Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Soldier's Pen: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War

by Robert E. Bonner

From the publisher:
They are all infantrymen; none were commissioned officers. One is a German-speaking artist whose sole record is nineteen stunning watercolors that cover a year’s enlistment. Another is a free black from Syracuse, New York. Six are from slave states, one of whom was a Unionist. Drawing from the more than 60,000 documents housed in the privately held Gilder Lehrman Collection, Robert E. Bonner has movingly reconstructed the experiences of sixteen Civil War soldiers, using their own accounts to knit together a ground-level view of the entire conflict.

The immediacy of diaries and the intimacy of letters to loved ones accompany the humor of an anonymous cartoonist from Massachusetts, the vivid paintings of Private Henry Berckhoff.

All reproduced for the first time in The Soldier’s Pen, the documents and images that Bonner weaves together, providing context and explanation as required, powerfully re-create the day-to-day lives of the soldiers who fought and died for Union and Confederacy. Not since the 2000 publication of Robert Sneden’s paintings and papers in Eye of the Storm has a collection of original Civil War documents so evocatively captured the war.

Assistant professor of history at Michigan State University, Robert E. Bonner is the author of two previous books on the Civil War. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.

"For anyone interested in viewing America's traumatic Civil War from the perspective of ordinary individuals who found themselves in the Union and Confederate armies, Robert E. Bonner’s The Soldier's Pen: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War will be a very rewarding experience. This expertly edited collection of letters and drawings mailed to the families and friends of sixteen ‘typical’ but quite diverse citizen–soldiers conveys a deeply human dimension to America’s most dehumanizing war." —David Brion Davis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World

"Walt Whitman once said of the Civil War that ‘The real war will never get in the books.’ But the real war does get into this book, in the form of letters and diaries written by sixteen enlisted men, Union and Confederate, who tell it like it was."
—James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom

"Robert E. Bonner has not only found some of the most riveting, impassioned, humorous, and powerful Civil War letters and journals ever written, he has brilliantly woven them together so that the overall collection reads like a first-rate work of literature. The Soldier’s Pen is a masterpiece of scholarship and, without question, one of the most extraordinary anthologies of Civil War correspondence I have ever read." —Andrew Carroll, editor of The New York Times bestselling WAR LETTERS