Tom Taylor's Civil War
Our hurly-burly sagas of war often overlook the deep connections between warriors and the families they left behind. In Tom Taylor's Civil War, eminent Civil War historian Albert Castel brings that familial connection back into sharp focus, reminding us again that soldiers in the field are much more than mere cogs in the machinery of war.
A young Ohio lawyer, Thomas Taylor was a junior officer who fought under Sherman at Vicksburg and Chattanooga and on the march through Georgia, and his diary and letters contain vivid descriptions of numerous skirmishes and battles over four years. By interweaving Taylor's words with his own narrative, Albert Castel has fashioned a work on the Civil War as engrossing as a novel; by also including letters from Taylor's wife, he has created a whole new dimension for viewing that conflict.
“An absorbing and emotionally wrenching glimpse at the toll taken on an intelligent, sensitive many by the strains of combat and separation from his family.”
“By breathing life into one story, Castel honors the many and provides an important yet seldom seen glimpse of the real war.”
—North & SouthSee all reviews...
“Castel has written a smooth-flowing narrative which places Taylor and his activities into the context of his time. Historians and buffs alike will want to read this book which alerts both to the worth of Taylor’s words.”
—Journal of Military History
“Castel’s editing makes this book a pleasure to read. Taylor’s observations of key commanders and events, including Sherman’s March to the Sea, Lincoln’s second inaugural, and the city of Washington after Lincoln’s assassination are brought to life in great detail.”
—Civil War History
“[Taylor’s] long, detailed, lively letters and diary entries make his tale fascinating. So too do the letters his wife wrote to him; they provide valuable insight into the trials of wartime marriage.”
—Journal of American History
“Any Civil War enthusiast interested in the campaign for Atlanta would be well served to have this book in his or her personal library.”
—Journal of the West
“An extremely well-written and fascinating book that will be quite valuable to military historians and highly accessible to general readers.”
—Michigan Historical Review
“Castel’s innovative and eminently readable presentation should delight general readers and scholars alike.”
—William C. Davis, author of The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy
“The long excerpts from Taylor’s diary and correspondence with his wife include a great deal of valuable material on campaigns and battles, illuminate Taylor's shifting attitudes and opinions about the war and politics, and reveal the ways in which the war placed stress on the Taylors’ marriage. The book also contains excellent descriptive passages about famous figures—among them Lincoln and Sherman—and about the southern country-side and the war’s impact on it and Confederate civilians.”
—Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate WarSee fewer reviews...
Often written under adverse conditions, Taylor's descriptions of military encounters are filled with vivid details and perceptive observations. His passages especially provide new insight into the Georgia campaign—including accounts of the Battles of Atlanta and Ezra Church—and into the role of middle-echelon officers in both camp and combat. Castel's bridging narrative is equally dramatic, providing an overview of the fighting that gives readers invaluable context for Taylor's eyewitness reports.
The book chronicles not only Taylor's military career but also the strains it placed on his marriage. Taylor had gone off to war both to fight for his Unionist beliefs and to enhance his reputation in his community, while his wife, Netta, was a peace Democrat whose letters constantly urged Tom to return home. Their epistolary conversation-rare among Civil War sources-reflects a relationship that was as politically charged as it was passionate. Taylor's passages also reveal his changing attitudes: from favoring strong measures against the rebels at the beginning of the war to eventually deploring the destruction he witnessed in Georgia.
Tom Taylor's Civil War is a moving account of one man whose life was ripped apart by war and of the woman back home who remained his anchor through it all. Combining the best features of biography and autobiography, it paints a compelling picture of that conflict that will stir the heart as much as the imagination.