|Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881), the Union commander at Fredericksburg|
In No Greater Courage: A Novel of the Battle of Fredericksburg Richard Croker's novelization of the events leading up to and including the Battle of Fredricksburg in December of 1862 is just about as good as it gets in the "cast of thousands" (lots and lots of characters) type of historical fiction.
Due to the nature of this sort of book, it is just about impossible to get too deeply involved in many of these characters. But, Croker does an admirable job of giving us something to know about each of them, reminding the reader who each character is when they re-join the narrative and then we get to watch them in arugably the Union Army of the Potomac's worst moments. Most of the characters are real and not all of them are big generals. Not only do we get to see the action in the battle itself, but there is plenty of focus on the behind-the-scenes political intrigue that demonstrates how truly talented Lincoln was as a politician and also the dangers of too much civilian interference in purely military matters.
The only complaint I have concerns maps. There are not enough of them and the maps that are included are so stylized that I had difficulty reading them. Fortunately, the maps are not absolutely necessary for the book to be enjoyed and if you find yourself confused, historical maps of this battle abound on the internet.
I hope that Richard Croker is working on another book. Chancellorsville comes up next chronologically and he would do a great job with it.
Croker's previous novel of the Civil War, To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam is not required pre-reading to enjoy this novel.
I rate this novel 5 stars out of 5.
Reviewed on September 15, 2008.