Book Review of "Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War" by S.C. Gwynne
Published by Scribner
There are lot of books available about the American Civil War, and it's little wonder. It was the bloodiest chapter in American History. More Americans died between 1861 and 1865 than in any war before or since. Interest in the Civil War has never waned. Its repercussions are still felt to this day, some 155 years after the cannons and rifles fell silent.
A few of these book have become classics. "Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War" by S.C. Gwynne is destined to become another. Mr. Gwynne has done more than just recite the traumatic events of the war's final year. He transports his readers back in time. He has put flesh to bone with the skill of a surgeon and brought these men and women whose actions defined an era back to life.
Through Mr. Gwynne's remarkable talent, he has allowed us to see into the minds of not just men like Lincoln, Davis, Grant, Lee, Sherman or Jackson, but of other significant individuals such as Clara Barton, Fredrick Douglas and understand their decisions from their eyes. Gwynne strips away the halos and horns; removes the illustrious from their pedestals and shows us the souls of the men and women who lived through this remarkable and terrible time in American history, and in doing so plows ground often left bare to reveal remarkable treasures long forgotten.
Through the author we relive the great battles; to see how they unfolded and what impacted each calculation. Gwynne exposes the fleeting strokes of genius and nagging doubts which tormented the men whose decisions would affect thousands of lives, adding drama to each page as it's turned. In addition, Mr. Gwynne's "Hymns of the Republic" moves beyond that to provide us with glimpses into the lives of the ordinary soldier and the average civilian who often paid the price, sometimes the ultimate price, of war.
Of particular note is the amount of attention Mr. Gwynne gives to the life of the common slave, be it the ordinary man or woman tolling side by side with their master on small farms throughout the rural South or on the large plantations. Great emphasis , often missing from similar books, is placed on those few willing to take charge of their destiny; of how their escape from bondage to take up arms in the Union Army to occasionally find that life was little better than it had been under their old masters. Prejudice, hatred and bigotry were traits not confined to the South.
It is said that to forget history is to repeat history. America today is more divided than at any other time since the decade preceding the war. It's critical for us to understand how and why this war took in order to avoid repeating its costly mistakes. Anyone with an interest in history, the Civil War, or the lives of those who lived it will thoroughly enjoy "Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War" by S.C. Gwynne. This is a must buy! 325 pages.