Alden R. Carter
† The American Civil War has held a fascination that has lasted over 140 years.† Many forms of literature, movies and television have told the stories of this time and have ranged from the pure historical to the humorous.† All have attempted to bring to people of our time an understanding as to how this war came about.
BRIGHT STARRY BANNER follows such books as THE KILLER ANGELS and GODS AND GENERALS by putting a human face on the people that were actually there at Stones River.
† Instead of the dry matter of fact writings of the historians we have a better picture of the commanders and the subordinates and regular troopers that fought there on those cold December days in Tennessee.
† In this book, Mr. Carter has given us an inside look as to how the battle was fought and also a look into the clash of egos that made up both sides. Rosecrans for example, is shown to be a leader; always in the thick of the fighting directing the Union countermoves from his horse. His personality is that of a loyal soldier, but not with out his own set of prejudices against some of his fellow officers. He does not care for Ulysses Grant often deriding him in his conversations.† Yet he is open to suggestions from his staff on to fight the battle.
† Braxton Bragg, however, is shown to be a man ill suited to command a major combat command. He is not receptive to reports from his division commanders, inflexible when the plan is made and will not react to the union countermoves. He is petty, ill tempered and should never have been placed in command of one of the major armies of the Confederacy. He is in short a good staff officer, but as combat commander leaves much to be desired. He is as much responsible for the failure of the Army of Tennessee to defeat the Union forces as any.† The sad thing about the Army of Tennessee is that two years later, it is once again under command of an officer that should never have commanded a major command, General John B. Hood. He would finish what Bragg and Polk started at Stones River at Franklin when the Union Army would destroy the Army of Tennessee.
Instead of a two dimensional picture, Mr. Carter gives a three dimensional view and draws the reader into the minds of the soldiers, to see their strengths and their weaknesses, their fears, in short he makes these men come alive once again.
†† Mr. Carter tells the story of Stones River in such a way as to transport the modern reader into what the battle was like. He unfolds it like a modern movie, with each chapter concentrating on a section of the battle. He goes down to the individual soldier in the ranks and tells their story. We see the heroism and the villainy that is part of the tapestry of war. It is not a pretty picture either and this strikes home as we are taken to the field hospitals where the doctors try to save the life of the soldier by cutting the shattered arm or leg off a wounded soldier, with the same blades that had been used on countless others without even cleaning the blood off them.
† This is not to say that he didnít have moments of levity either. He tells the tale of a Union corporal that had managed to catch a chicken for himself and his messmates and had their meal interrupted by a Confederate attack, only to find when they return to their campsite, that the chicken stew had survived the fighting and was now ready for consumption.
†† Such things do happen in war, no matter when, no matter where. And these are the stories that many veterans tell instead of the actual recounts of the fighting.
And it is these stories that help give a human face on one of the most evil part of human nature.
†† Mr. Carterís writing is never boring, nor does he slip into the mistake of analyzing the battle. His words flow in such a way as to keep the reader involved with the characters and wanting to know more about them.† I found myself wanting to more about the war in the West and to think. This is the highest compliment that a writer could hope to achieve and that is to make the reader want to know more.† In this Mr. Carter has succeeded most handsomely.
†† Mr. Carter doesnít pull any punches with his story and while it does have some rough moments (I donít recommend this to anyone under 17 due to some harsh language and adult passages.) he uses them to advance the story of men under extreme conditions.
†† This is an excellent human study of man at war, with himself, with his government, and with his fellow man.† It deserves a place beside such books like THE KILLER ANGELS and GODS AND GENERALS.†
††† BRIGHT STARRY BANNER is deserving of a place in every reader of military and Civil War library.
The Mason Dixon Gazette-
The Official Publication of the American Civil War Gamer Club