Digging deeply into his soldiers' writing, Carmichael resists the idea that there was "a common soldier" but looks into their own words to find common threads in soldiers' experiences and ways of understanding what was happening around them. In the end, he argues that a pragmatic philosophy of soldiering emerged, guiding members of the rank and file as they struggled to live with the contradictory elements of their violent and volatile world. Soldiering in the Civil War, as Carmichael argues, was never a state of being but a process of becoming.
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Carmichael's deep focus on individual stories brings to life the complexity of the soldier experience better than any existing book in the field.Lorien Foote, author of The Yankee Plague
The question of why men fought has long engaged students and scholars of the Civil War. Extending his attention to many untapped, unexplored aspects of the military experiencefrom the glorious to the ghastlyCarmichael has done a masterful job in painting a complex, and vivid portrait of the common soldier North and South. His characters test their courage on the battlefield, keep faith with the home front, test their belief in country, family, and God, and develop new communities among their brother soldiers. Carmichael has combined exhaustive research, deep analysis, and graceful writing to assemble one of the best such accounts ever produced.Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln and the Power of the Press