his thirty-year career. He believes that even though Virginia has not yet joined the secessionist states, by organizing an army to invade the South, Lincoln has united his opponents and the southern states, which must eventually include Virginia. Lee will not take up arms against his home.

In late April 1861 he accepts the governor's invitation to command the Virginia Militia, a defensive force assembled to defend the state. When Jefferson Davis moves the Confederate government to Richmond, the Virginia forces, as well as those of the other ten secessionist states, are absorbed into the Confederate army. Lee is invited to serve as military consultant to Davis, another stifling job with little actual authority. In July 1861, during the first great battle of the war, Lee sits alone in his office, while most of official Richmond travels to Manassas, to the excitement of the front lines.

In June 1862, while accompanied by Davis near the fighting on the Virginia peninsula, commander Joe Johnston is wounded in action and Davis offers command of the Army of Northern Virginia to Lee. Lee accepts, understands that he is, after all, a soldier, and justifies the decision with the fact that his theater of war is still Virginia. Defending his home takes on a more poignant significance when Lee's grand estate at Arlington is occupied and ransacked by Federal troops.

Lee reorganizes the army, removes many of the inept political generals, and begins to understand the enormous value of his two best commanders, James Longstreet and Thomas Jackson, who at Manassas was given the nickname "Stonewall." Using the greatest talents of both men, Lee leads the Army of Northern Virginia through a series of momentous victories against a Federal army that is weighed down by its own failures, and by its continuing struggle to find an effective commander. Much of Lee's war is fought in northern Virginia, and the land is suffering under the strain of feeding the army. The burden of war and of the Federal blockade spreads through the entire Confederacy and inspires Lee and Davis to consider a bold and decisive strategy.

In September 1862, Lee moves his army north, hoping to gather support and new recruits from the neutral state of Maryland. The advance results in the battle of Sharpsburg—known as Antietam in the North—and though Lee does not admit defeat, the outrageous carnage and loss of life force him to order a retreat back into Virginia. But his army is not pursued by the Federal forces, and with new commanders now confronting him, Lee begins a great tactical chess game, and accomplishes the greatest victories of the war.

In December 1862, at Fredericksburg, Virginia, his army maintains the defensive and completely crushes poorly planned Federal assaults. In May 1863, at Chancellorsville, Lee is outnumbered nearly three to one, and only by the utter audacity of Stonewall Jackson does the huge Federal army retire from the field with great loss. But the battle is costly for Lee as well. Jackson is accidentally shot by his own men, and dies after a weeklong struggle with pneumonia.

Lee and Davis continue to believe that a move northward is essential, that with weakened confidence and inept commanders, the Federal army need only be pushed into one great battle that will likely end the war. In June 1863, Lee's army marches into Pennsylvania. He believes that a great fight might not even be necessary, that just the threat of spilling blood on northern soil will put great pressure on Washington, and the war might be brought to an end by the voice of the northern people. The invasion of the North will serve another purpose: to take the fight into fertile farmlands where Lee might feed his increasingly desperate army.

Some in Lee's army question the strategy, raising the moral question of how to justify an invasion versus defending their homes. Others question the military judgment of moving into unfamiliar territory, against an enemy that has never been inspired by fighting on its own ground. There are other factors that Lee must confront. Though he is personally devastated by the death of Jackson, Jackson's loss means more to his army than Lee fully understands.

As the invasion moves north, Lee is left blind by his cavalry, under the flamboyant command of Jeb Stuart. Stuart fails to provide Lee with critical information about the enemy and is cut off from Lee beyond the march of the Federal army, an army that is moving to confront Lee with uncharacteristic speed. The Federal Army of the Potomac has yet another new commander, George Gordon Meade, and if Lee knows Meade to be a careful man, cautious in his new command, he also knows that there are many other Federal officers now rising to the top, men who are not political pawns but in fact hard and effective fighters.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter


CHAPTER ONE

1. Lee

July 13, 1863

It was a high bluff, overlooking the dark violence of the swollen river. He sat alone, watched as the men fell into line and the columns began moving slowly through the steady rain. He felt the coolness run down his neck, the water soaking every part of him, his hat, his clothes. A vast sea of mud surrounded them all. The Potomac was rising again, was well beyond their ability to ford, as they might have done before the rains. Now, it was angry and swirling. In the darkness, the motion was accented by the small fires that lined the riverbank, a flickering protest to the misery of the weather, the only guiding light the men would have to reach the crossing.

Lee straightened his back, stretched, pulled at the miserable wetness in his clothes. He reached down, patted Traveller gently, said quietly to the horse, "He has given us one more night ... he has not come."

He was thinking now of George Meade, the commander of the vast Federal army he knew was encamped out there, somewhere, deep in the thick darkness. He had expected them to come at him well before now. It had been ten days, and Lee's army had been strung out for miles, moving southwest away from Gettysburg. The army had begun the march away from the bloody fields in a terrible downpour, led away by the wagons of the wounded, and Meade had not pursued. But they reached the Potomac to find the river swollen nearly out of its banks, their one good bridge swept away, and so they would have to try to build another, or wait longer for the river to drop.

When Meade had finally moved, he pushed his army in a more roundabout way, to come at them from downriver. But there was too much time, Lee's men had fortified into a strong defensive line, and so Meade waited again. Lee had known the risk was enormous, and he feared the attack at any time. There was some skirmishing, small outbreaks of musket fire, the feeling out of two great armies close together. The only real assaults had been with cavalry, all along the march, the Federal horsemen thrusting and jabbing, while Stuart held them away from the main lines. When the skies finally cleared and the roads began to dry, Meade moved his army close, and Lee was backed hard against the high water. Now they had dug in, the quick work of men with shovels, because even the foot soldiers knew that they were trapped and a strong push from a healthy enemy could crush them. But Meade did not come.

It was Major Harman, the foul-tempered and foul-mouthed quarter-master of Jackson's old Second Corps, who saved the day. Lee smiled now, remembered Jackson's embarrassment as Harman would ride by, screaming profanities at a line of slow moving wagons. Jackson would glance at Lee like a small boy expecting an angry response from a stern parent, and Lee would look away, would make no issue of it, knew well that Jackson would tolerate the man's harsh outbursts because he was very good at his job. Now Harman was serving new commanders, and still did his job. He'd scouted the countryside, found the abandoned houses and barns, the people far away from this invading army. Harman ordered the houses dismantled and the wood planking thrown into the river, swept downstream to where the engineers waited. The wood was collected and strung together into a snaking mass of ragged timber. They had laid tree branches across the planks, muffling the sounds of the wagons' wheels, and now the ambulances and the guns and the weary soldiers were finally crossing the river.

Lee still watched them, the glow from the fires throwing light and shadows on the faces, some looking up toward him, seeing him on the high knoll. But most stared straight ahead, looked silently at the back of the man in front, or down at the slow rhythm of bare feet, moving slowly, carefully, and they all knew they were marching south.

He thought of Jackson again, closed his eyes and saw the sharp face, the brightness in the clear blue eyes. We miss you, General. No, do not think on that. He opened his eyes, looked around to his staff, saw Taylor, sitting with the others, a cluster of black raincoats.

"Major, have we heard from General Ewell?"

Taylor moved up, pushed his horse through the mud close to Lee. "Yes, sir. He reports his men are crossing well. They should be south of the river by daylight."

Lee nodded, wanted to say more, to break away from the thoughts of Jackson, but the image was still there, would not go. Lee turned back toward the march of the men, felt the wetness again. Taylor waited, watched Lee, could sense his mood through the darkness, backed his horse away.

Below, along the river, a group of horsemen moved out of the woods, and Lee saw the flag of the First Corps. They rode slowly toward the knoll, then one man moved out in front and spurred his horse up the hill, broad thick shoulders slumped against the rain. The wind suddenly began to blow, the rain slicing across them, and the big man leaned into it, held his hat in place with a gloved hand.

"General Longstreet ..."

Longstreet looked up, peered from under the wide wet hat, nodded, saluted. "General Lee. We're moving pretty quick, considering the conditions. The bridge may not hold. We're watching it pretty close ... both sides of the river."

"It is a blessing, General." Lee looked to the water again, the slow march of the troops. "Major Harman may have saved this army."

Longstreet followed Lee's look, and for a moment the wind stopped and there was just the quiet sound of the rain. Suddenly, beyond the trees, there was a rumble, one sharp blast from a big gun. They waited for more, but the silence flowed back around them. Longstreet looked that way, said, "Damned fools ... save your ammunition."

He looked toward Lee, lowered his head, did not like to swear in front of Lee, but Lee did not seem to notice, was again staring at the marching troops. Longstreet saw now that Lee was counting, nodding to the regimental flags as they caught the brief flickers from the fires.

"We'll make it all right, sir. If Meade hasn't hit us by now, heisn't coming at all. Ewell is making good time down below, andthe First Corps is nearly all across. Hill's corps is right behind us."

Lee nodded, looked now out in the darkness, to the far trees. "He should have hit us here. We gave him an opportunity. God ... gave him an opportunity. The rains slowed us, kept us here. Now, God has taken his opportunity away."

Lee paused, and Longstreet waited.

Lee said, "I don't understand His ways.... I thought it would never be like this. The Almighty was with us, the fight was ours ... we should have won the day. But it was not to be. I thought ... I understood. But now, He is allowing us to go back home."

Longstreet looked at Lee for a long moment, said, "I thought Meade would end it. He is making a mistake letting us escape. I suppose ... there will be another day."

Now there was the sharp sound of another gun, a brief flash of light in the trees far downriver, then another gun, closer, the reply. Lee watched, sat up straight.

Longstreet said, "No musket fire. They're just playing ... probably firing at the wind. Meade's cavalry is moving around, but no infantry. They're still in place."

Lee shook his head. "He dug trenches. He came right at us, and then dug trenches."

Longstreet said, "The scouts have been bringing in some numbers.... Word is, he's pretty beat up. Maybe worse than us. They lost some good people.... John Reynolds is dead, that's for certain. I heard Hancock was down, and Dan Sickles. Meade's still new to command, doesn't want to make any mistakes. He won the fight, he knows it. Let those folks in Washington absorb that. They haven't had much to cheer about."

Lee looked at Longstreet, ran the names through his mind. "General, he has not lost what we have lost. We cannot replace what has been taken from us, and this fight has taken too much. I do not understand why we have been ... punished so. We could have ended the war, right over there, if we had prevailed on that ground. The pressure on Washington ... we took the fight to them, it was the only way. And we have paid a terrible price." He paused, said quietly, to himself, "I would have thought ... surely God does not want this to go on."

Longstreet watched the troops again, said, "There were many mistakes."

Lee did not answer, thought again of Jackson, closed his eyes, fought the image. But it would not go away. The image stared hard at him, and Lee knew that Jackson was there, had seen the great fight, the great bloody disaster. Lee thought, If you had been here ... if you had led them ... it would have been very different.

From down below, one of Longstreet's staff moved up the hill, said, "General, excuse me. The last of the corps is on the bridge, sir. General Hill's column is forming on the road, behind those woods."

Longstreet turned, nodded. "Thank you, Major. We'll move acrossin a minute." He turned to Lee, paused, saw Lee's eyes closed, said quietly, "General Lee? With your permission, sir, I will take my staff across the river. I expect General Hill should report to you soon. I'm sure he wants to get across this river as much as we do."

Lee looked at him now, and Longstreet suddenly felt foolish, knew it was the wrong thing to say.

Lee looked into the shadow of Longstreet's face. He felt a small tug of anger, but he would not say anything of it, would not lay blame on anyone. "General Longstreet, you may accompany your corps."

Longstreet bowed slightly, saluted, pulled the horse away. Lee watched him, the staff gathering together, the horses moving in slippery steps down to the bridge head.

Longstreet was right, there were many mistakes. But he would not think on that now, would not see the faces, the commanders who had not done the job, would not think on troop movements and poor cooperation, could not even recall his own orders, the horrors of what he had seen, what they had all seen in those three days. He had tried to understand it, to sort it out, but it was too soon, and he knew the memories would come back in time, and the images would be as sharp and painful as so many of the memories he carried from the fights long before.

Even the great victories held vast horror, but he could not even recall those, the days when you knew you had beaten those people, had driven them from the field, commanders like Pope and Hooker, who by their bluster and profane arrogance invited nothing less than total defeat. And the incompetence of Burnside, who threw his very good army against an impossibly strong position, and so sent his own men to a senseless slaughter. Lee tried to recall the feeling, standing on his hill behind Fredericksburg, hearing the bright yells and joyous shouts from below, his men looking out at the bloody fields in front of them, understanding how utterly complete their victory had been. He tried to remember the chaos at Chancellorsville, the complete destruction of the Federal flank, how Jackson had nearly crushed the Federal army in a panic so complete that had the daylight not run out ... it could have ended the war right there. But Jackson would not be stopped by nightfall, kept moving forward, even when his men could not, and in a dark and terrifying night his own men had panicked at the sound of horses, had fired at silhouettes in the moonlight.

Lee saw the face again. He had not been to see Jackson after he was wounded, but the reports from the doctors, from the staff, were optimistic, just an arm, he would recover. Then suddenly the bright blue light was gone, and not from the wounds, but from pneumo-nia. And it was only ... He tried to think. Two months ago. Or an eternity.

Already now there were letters, reports beginning to move through the army, commanders deflecting the blame they knew was yet to come. There would be the newspapers, of course, and the letters from home, questioning. Some of the officers had already made protests, angry challenges, hot criticisms of the generals Lee trusted so much, men he had to trust. But those men had not performed, and in the maze of faces and names and mistakes, he knew that ultimately no one could be held responsible but him.

Now there was fresh motion on the road, reflections from a new line of troops. It was the Third Corps, A. P. Hill's men. They moved out of the woods, marched down toward the angry water, and again Lee watched, sat quietly on Traveller as his army moved silently through the wet misery of the retreat, knowing once again the war would roll on in a bloody wash of men and machines back into Virginia.

August 1863

He halted the army south of the Rapidan River, near Orange Court House, and as they slowly gathered together, many of the stragglers and men with light wounds began to return. In the weeks since the start of the retreat, it was the first time Lee could see his army for what it had now become, how badly the impact of Gettysburg had changed the strength, how deep were the wounds.

The fields around the Rapidan were bare now. No farmers workedthe land, the homes and barns were empty, most of the big trees were gone. The war had long since claimed this part of Virginia, and Lee hardly recognized this countryside. He stood at the edge of a wide field of dried mud, knew that this land, this fertile and beautiful ground, had once borne the bounty, the tall corn, the vast green oceans of grain. Now it was gray and barren, wagon tracks cutting through in all directions, the former campsites of both armies, and for now it was his again.

The men were spread out around him, secure in the new camp, and Lee rode along the hard road, away from his own tents, where the staff worked with the papers, sorting out the problems in the regiments, the brigades, the endless fight for supplies.

Taylor had encouraged him to slip away, and Lee was grateful, knew this young man with the boundless energy could handle the business of headquarters, the vast clutter of details. He rode slowly away, did not look back, did not see Taylor watching him, peering past the lengthening line of soldiers, officers, men with complaints or "urgent" business.

He moved down the hard road, past the troops who now stopped to watch him. There were shouts, calls of greeting, and even now, even with the hard wounds of the great defeat, the men still rose up and gathered, still called his name. He reined the horse, lifted his hat, a small salute, looked at the faces and then beyond, saw the numbers, the wide field spread with the men who were still there, still with him. They did not look to him for comfort or pity, and he did not see pain or defeat. They still made the cheerful calls, faces bright with the look that says, We are still your army, and we will fight again.

There had been desertions, many stragglers who were captured or simply disappeared. The muddy roads out of Pennsylvania had swallowed up many who had lost the strength, the energy, for the fight. The casualties were staggering, over twenty thousand men, nearly a quarter of his army gone. But as much as he mourned the loss of the fighting men, it was their commanders, the brigade and regimental officers, who would have to replaced. As the war flowed into its third year, the men who knew how to lead, the capable commanders with an instinct for battle, were becoming more and more scarce.

He thought of the names, saw the faces: Lew Armistead, Jim Barksdale, Pender, Garnett, Pettigrew. They were gone, and there were none better. He thought of young John Bell Hood, the huge blond-haired man from Texas whom he had known so well in the old cavalry, the man who loved chasing Comanches all through the misery of the frontier. Lee had always thought Hood was indestructible, but he was down too, a severe wound, might still lose an arm. And old Isaac Trimble, the man who brought him the news of Ewell's failure to take Cemetery Hill, a catastrophic mistake in a fight with many mistakes. Trimble was a fierce and disagreeable man whom Lee knew he could trust absolutely, but Trimble had been wounded as well, had to be left behind, and so was captured.

You could not train new leaders, you could not replace what a man had brought with him from the battlefields in Mexico. There was no fresh class from West Point or VMI. The new officers were young, very young, and if a man did not have the gut instinct, could not take his men forward with absolute command of himself and his situation, there was no time to teach him, to show him his mistakes. Now, when mistakes were made, the men did not come back.

He spurred the horse again, moved beyond the camp, saw the road turning through a small grove of thick trees. It was hot, growing hotter, and he looked to the shade, moved that way. He heard the sound of water, saw a small stream snaking its way in the dark coolness, flowing close to the road. He reined the horse, watched the thin stream of water rolling over polished rocks, was suddenly very thirsty. He climbed down, and Traveller moved to the water with him. Lee bent low, cupped his hand and took a deep cold drink. He stood, wiped at his face with a wet hand, watched the horse now nosing the edge of the stream. He could still hear the men, the sounds of the camp carrying beyond the fields, and there was even music, a banjo, and he smiled at that, felt a sudden pride. Yes, he thought, they are not beaten. I should take a lesson from that.

He reached into his pocket, felt for the letter, pulled it out. It was the reply, the inevitable response from Jefferson Davis. Lee understood that in this army, in any army, it was the commander who must bear the responsibility. If he did not dwell on that, the newspapers did, great ponderous prose from the fat men in their clean offices in Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta, the men who had built up the expectations of their nation with the move northward. They gave their readers the first reports of the glorious invasion of the North, reported outrageous rumors as fact, the defeat of Meade's army, the imminent capture of Washington.

Lee had not seen the papers until after the battle, then read the absurd reports with deep dread, because he knew that when the truth came out, when the reports of the fighting became real, the impact would be far worse. So with the first major accounts from Pennsylvania, the papers that had given the people grand headlines of their mythic victory, the victory that would surely end the war, now gave them the story of crushing defeat. The papers had provided the power behind the myth, and many had come to believe that his army was invincible. Now they had to accept that it was not always so, and many would not accept it. Even the reasonable, moderate voices could not temper what many were saying. Lee had lost the fight. As he absorbed the anger, the reckless calls from the papers, the voices of those quick to place blame, to seek the simple explanation, he responded in the only way he could. In early August his letter of resignation had gone to the president.

The letter had been as much a response to the papers as to the president personally, an effort to relieve any criticism of the army, the men who had done the fighting. And if Lee accepted responsibility for the failure, he also began to accept that his health was becoming an issue, and for the first time he had wondered if his heart problems might have clouded his judgment. So, at least he had provided Davis with an excuse, a reason for accepting his resignation, which would preserve his honor.

Now, as Lee stood beside the big horse in the cool shade, he held Davis's reply in his hand. He opened the letter, read it again. If Davis had become fragile, even suspicious and secretive in his dealings with his other commanders, he could still show Lee the warmth that many never saw, that Lee had often forgotten. He scanned the page, paused at the words "my dear friend," smiled, then read silently.

To ask me to substitute you by one in my judgment more fit to command, or who could possess more of the confidences of the army, or of the reflecting men of the country, is to demand an impossibility.

He looked back toward the sounds from the field, thought, The confidences of the army. He knew Davis was right, he had just seen it again in the faces of the men. He put his hand out, touched Traveller's neck, said aloud, "Well, if they want me to lead them still, then I will lead them. After all, my friend, what else can I do?"

He climbed up, considered moving farther away, exploring the road deeper into the shade of the trees, but before he could tug at the reins, the big gray horse turned its head and began to carry him back to his men.

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Introduction

The Last Full Measure

Introduction
By July 1863 the Civil War has been fought over the farmlands and seacoasts of the South for better than two years, and is already one of the bloodiest wars in human history. It is a war that most believed would be decided by one quick fight, one great show of strength by the power of the North. The first major battle, called Bull Run in the North, Manassas in the South, is witnessed by a carefree audience of Washington's elite. Their brightly decorated carriages carry men in fine suits and society matrons in colorful dresses. They perch on a hillside, enjoying their picnics, anticipating a great show with bands playing merrily while the young men in blue march in glorious parade and sweep aside the ragged band of rebels. What they see is the first great horror, the stunning reality that this is in fact a war, and that men will die. What they still cannot understand is how far this will go, and how many men will die.

In the North, President Lincoln maintains a fragile grip on forces pulling the government in all directions. On one extreme is the pacifist movement, those who believe that the South has made its point, and so, to avoid bloodshed, Washington must simply let them go, that nothing so inconsequential as the Constitution is as important as the loss of life. On the other extreme are the radical abolitionists, who demand the South be brought down entirely, punished for its way of life, its culture, and that anyone who supports the southern cause should be purged from the land. There is also a great middle ground, men of reason and intellect, who now understand that there is more to this war than the inflammatory issue of slavery, or the argument over the sovereign rights of the individual states. As men continue to volunteer, larger and larger numbers of troops take to the fields, and other causes emerge, each man fighting for his own reason. Some fight for honor and duty, some for money and glory, but nearly all are driven by an amazing courage, and will carry their muskets across the deadly space because they feel it is the right thing to do.

From the North come farmers and fishermen, lumberjacks and shopkeepers, old veterans and young idealists. Some are barely Americans at all, expatriates and immigrants from Europe, led by officers who do not speak English. Some are freedmen, Negroes who volunteer to fight for the preservation of the limited freedoms they have been given, and to spread that freedom into the South.

In the South they are also farmers and fishermen, as well as ranchers, laborers, aristocrats, and young men seeking adventure. They are inspired first by the political rhetoric, the fire-breathing oratory of the radical secessionists. They are told that Lincoln is in league with the devil, and that his election ensures that the South will be held down, oppressed by the powerful interests in the North, that their very way of life is under siege. When the sound of the big guns echo across Charleston harbor, when the first flashes of smoke and fire swallow Fort Sumter, Lincoln orders an army to go south, to put down the rebellion by force. With the invasion comes a new inspiration, and in the South, even men of reason are drawn into the fight, men who were not seduced by mindless rhetoric, who have shunned the self-serving motives of the politicians. There is outrage, and no matter the issues or the politics, many take up arms in response to what they see as the threat to their homes. Even the men who understand and promote the inevitable failure of slavery cannot stand by while their land is invaded. The issue is not to be decided after all by talk or rhetoric, but by the gun.

On both sides are the career soldiers, West Pointers, men with experience from the Mexican War, or the Indian wars of the 1850s. In the North the officers are infected and abused by the disease of politics, and promotion is not always granted by performance or ability. The Federal armies endure a parade of inept or unlucky commanders who cannot fight the rebels until they first master the fight with Washington. Few succeed.

In the South, Jefferson Davis maintains an iron hand, controlling even the smallest details of governing the Confederacy. It is not an effective system, and as in the North, men of political influence are awarded positions of great authority, men who have no business leading soldiers into combat. In mid-1862, through an act of fate, or as he would interpret it, an act of God, Robert Edward Lee is given command of the Army of Northern Virginia. What follows in the East is a clear pattern, a series of great and bloody fights in which the South prevails and the North is beaten back. If the pattern continues, the war will end and the Confederacy will triumph. Many of the fights are won by Lee, or by his generals -- the Shenandoah Valley, Second Manassas. Many of the fights are simply lost by the blunders of Federal commanders, the most horrifying example at Fredericksburg. Most, like the catastrophic Federal defeat at Chancellorsville or the tactical stalemate at Antietam, are a combination of both.

By 1863 two monumental events provide an insight into what lies ahead. The first is the success of the Federal blockade of southern seaports, which prevents the South from receiving critical supplies from allies abroad, and also prevents the export of raw materials, notably cotton and tobacco, which provide the currency necessary to pay for the war effort. The result is understood on both sides. Without outside help, the Confederacy will slowly starve.

The second is the great bloody fight at Gettysburg. While a tragic defeat for Lee's army, there is a greater significance to the way that defeat occurs. Until now, the war has been fought mostly from the old traditions, the Napoleonic method, the massed frontal assault against fortified positions. It has been apparent from the beginning of the war that the new weaponry has made such attacks dangerous and costly, but old ways die slowly, and commanders on both sides have been reluctant to change. After Gettysburg, the changes become a matter of survival. If the commanders do not yet understand, the men in the field do, and the use of the shovels becomes as important as the use of muskets. The new methods -- strong fortifications, trench warfare -- are clear signs to all that the war has changed, that there will be no quick and decisive fight to end all fights.

As the Civil War enters its third year, the bloody reports continue to fill the newspapers, and the bodies of young men continue to fill the cemeteries. To the eager patriots, the idealists and adventurers who joined the fight at the beginning, there is a new reality, in which honor and glory are becoming hollow words. The great causes are slowly pushed aside, and men now fight with the grim determination to take this fight to its end; after so much destruction and horrible loss, the senses are dulled, the unspeakable sights no longer shock. All the energy is forward, toward those men across that deadly space who have simply become the enemy.


Robert Edward Lee
Born in 1807, he graduates West Point in 1829, second in his class. Though he is the son of "Light-Horse" Harry Lee, a great hero of the American Revolution, late in his father's life Lee must endure the burden of his father's business and personal failures more than the aura of heroism. Lee is devoutly religious, believing with absolute clarity that the events of his life are determined by the will of God. On his return from West Point, his mother dies in his arms. The haunting sadness of her death stays hard inside him for the rest of his life, and places him more firmly than ever into the hands of his God.

He marries the aristocratic Mary Anne Randolph Custis, whose father is the grandson of Martha Washington, and whose home is the grand mansion of Arlington, overlooking the Potomac River. The Lees have seven children, and Lee suffers the guilt of a career that rarely brings him home to watch his children grow, a source of great regret for him, and simmering bitterness in his wife Mary.

Lee is a brilliant engineer, and his army career moves him to a variety of posts where his expertise and skill contribute much to the construction of the military installations and forts along the Atlantic coast. He goes to St. Louis and confronts a crisis for the port there by rerouting the flow of the Mississippi River. In 1846 he is sent to Mexico, and his reputation lands him on the staff of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Lee performs with efficiency and heroism, both as an engineer, a scout, and a staff officer, and leaves Mexico a lieutenant colonel.

He accepts command of the cadet corps at West Point in 1851, considered by many as the great reward for good service, the respectable job in which to spend the autumn of his career. But though his family is now close, he misses the action of Mexico, finds himself stifled by administrative duties. In 1855 he stuns all who know him by seizing an opportunity to return to the field, volunteering to go to Texas, to command a new regiment of cavalry. But even that command is mundane and frustrating, and there is for him nothing in the duty that recalls the vitality and adventure of the fighting in Mexico. Throughout the 1850s Lee settles into a deep gloom, resigns himself that no duty will be as fulfilling as life under fire and that his career will carry him into old age in bored obscurity.

As the conflict over Lincoln's election boils over in the South, his command in Texas begins to collapse, and he is recalled to Washington in early 1861, where he receives the startling request to command Lincoln's new volunteer army, with a promotion to Major General. He shocks Washington and deeply disappoints Winfield Scott by declining the appointment. Lee chooses the only course left to an officer and a man of honor and resigns from his thirty-year career. He believes that even though Virginia has not yet joined the secessionist states, by organizing an army to invade the South, Lincoln has united his opponents and the southern states, which must eventually include Virginia. Lee will not take up arms against his home.

In late April 1861 he accepts the governor's invitation to command the Virginia Militia, a defensive force assembled to defend the state. When Jefferson Davis moves the Confederate government to Richmond, the Virginia forces, as well as those of the other ten secessionist states, are absorbed into the Confederate army. Lee is invited to serve as military consultant to Davis, another stifling job with little actual authority. In July 1861, during the first great battle of the war, Lee sits alone in his office, while most of official Richmond travels to Manassas, to the excitement of the front lines.

In June 1862, while accompanied by Davis near the fighting on the Virginia peninsula, commander Joe Johnston is wounded in action and Davis offers command of the Army of Northern Virginia to Lee. Lee accepts, understands that he is, after all, a soldier, and justifies the decision with the fact that his theater of war is still Virginia. Defending his home takes on a more poignant significance when Lee's grand estate at Arlington is occupied and ransacked by Federal troops.

Lee reorganizes the army, removes many of the inept political generals, and begins to understand the enormous value of his two best commanders, James Longstreet and Thomas Jackson, who at Manassas was given the nickname "Stonewall." Using the greatest talents of both men, Lee leads the Army of Northern Virginia through a series of momentous victories against a Federal army that is weighed down by its own failures, and by its continuing struggle to find an effective commander. Much of Lee's war is fought in northern Virginia, and the land is suffering under the strain of feeding the army. The burden of war and of the Federal blockade spreads through the entire Confederacy and inspires Lee and Davis to consider a bold and decisive strategy.

In September 1862, Lee moves his army north, hoping to gather support and new recruits from the neutral state of Maryland. The advance results in the battle of Sharpsburg -- known as Antietam in the North -- and though Lee does not admit defeat, the outrageous carnage and loss of life force him to order a retreat back into Virginia. But his army is not pursued by the Federal forces, and with new commanders now confronting him, Lee begins a great tactical chess game, and accomplishes the greatest victories of the war.

In December 1862, at Fredericksburg, Virginia, his army maintains the defensive and completely crushes poorly planned Federal assaults. In May 1863, at Chancellorsville, Lee is outnumbered nearly three to one, and only by the utter audacity of Stonewall Jackson does the huge Federal army retire from the field with great loss. But the battle is costly for Lee as well. Jackson is accidentally shot by his own men, and dies after a weeklong struggle with pneumonia.

Lee and Davis continue to believe that a move northward is essential, that with weakened confidence and inept commanders, the Federal army need only be pushed into one great battle that will likely end the war. In June 1863, Lee's army marches into Pennsylvania. He believes that a great fight might not even be necessary, that just the threat of spilling blood on northern soil will put great pressure on Washington, and the war might be brought to an end by the voice of the northern people. The invasion of the North will serve another purpose: to take the fight into fertile farmlands where Lee might feed his increasingly desperate army.

Some in Lee's army question the strategy, raising the moral question of how to justify an invasion versus defending their homes. Others question the military judgment of moving into unfamiliar territory, against an enemy that has never been inspired by fighting on its own ground. There are other factors that Lee must confront. Though he is personally devastated by the death of Jackson, Jackson's loss means more to his army than Lee fully understands.

As the invasion moves north, Lee is left blind by his cavalry, under the flamboyant command of Jeb Stuart. Stuart fails to provide Lee with critical information about the enemy and is cut off from Lee beyond the march of the Federal army, an army that is moving to confront Lee with uncharacteristic speed. The Federal Army of the Potomac has yet another new commander, George Gordon Meade, and if Lee knows Meade to be a careful man, cautious in his new command, he also knows that there are many other Federal officers now rising to the top, men who are not political pawns but in fact hard and effective fighters.

The two armies collide at a small crossroads called Gettysburg, a fight for which Lee is not yet prepared, and the fight becomes the three bloodiest days in American history. As costly as it is to both armies, it is a clear defeat for Lee. He had believed his army could not be stopped, and begins now to understand what Jackson's loss might mean -- that as the fight goes on, and the good men continue to fall away, the war will settle heavily on his own shoulders.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Born in 1828 near Brewer, Maine, he is the oldest of five children. He graduates Bowdoin College in 1852, and impresses all who know him with his intellect, his gift for words and talent for languages. He is raised by a deeply religious mother, whose greatest wish is that he become a man of the cloth, and for a short while Chamberlain attends the Bangor Theological Seminary, but it is not a commitment he can make. His father's ancestry is military. Chamberlain's great-grandfather fought in the Revolution, his grandfather in the War of 1812. His father serves during peacetime years in the Maine Militia and never sees combat. It is family tradition that his son will follow the military path, and he pressures Chamberlain to apply to West Point. When Chamberlain returns to the academic community, a career for which his father has little respect, the disappointment becomes a hard barrier between them.

He marries Frances Caroline (Fannie) Adams, and they have four children, two of whom survive infancy. Fannie pushes him toward the career in academics, and his love for her is so complete and consuming that he likely would have pursued any path she had chosen.

Considered the rising star in the academic community, Chamberlain accepts a prestigious Chair at Bowdoin, formerly held by the renowned Calvin Stowe, husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her controversial book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, inspires Chamberlain, and the issues that explode in the South, so far removed from the classrooms in Maine, reach him deeply. He begins to feel a calling of a different kind.

As the war begins in earnest, and Chamberlain's distraction is evident to the school administration, he is offered a leave of absence -- a trip to Europe, to take him away from the growing turmoil. Chamberlain uses the opportunity in a way that astounds and distresses everyone. He goes to the governor of Maine without telling anyone, including Fannie, and volunteers for service in the newly forming Maine regiments. Though he has no military experience, his intellect and zeal for the job open the door, and he is appointed Lieutenant Colonel, second-in-command of the Twentieth Maine Regiment of Volunteers.

After a difficult farewell to his family, Chamberlain and his regiment join the Army of the Potomac in Washington, and in September 1862 they march toward western Maryland, to confront Lee's army at Antietam Creek. The Twentieth Maine does not see action, but Chamberlain observes the carnage of the fight and, for the first time, experiences what the war might mean for the men around him. Three months later he leads his men into the guns at Fredericksburg and witnesses firsthand what the war has become. He spends an amazing night on the battlefield, yards from the lines of the enemy, and protects himself with the corpses of his own men.

In June 1863 he is promoted to full colonel, and now commands the regiment. He marches north with the army in pursuit of Lee's invasion. By chance, his regiment is the lead unit of the Fifth Corps, and when they reach the growing sounds of the fight at Gettysburg, the Twentieth Maine marches to the left flank, climbing a long rise to the far face of a rocky hill known later as Little Round Top. His is now the last unit, the far left flank of the Federal line, and he is ordered to hold the position at all cost. The regiment fights off a desperate series of attacks from Longstreet's corps, which, if successful, would likely turn the entire Federal flank, exposing the supply train and the rear of the rest of the army. Low on ammunition, his line weakening from the loss of so many men, he impulsively orders his men to charge the advancing rebels with bayonets, surprising the weary attackers so completely that they retreat in disorder or are captured en masse. The attacks end and the flank is secured.

During the fight, he is struck by a small piece of shrapnel, and carries a small but painful wound in his foot. As the army marches in slow pursuit of Lee's retreat, the foul weather and Chamberlain's own exhaustion take their toll, and he begins to suffer symptoms of malaria.

Though he is unknown outside of his immediate command, this college professor turned soldier now attracts the attention of the commanders above him, and it becomes apparent that his is a name that will be heard again.

Ulysses Simpson Grant
Born in 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio, he graduates West Point in 1843. Small, undistinguished as a cadet, it is his initials which first attract attention. The U.S. becomes a nickname, "Uncle Sam," and soon he is known by his friends as simply "Sam." He achieves one other notable reputation at the Point, that of a master horseman, seemingly able to tame and ride any animal.

His first duty is near St. Louis, and he maintains a strong friendship with many of the former cadets, including "Pete" Longstreet. Grant meets and falls madly in love with Julia Dent, whose father's inflated notion of his own aristocratic standing produces strong objection to his daughter's relationship with a soldier. Longstreet suffers a similar fate, and in 1846, when the orders come to march to Mexico, both men leave behind young girls with wounded hearts.

Grant is assigned to the Fourth Infantry and serves under Zachary Taylor during the first conflicts in south Texas. He makes the great march inland with Winfield Scott and arrives at the gates of Mexico City to lead his men into the costly fighting that eventually breaks down the defenses of the city and gives Scott's army the victory. Grant leads his infantry with great skill, and is recognized for heroism, but is not impressed with the straight-ahead tactics used by Scott. He believes that much loss of life could have been avoided by better strategy.

He returns home with a strong sense of despair for the condition of the Mexican peasantry, which he sees as victims of both the war and their own ruling class. It is an experience that helps strengthen his own feelings about the abominable inhumanity of slavery.

Returning to St. Louis, Grant receives reluctant consent to marry Julia, and eventually they have four children. He receives a pleasant assignment to Detroit, but in 1852 he is ordered to the coast of California, an expensive and hazardous post, and so he must leave his family behind. The following two years are the worst in his life, and despite a brief and enjoyable tour at Fort Vancouver, he succumbs both to the outrageous temptations of gold-rush San Francisco and the desperate loneliness of life without his young family. Shy and withdrawn, he does not enjoy the raucous social circles of many of his friends, and the painful isolation leads him to a dependency on alcohol. His bouts of drunkenness are severe enough to interfere with his duty, and his behavior warrants disciplinary action. Because of the generosity of his commanding officer, Grant is afforded the opportunity to resign rather than face a court-martial. He leaves the army in May 1854 and believes his career in the military is at a painful conclusion.

He returns to his family unemployed and penniless, and attempts to farm a piece of land given him by Julia's father. With no money to provide the beginnings of a crop, Grant attempts the lumber business, cutting trees from the land himself. He eventually builds his own house, which he calls, appropriately, "Hardscrabble."

He is generous to a fault, often loaning money to those who will never repay the debts, and despite a constant struggle financially, he is always willing to help anyone who confronts him in need.

In 1859 he is offered a position as a collection agent for a real estate firm in St. Louis, and trades the small farm for a modest home in the city, but the business is not profitable. Though he is qualified for positions that become available in the local government, the political turmoil that spreads through the Midwest requires great skill at intrigue and political connections, and Grant has neither. He finally accepts an offer from his own father, moves to Galena, Illinois, in 1860, and clerks in a leather and tanned goods store with his brothers, who understand that Grant's military experience and West Point training in mathematics will make for both a trustworthy and useful employee. But the politics of the day begin to affect even those who try to avoid the great discussions and town meetings, and Grant meets John Rawlins and Elihu Washburne, whose political influence begins to pave the way for an opportunity Grant would never have sought on his own.

As the presidential election draws closer, Grant awakens to the political passions around him, involves himself with the issues and the candidates, and finally decides to support the candidate Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln is elected, Grant tells his friend John Rawlins that with passions igniting around the country, "the South will fight."

Persuaded by Washburne, Grant organizes a regiment of troops from Galena and petitions the governor of Illinois for a Colonel's commission, which he receives. After seven years of struggle as a civilian, Grant reenters the army.

Serving first under Henry Halleck, he eventually commands troops through fights on the Mississippi River at Forts Henry and Donelson, each fight growing in importance as the war spreads. Promoted eventually to Major General, Grant is named commander of the Federal Army of Tennessee, but still must endure Halleck's fragile ego and disagreeable hostility. On the Tennessee River at a place called Shiloh, facing a powerful enemy under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston, Grant wins one of the bloodiest fights of the war, in which Johnston himself is killed. Here, Grant's command includes an old acquaintance from his days in California, William Tecumseh Sherman.

In July 1862, when Halleck is promoted to General-in-Chief of the army and leaves for Washington, the army of the western theater is a confused mishmash of commands under Grant, Don Carlos Buell, and William Rosecrans. While the focus of the nation is on the great battles in Virginia, Grant gradually establishes himself as the most consistent and reliable commander in the West. He finally unites much of the Federal forces for an assault and eventually a long siege on the critical river port of Vicksburg, Mississippi. In July 1863, the same week Lee's army confronts the great Federal forces at Gettysburg, Grant succeeds in capturing both Vicksburg and the Confederate force that had occupied it.

Now, Lincoln begins to focus not just on the great turmoil of Virginia, but toward the West as well, and it is Grant's name that rises through the jumble of poor commanders and the political gloom of Washington. After the disasters of leadership that have plagued the army, Lincoln's patience for the politics of command is at an end. He begins to speak of this quiet and unassuming man out West, a general who seems to know how to win.

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Interviews & Essays

The Barnes & Noble Review
June 1998

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain... --Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address

The Last Full Measure is the concluding volume of the epic Civil War trilogy begun more than two decades ago by Michael Shaara in his Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Killer Angels. In the bestselling Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara continued his father's original vision, portraying the events leading up to the war's inception and on to Gettysburg through the eyes of generals on both sides of the conflict -- Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Winfield Scott Hancock, and Joshua Chamberlain. Now, Shaara tells the story of the final two years of the war, from the aftermath of the carnage at Gettysburg to the emotional drama of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, dramatizing the escalating confrontation between Lee and Grant battle by bloody battle.

In the introduction to The Last Full Measure Jeff Shaara writes, "It is the job of the historian to tell us what happened, to provide the dates and places and numbers, all the necessary ingredients of textbooks. It is the job of the storyteller to bring out the thoughts, the words, the souls of these fascinating characters, to tell us why they should be remembered and respected and even enjoyed." This humanizing of the historical recordtakes the reader into the hearts and minds of those who gave their last full measure. The Last Full Measure is a fitting capstone to a monumental literary trilogy.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 61 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2001

    'The Last Full Measure' MEASURES UP!

    What a throughly enjoyable experience this book is! I turned to The Last Full Measure to complete the cycle of Civil War reading I began with The Killer Angels, by Jeff's father, and to fill in my knowledge of what, to me, was a lesser known part of the Civil War...the last part. Not only did I fill in that knowledge, I got to know ( and know more about ) Ulysses S. Grant, Joshua Chamberlain and Robert E. Lee with some degree of intimacy, and a fair-sized cast of other notable characters who were colorful and interesting, to say the least. Shaara's writing can be surprisingly emotional, yet is still economical and clear. The use of a few key maps ( so disappointingly left out of some works that would greatly benefit them )really help to describe the battle action more clearly and vividly. But the book is not merely a collection of battles, and, in fact, leaves out a number of major and important battles in some theatres that do not take anything away from the greatness of this book. I am absolutely going to get Shaara's Mexican War book, Gone for Soldiers, soon. I want to stay close to these characters and this writer and enjoy the considerable skill that has been passed on to him.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    Not as good as Killer Angels or Gods & Generals but still good

    I read this book after reading Killer Angels and then Gods & Generals. I don't think it was good as either of those, but it was still good. (Let's just pray they don't try to make a movie out of it.) I highly recommend Gods & Generals, Killer Angels, & Last Full Measure to anybody, but especially to those that might not know a lot about the Civil War and don't know where to start. These books are a lot easier to read than some of the hard core history books, and they give you some insight into the personalities and struggles of the guys in the field. They keep you aware that wars are fought by real people with feelings and emotions and they aren't just abstract movements of pawns in a big game of chess.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Jeff Shaara's best Civil War novel, so far.

    One of the best novels of the Civil War I have read, Better than G&G. Should have made a movie of this one instead. Even better is Shaara's Rise to Rebellion.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Heart-wrenching Continuation...and End

    By the time you reach this last book in the The Killer Angels trilogy, it is difficult to not feel like you know the commanders personally. We are privy to conversations between Gen. Grant and President Lincoln. We are once again privileged to charge into battle with the soldiers of blue and gray...and to follow them to the end of the war. While artistic license may have been taken in a few places to help the flow of the story in the books, it nevertheless remains an incredible introduction to the Civil War for anyone. In fact, it propels a true learner to find out more, to discover the facts for themselves. Don't miss this last book. Again, it is a must read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    The Last Full Measure brings the Civil War to life

    The Last Full Measure is a great compilation of Civil War stories that bring the characters to life and give the reader a small sense of what it must have been like to be at some of these battles. The pain, frusteration, and uncertainty of the commanders and soldiers alike are brought to light for the reader to glimpse the chaos of war, especially when communications were so much slower than they are today. It is a fiction book, so don't take every quote or thought as absolutely true, but it does give a good representation of the events.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2011

    Excellent

    I love history, and the civil war is my favorite time. It's unbelievable the scale of destruction we can inflict on each other. This is a recommended book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2009

    Highly Recommended!

    A great read, and a fitting conclusion to this thrilling and touching civil war trilogy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Stunning, moving, inspiring

    "The Last Full Measure" is one of my all time favorite books. I finished it and said, "Wow". It is a lot deeper than "Gods and Generals" or "The Killer Angels", but is a great conclusion to the Trilogy. It is a moving and heartbreaking finale, a great conclusion for both sides to the war that has destroyed them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    Definitely read this

    Phenomanal end to the series. Truly a great read for people that enjoy the civil war

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2011

    Highly Recommended.

    I truly enjoyed this book - very informatiave, flows well. Had already read Killer Angels and Gods & Generals. This one is a fitting closure to the trilogy. Learned more by reading these 3 books than in all the US history classes I took in high school & college. In fact, I did not remember much about the Civil War, but now, I will not forget. I also recommend 1865 by Jay Winik & just for fun, tackle Gone With The Wind, if you have the time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2005

    Another Home Run for Jeff Shaara

    This book is the crowning jewel in the trilogy of the American Civil War first begun by his father with 'Killer Angels'. Jeff brings humanity to his characters, making them come alive as real people we can all understand. History comes alive with his characters, and gives us some idea of the enormity of this event of the mid 19th century.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2004

    KUDOS FOR MR. SHARA'S THIRD LEG OF THE TRILOGY

    I was happily surprised by The Last Full Measure. I am generally skeptical about sequals/prequals, but Mr. Shara did an outstanding job of completing the saga begun by his father. All of the characters come across with all their human successes and failures. I was particularly impressed by the way he handled General Lee's physical weaknesses, which lent a more human aspect of Lee's nature, rather than the indestructable icon he became after the war.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2002

    Amazing

    The Last Full Measure is an amazing accomplishment. I enjoyed both Gods and Generals and the Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure is certainly on par with them, if it does not exceed them. The feelings are more raw and real, now that the war is coming to a close. I am fascinated by Chamberlain and this book reinforced that. Before reading these books I had almost no understanding of the Civil War, or the people in it. Now it was all brought alive to me by two men: Michael and Jeff Shaara.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2001

    CONTINUING A GREAT TRADITION

    IN THIS NOVEL SHAARA CONTINUES THE RICH VEIN OF HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY AND NARATIVE BEGUN IN THE KILLER ANGELS (THE SEQUENCE IS INCLUDING THE PREQUEL). A TRUELY WONDERFUL READ!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2000

    Great Book!

    I really enjoyed this book a lot. I am a big fan of Joshua Chamberlain. It's pretty cool to write in the mind of other people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2000

    Like father, like son

    You can tell a lot of research went into this book. Two weeks after I read this book I visited Gettysburg for the second time and I understood the battle more. This is one book that should be referred to in schools when teaching of the battle of Gettysburg. Both father and son wrote classics!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    I read this book for an outside reading assignment for my Honors

    I read this book for an outside reading assignment for my Honors English class. I personally enjoyed "The Last Full Measure" and would have enjoyed it even more had I not had a time constraint. The book was especially interesting to me and would be to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. The author does a great job of writing in a way that made me feel as if I were actually seeing the story first hand. The descriptions he used engaged my senses, I could smell and almost taste the coffee. The book was emotional and gripping until the end. I greatly enjoyed reading "The Last Full Measure". - EJC

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2006

    defanitly better than god and generals

    while not as good as the killer angels this book is ten times better than god and generals

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2005

    Reading this book put me on the road to Petersburg!

    Just as father Michael Shaara's 'Killer Angels' made a trip to Gettysburg absolutley necessary, son Jeff's 'Last Full Measure' provided the incentive for me to hop in my car VERY early one morning and make what Tony Horwitz refers to as a Civil Wargasm . . . a day trip from home in Raleigh to Petersburg and then a trek that followed Lee's line of retreat through Five Forks, to Saylors Creek, to Farmville and finally to Appomatox. Most good historical novels make me more interested in the places they portray. Shaara books make me get up and go there!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2003

    Absolutely Gripping

    This book is simply outstanding. It is mesmerizing, and I could not put it down. It does a fine job of bringing to life Mr. Grant and making one appreciate the complexities of his personality. Those who fell under the spell of Colonel Chamberlain will be well rewarded by this final chapter in the trilogy. A Great Civil War book!

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