Saturday 30 April 2011

An Eye for Glory

Finished April 30
An Eye for Glory: the Civil War chronicles of a citizen soldier by Karl Bacon
I picked up an advance copy of this title at a conference earlier this year and once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. The citizen soldier here is Michael Palmer, a married father, who feels compelled by his religious feelings to fight in the war against slavery. He knows that others are fighting for other reasons, but that is his reason. He doesn't want his children growing up in a country that allows slaves.
He enlists voluntarily after feeling that God wants him to fight, and his best friend John joins along with him. His story is told after the war, as a record for his children, put together from memories, his journals, and letters to and from his wife. He was in the war for several battles including Gettysburg. He sees friends die, sees both good and bad leadership and decisions, and sees the horrors of war firsthand. At first he isn't sure he can kill, but finds that in the heat of battle he can. It is only when he encounters an enemy soldier that he has mortally wounded, and that takes his last moments to find comfort in the Bible, that he begins to question himself. He internalizes these issues, sharing them with no one, and just goes on with his duty. But it changes him deeply, and it is only when he returns the bible to the soldier's widow that he finds a change he can live with.
This was an interesting view of the war from the view of one soldier, an educated man with a strong sense of  morals. We see his questions and struggles and how he deals, or doesn't deal with them. We also get a sense of the futility of battle often felt by those in the ranks, who simply obey orders. With this year being the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the war, it seemed a good time to read more about it.

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