Looking back on his Civil War service, Oliver Wendell Holmes recalled that he and other veterans of that long and terrible struggle had lived at a time when "our hearts were touched by fire." In a very real sense, the men and women who lived through the Civil War years never lost sight of the experiences that were attendant to that internecine conflict. The Civil War claimed over 620,000 American lives. Fully 20% of the men who served in that war fell to shot, shell, starvation, or disease. In this volume of Virginia Schomp's "Letters from the Battlefront" series readers will be introduced not only to the mainstream events of the Civil War but also to some of the intimate thoughts of a handful of participants. In this informative work the author combines a straightforward and concise history of the war with a smattering of primary source materials. These primary source documents take the form of personal letters from folks who lived through the war years. Readers will be given an opportunity to read the words of Union soldiers, Confederates, nurses, and former slaves. Through these straightforward selections history is made brighter and more appreciable. As in other books in this fine series, and in the author's companion series entitled "Letters from the Homefront," younger readers with an emerging or developed interest for this time period will gain valuable insights into the American Civil War. 2004, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 12 up.
Greg M. Romaneck
Gr 6-9-Schomp seeks to tell the story of the Civil War through eyewitness accounts, a worthy idea, but the book does not live up to expectations. Indeed, students unfamiliar with the conflict might be more confused than helped. The author succeeds when she narrows her focus to a certain group or event; for example, "Women at the Front" is interesting and compelling. But the chapters that cover the war itself feel like a motorcycle ride through history, racing from one battle to the next with little depth, all in an attempt to set the scene for a brief statement from a participant. The illustrations are adequate, although several familiar black-and-white photos have been colorized. There are several better choices for primary-source material. For younger researchers, Milton Meltzer's Voices from the Civil War (HarperCollins, 1989; o.p.) remains a solid selection; older students can rely on Richard Wheeler's Voices of the Civil War (Meridian, 1990).-Elizabeth M. Reardon, McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.