To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War

To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War

by Jeff Shaara

Paperback(Reprint)

$15.30 $17.00 Save 10% Current price is $15.3, Original price is $17. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Want it by Friday, December 21 Order now and choose Expedited Shipping during checkout.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345461360
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/30/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 672
Sales rank: 105,099
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 7.99(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

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 in Gettysburg.

Hometown:

Kalispell, Montana

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1952

Place of Birth:

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Education:

B.S. in Criminology, Florida State University, 1974

Read an Excerpt

1. THE REPLACEMENT

The British Lines, Near Ypres,
Western Belgium–Autumn 1915

The darkness was complete, a slow march into a black, wet hell. He was the last man in the short column, one part of a line of twenty men, guided by the low sounds in front of him, soft thumps, boots on the sagging duckboards. There were voices, hard whispers, and, close to him, a hissing growl from the sergeant: “Keep together, you bloody laggards! No stopping!”

No one answered, no protests. Each man held himself tightly inside, the words of the sergeant swept aside by the voices in their own minds, a tight screaming fear, the only response they could have to this march into the black unknown.

They had come as so many had come, crossing the Channel on small steamers, filing through the chaos of the seaports, and after a few days, they had boarded the trains. There was singing, bands playing along the way, the raucous enthusiasm of young recruits. They had stared curiously at the French and Belgian countryside, returning the smiles of the people who greeted them at every stop, and few noticed that as the trains moved farther inland, closer to the vast desolation of the Western Front, the villagers were quieter, the faces more grim. Then the trains stopped, and the men were ordered out onto roads that had seen too much use, repaired and repaired again. They would march now only at night, hidden from the eyes in the air, the aeroplanes that sought out targets for German artillery. If the roads were bad, the small trails and pathways were worse, men stumbling in tight files, moving closer still to the front. The fire in the recruits was dampened now, by the weather, the ever-present mud, the soggy lowlands of Flanders. Then came the first sounds, low rumbles, louder as they marched forward. Even in the darkness, both sides threw a nightly artillery barrage at the other, some firing blind, some relying on the memory of the daytime, a brief glimpse of movement on the road, convoys of trucks and horse-drawn carts. Some had the range, knew every foot of the road that stretched out behind the enemy’s lines. Throughout the night, the targets might be unseen, but they were there, and every man at every big gun knew that in the darkness, each road, each small path might be hiding great long lines of men, new recruits, the replacements who marched quietly to the front.

His guts were a twisted knot, his arms pulled to his sides, one hand tightly curled around his rifle, his eyes straining at the unseen man in front of him. The soft wood beneath him was bouncing now, sagging low, and his knees buckled, trying to match the rhythm of the footing. There were more soft sounds, splashes, the duckboards spread across some chasm of black water. His mind tried to focus, one foot in front of the other, keeping his boots on the narrow wooden boards. He imagined a great pond, inky and deep, the duckboards some kind of bridge, but the image was not complete, his mind shouting at him, to the front, focus to the front. The man in front of him made a low grunt, water splashing, the man stepping hard, trying to catch himself.

“Bloody hell!”

He stumbled as well, his boots down in the water, the duckboards sagging too low, and he felt the man suddenly beneath him. He fought for his balance, falling now, one hand pushing down hard on the man’s back.

“Get off me, you bloody bastard!”

“Shut up, Greenie! On your feet!” It was the sergeant again, and rough hands grabbed his arm, jerking him upright. Beneath him, the other man pulled himself to his feet, both of them gripped hard by the sergeant.

“Stay awake! Keep moving!”

He wanted to whisper something to the man in front, an apology, but the march was on again, the rhythm of his boots blending with the others, soft sounds of water and wood. He felt the wetness in his socks now, the chill of the water adding to the cold hard stone in his chest.

The replacements had been called Greenies from their first moment on the march, green troops, sent forward to rebuild the front-line units, fill the gaping holes in the British regiments. Their training had been rapid, some said far too rapid, a nation scrambling to find new soldiers, more soldiers than anyone had thought they would need. They had been parceled out into small squads by a system none of them understood, led by unfamiliar sergeants, hard, angry men who had done this work before, the men who knew the trails, who could find their way in the dark.

He had joined with many of his friends from the village, a small farming town near the Scottish border. No one had thought the army would be away from home through Christmas, but the newspapers spoke of great battles, a new horror for the world, words and places that seemed foreign and fantastic. In the village, there had been talk of young men who would not come home, strangers mostly, sons of farmers barely known, word of families in mourning. His friends spoke of the adventure of it all, that if any of them missed it, or worse, avoided it, they would be called shirkers, traitors to the king. No matter the accounts in the newspapers, a massive and bloody war that had swallowed the whole of Europe, few who lived in the small village could resist the call, to march in song and parade to join a war the likes of which Britain had not seen since Napoleon.

He tried to adjust his massive backpack, the darkness broken by a small clink of metal, his canteen rattling against the trenching tool that hung down the side of his pack. He had become used to the weight, the clumsy mass just part of the rhythm of the march, bouncing with him on the duckboards.

The ground beneath him was hard now, the wood not moving, no water, and the boots were louder, echoes in the darkness. He heard voices to one side, a group of men, still unseen, and the voices hushed as they passed. He stared through the darkness, wondering, officers perhaps, speaking of plans and tactics. He glanced up, no stars, the night still thick and black. A soft breeze swept past him, a wave of sharp odor. He hunched his shoulders, fought off the smell, but it was all through him, burning his nose, then harder still, sharp and sickening. The man in front of him made a choking sound, others as well, hard coughs, curses.

“Keep moving! That’s just the roses, you bloody greenies! Plenty more to come!”

The smell was settling dull in his mind, his brain numbing to it. The breeze seemed to stop, but the smells were still there, all around him, and the man in front of him said, “A horse. A bloody horse!”

He moved past the shape, could hear the hard buzz of flies, was grateful now for the dark. He squinted his eyes, fought through the worst of the smell, stared down for a long while. The march continued, more hard odor, different, unseen decay, and he focused on his footsteps, tried not to think of what lay rotting in the deep mud around him. He could see the faint outline of his boots, the motion steady, constant, realized he could see. He looked ahead of him, could see a shape, the man in front of him outlined in a dark gray mist. He glanced to the side, more shapes, low hulks, movement. The duckboards began to sag again, more splashes, and he looked down, each step pushing the water out in low ripples. He stared ahead, past the shadow of the man, tried to see beyond, to see where they were going, what the land looked like. The sergeant moved past him now, another hard whisper.

“The first trench line is just ahead. We’ll be at the guard post in a minute. Step down easy. We’re close. No talking. None! Old Fritz is just out there a ways!”

He could hear something new, a slight quiver in the sergeant’s voice. There was none of the profane anger, the mindless screaming at men who had done nothing wrong. He thought of the word, close. How close? Close enough that the sergeant is afraid? He felt his legs turning cold, the hard chill in his chest spreading. There was another low voice, unfamiliar, the words barely reaching him. He could see another man, a gray shape, an officer, speaking in low tones to the sergeant, the man’s words finding him through the heavy mist.

“Sergeant Cower . . . you’re late . . . daylight . . . heads low.”

Behind the two men there was another low, fat hulk. But the soft dawn was spreading, and he could see a shape, a fat round barrel. His heart jumped, hard tightness–of course, a cannon. A big one. The carriage was hidden, buried in the wet muddy ground, the barrel pointing out in the direction of the march. The sergeant was moving toward them again, waving his arm, a downward motion, words coming now, but there was a new sound, a hard whistle, ripping the air above them. The ground in front of him erupted, a mass of earth and men, and he felt himself pushed back, rolling down, his face hitting the mud, his backpack lurching up over his shoulders. There was another great scream, another shell landing a few yards to his left, the ground under him rising up in one great gasp, then settling back down. More dirt fell on him, heavy, a sharp punch into his backpack, nearly rolling him over. He gripped the ground, his hands clawing into the mud, but the sounds kept rolling over him, thunderous bursts, the ground still bouncing beneath him. He tried to breathe, blew a sharp breath out, his face buried in water, tried to raise his head, another great blast, lifting him up, dropping him again hard in the mud. He gasped for air, turned his face to the side, saw only smoke, no men, no great gun. He forced a breath, his throat seared by the heat. He looked for the sergeant, tried to shout, something, not words, fought for air, another scream above him, another great blast behind him, other sounds now, more screams. Men. The dirt settled on him again, and he thought of the sergeant, the man’s words, trench line, close. He raised his head up, saw motion, a man running, then another blast, the man disappearing, swept away. He tried to stand, the backpack nearly falling over his head, the weight pulling him over. He tried to run, his legs useless, soft jelly, felt a hand now, a hard grip under his arm.

“Let’s go! Move!”

The hand released him, and he reached down for his rifle, saw only water, the voice again.

“Move!”

The man was running out ahead, and he followed, pumped his legs through the churned-up mud, the backpack bouncing wildly. He saw the man drop down, a large round hole, more black water, and he followed, stumbled down, splashed hard, water up to his waist.

“Down!”

He rolled to one side, the backpack sinking beneath him, could sit now, water to his chest, the muddy rim of the hole above him, protection. The shells still came over them, but fell farther back now, the impact jarring him in hard rumbles. He wiped at his eyes, but the mud on his hands made it worse, and he blew hard through his nose, dislodging mud and water. His hands were empty, a new burst of fear, so many days of drill, of screaming sergeants, the routine pounded hard into every man, the punishment. Never lose your rifle. . . .

“My rifle . . . I dropped it! I have to go back. . . .”

The hand clamped hard on his shoulder again, and he saw the face of the sergeant.

“Stay put! There’s more rifles to be found. You wounded?”

The question confused him, and he looked down, saw only water, said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“You better check, Greenie. But keep down.”

He moved his hands along his sides, was suddenly terrified of what he would find. He felt for his legs, his hands probing slowly beneath the dark water, said, “I don’t know. It doesn’t hurt.”

The sergeant did not laugh, said, “Roll over. Let me have a look. You could bloody well have a hole somewhere. There’s no pain, sometimes. Just a piece . . . goes missing.”

He turned, the backpack rising up beneath him. Now there was a short laugh, and the sergeant said, “No, don’t appear you been hit. But the quartermaster’s gonna be mighty ticked. You let Fritz blow the hell out of your pack.”

He slid the pack off, moved it around, saw shreds of cloth, the contents, his clothes, food rations, ripped to small bits of cloth and metal. He stared at the useless mass, pushed it away from him, watched it disappear into the water.

“Say a prayer, Greenie. Probably saved your neck.”

He probed again, his hands feeling his chest, stomach, and the sergeant was serious now.

“Naw, Greenie, you’re fine. If I hadn’t gotten you into this shell hole, you might have joined your mates. Direct hit . . .” The sergeant paused, looked up into the thick gray sky. “Shelling’s stopped. For now. You best get moving. Trenches should be ahead, if there’s still anything left. Chances are, those boys fared better than you greenies. Take a look. See if anyone’s moving.”

He slid to one side of the shell hole, adjusted his helmet, eased his head up slowly, and the sergeant said, “Go on, there’s nothing to fear now. Fritz can’t see you back this far. If they start shelling again, you know where to find me.”

He glanced up out of the hole, saw low drifting smoke, mounds of dirt, duckboards scattered, splintered. “I don’t see anything.” He turned, saw the sergeant staring at him, saw the man shivering, the water around him moving in low ripples.

“You best go on. They’re waiting for the greenies up ahead. You’ll see the trenches, a hole bigger’n this one, pile of sandbags. Tell the guards you’re a replacement for B Company. They’ll know where to put you.” He paused, took a long breath, spit something out into the black water. “Double-time it, though. Fritz could start his guns again.”

“I don’t know the way. I’ll wait for the others. You have to lead the way!”

He felt a small cold panic rising, stared at the sergeant, who said, “Go! I’ll be staying here.”

“But the others!”

He was angry now, furious at this man, this bully, the big man with the temper and the hard hands, quick to punish, quick in his abuse of the replacements. From the beginning of the march, the sergeant had been on them, cursing them, finding fault with every step. He moved through the water, closer to the sergeant, said, “Damn you! You cannot just order me. . . . I cannot just go alone! We must find the others!”

The sergeant closed his eyes for a moment, said softly, “Direct hit. The first shell . . . there are no others.”

“You’re mad! Twenty men!”

He scrambled to the edge of the shell hole, eased his head up, searched the dull gray. His heart was pounding again, the cold returning. He climbed up farther, pulled himself out of the hole, crawled slowly away. The smoke was mostly gone, the air now thick with wet mist, a light rain beginning to fall. He paused, listened, tried to hear voices, heard only the faint hiss of the rain. He glanced beyond the shell hole, toward the front lines, the place where the trenches were supposed to be. He raised his head up farther, felt suddenly naked, no rifle, nothing in his hands, no heavy mass on his back. He felt light, like an animal, stood up slowly, bent low, began to move back, followed the shattered trail of the duckboards. He could see the muddy ground broken into round patches of water, shell holes in every direction. He crouched low, saw a rifle, thought, mine . . . but the butt was missing, useless. He eased close to a shell hole, said in a low voice, “Anyone . . . ?”

He peered over the edge, saw an arm in the water, fingers curled in a loose grip around a rifle. He fought the sickness rising inside him, reached down, pulled at the rifle, the hand giving way, the arm now rising slowly, the man’s body pulled free of the mud below. He tried not to look, but the face turned up in the water, familiar, the name digging into him, Oliver. He turned away, pulled the rifle close to him, held it for a long moment, fought the tears, the panic. He tried to breathe, his throat tight, said in a low voice, “Sorry, old chap. I’ve lost my Enfield. Don’t expect you’ll tell the captain.”


From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

To the Last Man 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Jeff Shaara's latest effort 'To The Last Man',the book continues in the pattern of historically accurate fiction that he has established with his previous five novels.I found his very humanizing approach to such historical figures as Manfred von Richtofen very good. Seeing the Red Baron as a man rather than a walking symbol was very refreshing. I would recommend this book to any other Shaara fan or someone who appreciates a writer who does their historical homework.As a Civil War medical reenactor/livng historian,I know how difficult such research is and admire Jeff for taking the time to do it right. I eagerly await his next book.I'm sure his father would be proud.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jeff Shaara has done it again. He has written another masterpiece, this time on the often forgotten war that set the future of the Twentieth century and beyond. Shaara deviates slightly from his usual style in that, this book is essentially two books in one. It can be divided into three parts. The first 1/3 of the book deals almost exclusively with the air war focusing mainly on the heroics the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen and the French born American ace, Raoul Lufberry. In the middle 1/3 of the book, Shaara introduces Gen. Pershing and a young marine private named Roscoe Templer, which begins the second book as the first concludes with the deaths of Richthofen and Lufberry. The final 1/3 of the book focuses exclusively on the exploits and perils of the ground war. When it comes to the descriptive narrative of the horrors of war, I have always felt Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage set the standard. Shaara has surpassed that standard and has broken new ground with all of his books, this one included. Anyone who has ever served in the military will appreciate the detail of Shaara's narrative of the horrors that both the flying aces and the doughboys endured in World War I. As with all of Shaara's books, it is really a shame to call this a historical fiction as it is meticulously researched and historically accurate to the letter. Shaara captivates the reader by making history read like the best of literature. As with all of Shaara's books, this one is a must for the history classroom. Of course, it will probably never see the light of day in public schools, but home-schoolers should certainly utilize Shaara's gift for putting accurate military history in the form of intriguing and captivating resources for expanding ones knowledge of the events. Whether you are a novice or a World War I aficionado, you will love this book. If you have never read Shaara, this one will captivate you and have you soon reading his other fine works. You don't want to miss this book. Add it to your library now. You won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an avid Shaara reader, I couldn't wait for this book to come into press. To the Last is a great book to be sure, a quick read despite the length. Americans tend to overlook WWI because of our late entry into the war, so Shaara's genius is to find characters that are innately appealing to every reader. After reading the book, I went on the web to read about Lufberry and the Red Baron. Such fascinating stuff and Shaara brings it all to life. To the Last is outstanding but it falls short of the glorious Glorious Cause.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On page 309 of novel, TO THE LAST MAN, the author states the age of Colonel Billy Mitchell as being 69. THE controversial Air-Power advocate Mitchell was 39 years old in 1917. Is the author talking about a different Mitchell, or is this an error? Otherwise, a great book. Shaara brings humanity to history.
Karlstar on LibraryThing 3 months ago
For those unfamiliar with Jeff Shaara's work, this is a history of World War 1 from the point of view of 4 men. Raoul Lufberry, Manfred von Richthoften, Black Jack Pershing and Rosoe Temple. Shaara does not detail much about units or battles or timelines, instead he follows each individual through their daily lives as they move through the war. Unlike some of his books, 2 of his subjects don't survive the war and their story ends suddenly. If you aren't looking for a lot of numbers, information on weapons or precise battle detail, this is a great book. He presented enough information, with enough detail, and enough about the daily events of each person that the horror of this war comes through. If you have already closely studied any of the subjects, this book may not be for you as you may not agree with his interpretations. For everyone else, this is a great story of the war in France and Belgium.
oldman on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I have just completed Jeff Shaara¿s To the Last Man, a story of World War I. As with many of Shaara¿s books, the story is a weaving of historical fact into a novel format by expressing the thoughts and feelings of the characters followed. Four people are followed in this book, General John Pershing, Raoul Lufbery, Roscoe Temple and Baron Manfred von Richthoven. Many others, familiar to me and others new, are come in and out through the book. The opening is a superficial view of the economic, political and social climate in Europe when the time war began. From that point on chapters, or several chapters at a time, are devoted to a one person¿s experience. At first the war is a gentlemanly pursuit, but gradually the violence escalates. The Americans come in late, but are the last impetus to bring a close to the killing. World War I is the first war where massive munitions, airplanes and gas are used. The mechanization of war far outstrips the ability of any man to survive ¿ luck of the draw seems to rule whether you live another day or die now. The killing, maiming and destruction are described in enough detail to give some understanding of what these men endured. The book gradually builds, through the experiences of the characters, to climatic explosions, death and crushing, life-long damage to the souls of the men who survive. I do not know if the characters are all real. I do not know if the thoughts and feelings depicted here are exactly what these people felt. I do believe the responses Shaara paints are real and did happen to some of the participants in the upheaval. The end summary of each man, true or not, draws a picture of people haunted by what they experienced. Most of them died young. Most of them suffered their whole life from what they did and saw.This book is one of the first I have read drawing the picture of the hell on earth these people endured and how it changed them, not all for the better, for all their lives. I was haunted by the end where the living thought the lucky ones were the ones left behind ¿ maybe they were. I have read several of Jeff Shaara¿s books and learned from and enjoyed them all, so I may be biased in my review. Being a veteran and working with veterans though gives me a picture of what these people live with.I give this book five stars.
_________jt_________ on LibraryThing 3 months ago
My first (and only) Jeff Shaara. I realized almost immediately that the son was nowhere near as good as the father, and completely gave up after three hundred pages of utter boredom. 'Killer Angels' wasn't exactly gritty, but it was exciting and thoughtful and had emotional weight. This is namby-pamby bullshit.
santhony on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I am a huge fan of historical novels and history in general, yet despite being an avid reader for over 35 years, do not recall ever reading a novel dealing with the First World War. Why is this? I've read many novels centering on the Revolutionary War, dozens dealing with the Civil War (one of the best, Killer Angels, written by Jeff Shaara's father, Michael), likewise World War II and Vietnam. Maybe a couple on Korea, but never World War I, which is a shame, because as this novel so clearly demonstrates, it is an event rich with material. Written in a style identical to that frequently used by his father (selecting several combatents and following the events through their eyes), Shaara successfully takes us from the trenches, to the skies and finally to Pershing's AEF headquarters, with all the political intrigue surrounding it. I must admit to being almost embarressed by my lack of knowledge of this key era in American history. My only familiarity with The Red Baron (Baron von Richtofen) having been provided by Snoopy's narrative as he pilots his Sopwith Camel. This novel has left me wanting to learn more about the conflict and the personalities involved.
meegeekai on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Jeff Shaara will never hold a candle to his dad, but this is a pretty good novel on the First World War. It is told from many different perspective, something that is a trademark of the author. He uses both fictional and real historical figures to tell the story. There are some good stories here, but it is a novel, just the same. He has a new book out now on WW2 that I am reading presently. Once again, good book, just light on history.
bingereader on LibraryThing 5 months ago
One of the only books I have read by Shaara. Never having an interest in the civil war, I thought I would give this book a try. I was fairly disappointed and good not get past the first couple of chapters.Though an unfair comparison, I would prefer re-reading All Quiet on the Western Front than this nonsense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.It grabbed on the first page..could not put it down. I read it in one setting.The only other books that happened,The Cry of the Covenant ,The Magnificent Obsession,Tale of Two Cities, and The Godfather’s. Good company!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down. Every page gripping realism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many sides of this WWI book. Both the military and political strife that burdened the leaders on both sides. Peace treaty and other failures that lead the world into another disastrous war twenty years later
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
but not his best.
oldtimerJG More than 1 year ago
A very good read .
587Delta More than 1 year ago
Riveting. Learned more about WW1 than I learned in school. The insight from the different military perspectives was eye-opening. Couldn't put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TommyGalante More than 1 year ago
Jeff Shaara does another wonderful job on an often overlooked period of history.  With the anniversary of World War 1 coming up this is a must read for anyone interested in the topic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago