No Greater Courage: A Novel of the Battle of Fredericksburg

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Midway through its second year the Civil War was no closer to resolution. Pressured by politicians to deliver a significant victory in Southern territory before the winter set in, General Ambrose Burnside, the newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, quickly advanced his troops into Virginia toward the city of Fredericksburg.

It was a rash gamble, and a Union victory was totally dependent on the ...

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2006 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 417 p. Audience: General/trade. Brand new condition. No marks or wear. ... Not a remainder or library book. Unread, bookstore quality. Read more Show Less

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Midway through its second year the Civil War was no closer to resolution. Pressured by politicians to deliver a significant victory in Southern territory before the winter set in, General Ambrose Burnside, the newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, quickly advanced his troops into Virginia toward the city of Fredericksburg.

It was a rash gamble, and a Union victory was totally dependent on the element of surprise.

It was a terrible and bloody mistake . . .

With a vivid cast of characters that includes President Lincoln, General Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, as well as common soldiers on both sides, all based on actual participants, Richard Croker's No Greater Courage is a blazing narrative of one of the most infamous engagements of the Civil War—brilliantly re-creating the smoke, brutality, and incredible gallantry that was the Battle of Fredericksburg.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lincoln, Lee and Stonewall Jackson figure prominently in this historically accurate but wooden fictionalized account of the disastrous 1862 Union defeat at Fredericksburg. As the book opens, Lincoln has replaced the sluggish commander of the Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. George McClellan, with a reluctant Ambrose Burnside. Gen. Robert E. Lee's ruminations on Burnside's next steps, after hearing the news, are positively prophetic. Abraham Lincoln also muses, and he feels (surprise!) an ominous foreboding. So it goes. The historical characters remain two-dimensional: the pompous Union general in chief, Henry Halleck; selfless Clara Barton; the scheming Union general Joseph Hooker. Minor characters, some authentic, deliver the nuts and bolts of the story as they suffer the miseries of 19th-century campaigning. The Union army lumbers South, delayed too long at the river across from Fredericksburg, Va., as the soldiers await pontoon bridges. When the pontoons arrive, the army crosses and Burnside orders a suicidal attack against Lee's well-fortified position. The book concludes with Lincoln dismissing Burnside, and with more prophetic pessimism, appointing Hooker in his place. Croker's fast-moving debut aims for fans of Civil War battle novelizations, but falls short of classics like The Killer Angels. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Routine recounting of a crucial episode in Civil War history. Fought in the cold December of 1862, the Fredericksburg campaign combined classical set pieces with novel ways of slaughter; of the 12,000-plus Union soldiers killed or wounded there, more than half were cut down in front of a stone wall by raking fire then unfamiliar to the fife-and-drum battlefield tactics of the day. Former TV executive and documentary filmmaker Croker does a solid job of capturing the grimn horror of the day, although this tale seems more labored and cliched than his To Make Men Free (2004), about the equally sanguinary Battle of Antietam. As befits the genre, there are stoic, portentous moments highlighting the lonely leaders of the struggle-Lincoln, Lee and that old skinflint Salmon Chase, who takes time from brooding to enjoy the sight of a beautiful daughter ("Of all the things Chase hated, paying for Kate's dresses ranked high on the list-until he saw her in one"). There are patches of colorful language by hard-bitten veterans ("God damn those fat-ass quartermaster sons of bitches!"). There's nail-biting aplenty by worried strategists on both sides, busily moving masses of men across the wintry Virginia landscape. And then there are splendid moments by honest-to-goodness heroes such as Joshua Chamberlain and the pious Stonewall Jackson, more disturbed by the loss of churches than of the loss of men, and of course lots of bloodshed, for this was the battle where Lee famously remarked, "It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it." Yet in all this there is little of the storytelling flair or sense of drama of Michael Shaara's Killer Angels and all of the gravitas and slowness ofRonald Maxwell's 2003 film Gods and Generals, which seemingly tried to depict Fredericksburg in real time. A capable enough imagining of real events, though weighted down by genre formulas.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060559106
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Croker is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work has appeared on TBS, The Learning Channel, and the Discovery Digital Networks. A native of the South whose great-grandfathers fought for the Confederacy, Croker lives in Marietta, Georgia.

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Read an Excerpt

No Greater Courage

A Novel of the Battle of Fredericksburg
By Richard Croker

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Richard Croker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060559101

Chapter One

Harpers Ferry
November 12

Honest Johnny Jones was Wes Brainerd's manservant and oddly enough this unassuming, toothless little Welshman had a voice that could wake an army, and on this particular day the voice was not a happy one.

"I'm not understanding it a lick, Captain. The Good Lord and Abraham Lincoln's got something in mind for these lovely bridges, but I'm thinking sittin' around in the mud don't suit neither of their purposes."

"Well, that's all General Burnside's problem now, Johnny. He's in charge."

"If anybody in this infernal army had the God's good sense to put you in charge then we might have some kind of notion where these bridges ought to be headed! It seems Ol' Sideburns went to the Little Mac School o' War. We waited two months for McClellan to tell us to go nowhere and do nothin,' and now Burnside's givin' the same damned orders." Johnny puffed himself up like a make-believe Caesar shouting commands for the legions. " 'Look you now! Muck around in the mud for a bit and we'll holler for you right after we needs ya.' "

Wes Brainerd loved Johnny Jones. He was worth his salary for the entertainment value alone. "Congratulations on your promotion, General Jones. That is precisely what we shall do until told otherwise. And speaking of promotions, I think Major Spaulding deserves a cigar."

"Major Spaulding, indeed . . ."

Brainerd put up his hand and stopped Johnny in mid-sentence. "Save it for another time, Johnny. Right now I need to go over and congratulate Ira."

He put on his coat and braved the snow to give his old friend a pat on the back.

"Well, Major Spaulding, you don't look any less confused to me than Captain Spaulding did but congratulations anyway."

"Thanks, Wes -- I guess. It's not official yet." It was just a bit of an uncomfortable moment for Spaulding since both men knew the promotion should rightfully have gone to Brainerd. Spaulding considered broaching the subject but right now he had slightly more pressing issues. "Looks like we're packing up our bridges and heading off to Washington -- finally."

He handed Brainerd the orders that had just been delivered.



"Did you notice the date?"

"I was just handed them a minute before you came in. What's the date?"

Brainerd handed the orders back and pointed to the very top line.

Spaulding blinked a couple of times and shook his head. "November 6? That's almost a week ago!"

"Yeah -- and a week ago McClellan was still in command."

Spaulding continued to blink while he considered all the ramifications. Jeb Stuart and his cavalry were doing too good a job of taking down the telegraph lines and keeping them down, so there was no good way to get quick confirmation.

"Well, the orders are old and they come from a guy who just got fired, but other than that they seem sound."

Brainerd laughed but the joke wasn't intended. "Seriously, Wes, the army is entirely in Virginia now. There's little chance that Burnside has any plans to move back into Maryland, so the bridges are not likely to be needed here. The war is moving south and we need refitting. Hell, there's not a fit horse left in the herd, and if Washington's not where we need to be, it's sure as hell on the way."

"Well thought out, Major Spaulding! With a little hard work we can put some miles behind us before the sun sets."

Washington, D.C.

"I can't tell you how long I stood at the bottom of those stairs, Sam." Henry Villard signaled the bar boy for another round. The New York Tribune's Washington office was ever-so-conveniently located directly across the street from the Willard Hotel, where the chairs at the bar were much more comfortable. "Whoa! Not for me, Henry!"

"You're getting soft, Sam. Washington Bureau chiefdom is making you citified. I remember when Sam Wilkeson could out-drink Sam Grant!"

"More than Grant maybe, but never more than, what is it, Ferdinand Heinrich Gustav Whatever-the-hell-your-name-used-to-be."

Villard laughed. "Hilgard and I regret the day I ever told you that." The drinks came and Wilkeson accepted his just as though he had never considered refusing it. "Why in hell would I tell my most closely guarded personal secret to a reporter?"

"Dummkopf, maybe?"

"Dummkopf -- ja. Anyway, I can't tell you how long I stood there because I don't know."

"I've stood there too. We all have. Climbing up those steps to Greeley's office is like climbing into hell."

"Yeah -- at least you get to fall into hell -- at the Tribune they make you climb! Sam, I rode into Rebel artillery fire at Perryville without a second thought, but I was scared pissless to climb those damned steps."

"That's because you'd rather get fired at than get fired." Grins from both men.

"Var." The beers were taking their toll on Villard, and exhaustion, elation, anger, or drunkenness sometimes caused him to lapse back into German. "I mean, 'true.' "

"They very well might have fired you that day. The old man was humiliated at having to reprint the Gazette story about Shiloh in the Trib." Wilkeson sipped his whiskey. Villard gulped his beer.

"Lost in the mail. I couldn't hop on a horse and 'spur' my way to New York like Smalley did after Antietam."

"He spurred a horse for a minute and then he spurred a train for the rest of the trip."

"And he'll be more than happy to tell you about it too."

"What was it like at Shiloh, Henry? Was it as bad as they say? Was it as bad as Bull Run?"

"Sam, you really need to get back into the war. Bull Run -- First Bull Run -- was a goddamned picnic! Our soldiers ran at Bull Run because they could! We had the river at our backs at Shiloh. We couldn't run. And the Rebels just kept on coming!"

"How did Grant do? Really?"


Excerpted from No Greater Courage by Richard Croker Copyright © 2006 by Richard Croker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2007

    A reviewer

    This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read. It is told from the point of view of several characters, including Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson, and Winfield Scott Hancock, as well as several privates on both sides of the battle. Good job, Mr. Croker!

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