Tag Archives: Civil War

Review: And The War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart

So yesterday, I sat down and finished the last book I wanted to read for the War Through the Generations Civil War reading challenge.

For my third (and last) book, I picked And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart by Jamie Malanowski, published by Byliner. I purchased this copy and read it on my Kindle Fire.

Product description (from Amazon):

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Jamie Malanowski, lead writer of The New York Times’ highly acclaimed Disunion blog, masterfully recounts the origins of America’s greatest national tragedy in real time.

Drawing on diaries, speeches, and newspaper accounts of the six months leading up to the first shots fired on Fort Sumter, And the War Came chronicles the events that tore the nation apart, and delves into the hearts and minds of the men and women who tried in vain to avoid a conflict on American soil.

From the controversial election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 and the failed Crittenden Compromise to the secession of seven Southern states and the election of Jefferson Davis, Malanowski draws indelible portraits of the politicians and soldiers who controlled the country’s destiny. And by unfolding, week by week, the major issues and emotional nuances that led to the Civil War, he sheds new light on the darkest period in American history.

And the War CameAs Malanowski writes in the forward: The way we learn about history is strikingly at odds with the way we experience current events and life in general.

In the following pages, he does an excellent job of remedying this by presenting the six months that leading up to the Civil War in “real time.” In a combination of verbatim source material from diaries, speeches, editorials along with narrative written in mostly present tense, the era really comes alive.

I was immediately drawn into the narrative, which begins seven days before the election of 1860 and ends with the surrender of Fort Sumter. Each section, whether narrative, a diary entry, or an editorial, is fairly short. This makes the book fast paced and very easy to follow.

What it reminded me of is reading political blogs, news sites, and personal blogs. If you’re a news and political blog junkie, I think you’ll enjoy the way this book is written. Malanowski really does achieve his aim in putting us right there. A couple of times while I was reading, I had to pause and remind myself that the events described weren’t happening right now.

This is another one I recommend. It’s short, but packed with both information, attitude, and even humor (much of it at the expense of President Buchanan). If you’re looking for a quick, insightful way to round out your Civil War reading challenge, And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart by Jamie Malanowski would be a great choice.

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War Through the Generations: Two Girls of Gettysburg review

Okay, so I read this book back in January and it’s now … August. Yes, it’s about time I finish this review. My tardiness has nothing to do with the book. Much of what I read stayed with me: a sign of an enjoyable and meaningful book.

From the back cover:

Lizzie and Rosanna are cousins who share a friendship that should last forever. But when the Civil War breaks out, they find themselves on opposite sides. Lizzie joins the cause of the Union as her brother and father fight for freedom. Rosanna is swept up in the passions of the old South–and her love for a young Confederate officer.

Torn apart by their alliances and separated from each other, Lizzie and Rosanna are tested by love, tragedy, and the sacrifices they must make to survive. It will take one of the war’s bloodiest battles–at Gettysburg–to bring them together again, forever changed.

Two Girls of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein unfolds slowly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although at nearly 400 words, it might put off some readers. My advice? Keep going. It’s worth it.

Lizzie is a prickly narrator at first, defensive and insecure at times. Her cousin Rosanna is flighty and superficial. One thing I enjoyed about the story is how the author stayed true to the girls’ core personalities, yet showed how they changed and grew during the course of the story.

The historical detail is excellent and accessible for those new to reading about the Civil War. While we do see and hear about many battles, we also get a good feel for what life was like for those not in either the Union or Confederate Army. But there’s plenty of that as well. Not just battles, but the aftermath, and conditions the soldiers (and those who cared for them) lived in.

One thing that struck me was how one became a nurse. Rosanna is literally handed a basin of water and cloth and told to get busy. For Rosanna, this is a trial by fire, most definitely. And at first, she is only there because of her young Confederate officer. As the story unfolds, it turns out that this may be her calling.

Likewise, Lizzy has to put her dreams of further schooling on hold to run the family business. At first resentful, she soon takes to business, if not necessarily the family one.

And as the title and summary imply, the do meet again in Gettysburg and maybe they get to witness President Lincoln’s famous address.

There’s a lot to like in Two Girls of Gettysburg. It’s a great place to start if you’re unsure about Civil War era fiction.

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