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Hymns of the Republic    by S. C. Gwynne order for
Hymns of the Republic
by S. C. Gwynne
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2019 (2019)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Carrol Wolverton

Personalities Make for Good Story Telling, Even in War ...

Clara Barton was the only real hero of the Civil War. She brought Northern troops more modern medical treatment and constant supplies. Imagine being treated with reused bandages as was sometimes done. The rest of the tales reek of brutal death on both sides. The South was badly outnumbered and often ill-equipped with inadequate food, clothing, and old weaponry. As the end neared some had no shoes. The South fought a war of tenacity. Communication was sometimes wrong or non-existent on both sides. Sherman fought a battle after the war was over. Nobody told him.

Excellent leaders existed on both sides, but there were many terrible ones as well. Politically appointed generals were the worst with no taste for the realities of war. The gap between Washington leadership and the forces dying in the trenches was unbelievable. Washington socialites partied on.

Lincoln's main purpose was not to free the slaves as some historians tell us. It was to preserve the Union. The abolitionists prevailed, however, and freedom became part of the fight. Black troops aided the Union effort and making warriors out of freed slaves gave the Union something to do with the refugees and added positively to fighting troops when utilized properly.

Ironically, the North was as guilty as to South when it came to slavery. Most shipments of slaves and slave markets operated through New York City. Northerners had slaves as well as did plantation owners. Former slaves often did only menial work. Equality was long in coming and still is, particularly in the South. The Union soldier was paid a range of $13-$20 a month, the black soldier $7 regardless of rank. Freedom meant freedom to starve.

What makes this book so readable is the author's depiction of the humanity involved. Personalities make for good storytelling. Grant was a great general and largely responsible for Lincoln's re-election. But, he was also responsible for massive killings and not looking back. He suffered mood swings and depression. Lincoln's wife was a malcontent and hard to deal with. Mary Lincoln was not available while her dead husband's body lay in state. Bad Politics ran rampant with one leader taking offense at the advancement of another. Wives were particularly difficult if they thought they were passed over socially. All this points to the great disconnect between Washington and the blood-letting fields. Clara Barton, however, worked where needed on into old age.

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