GLORY ROAD by Bruce Catton
Doubleday (February 13, 1952), 389 pages
Glory Road is the author’s second book in his “The Army of the Potomac” trilogy. Picking up the narrative with Ambrose Burnside’s ascension to the head of the Army, the reader is witness to first the bloody disaster of Fredericksburg in December, 1862 and then the dismal and ultimately fruitless “Mud March” of early 1863. With the incompetent Burnside replaced by “Fighting Joe” Hooker, we follow the Army to yet another disaster – and arguably Robert E. Lee’s finest hour on the battlefield – at Chancellorsville. The volume concludes with the fateful three days at Gettysburg during the summer of 1863.
As in the previous volume, Catton chronicles this part of the story with battle scenes, anecdotes, first-person accounts, analysis and mini-bios of the historical figures involved – all without a dull moment. The reader also spends as much time off the battlefields as on them. Catton explains how many Union soldiers bent the rules to exploit medical leave – never to return - as well as how the troops spent their time in camp between battles – including “cavorting” with the Rebels, particularly with the regular but “illicit” trade of coffee, tobacco and news.
In Glory Road we meet Oliver Morton, Governor of Indiana, who then became the virtual dictator of that state during the war. Ohio’s Clement Vallandigham enters the story for his brief moment in the spotlight, an antiwar Democrat and self-styled leader of the “Copperheads”. Lincoln’s handling of this potentially volatile problem and man being another example of his common-sense genius. (Lincoln exiled him to the Confederacy, who didn’t value Vallandigham’s presence any more than the Union did.)
The reader is also privy to the continued machinations and turmoil in Washington, DC during this time, as President Lincoln sought the “right” general for the Army while wrestling with politicians who all thought they knew better than he how to fight and win the war.
Through all this Catton does a wonderful job in chronicling and explaining the unplanned but inevitable evolution of both the Union and its Army.
For Civil War “novice” or “expert” alike – a wonderful book.
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