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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Best Little Stories From the Civil War: More Than 100 True Stories by C. Brian Kelly with Ingrid Smyer



This is a review of the 3rd edition, released by Cumberland House in 2010. The 1st edition was released in 1994. The 2nd edition was released in 1998.

When I read Civil War histories I enjoy the standard, sweeping re-telling of the tale with the battles and the politics. But, I also enjoy those little nuggets of history that make the larger story more personal - stories like the general who chastised his men for hiding from a sniper and then immediately gets hit by that sniper and falls over dead. Or, the story of how Booker T. Washington picked his last name. Or, one of my favorites, the story of the 90 day recruit who was due to leave immediately after the First Battle of Bull Run - but Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman refused to hear about it and if he tried to leave he would shoot him "like a dog." That same day Lincoln came by to review the troops, the man complained that Sherman threatened him. Lincoln interrupted and told him in a loud stage whisper, "Well, if I were you and Colonel Sherman threatened to shoot, I would not trust him for, by Heaven, I believe he would do it."

Those nuggets are like the marshmallow pieces in Lucky Charms - they make the cereal more fun. If you compare those little stories in a standard history to the marshmallows in Lucky Charms, well than this book is almost all marshmallows, which is kinda fun.


Varina Howell Davis (1826-1906),
the  only First Lady of the Confederate States of America
Kelly notes in the introduction that these nuggets make the history more personal and can tell huge amounts about the larger story. Booker T. Washington's story tells about the condition of American slaves and how they wanted to demonstrate their new found independence. The story about Colonel Sherman demonstrates that Lincoln would support officers with backbone and the he was serious about creating an effective army. Also, it shows Lincoln's trademark sense of humor and how it was valuable in getting people to do what he needed them to do.

This book is a great read in short bursts. I read it on my kindle, but I read about half of it on my smart phone's kindle app while waiting in lines or while waiting on my daughters while we were out and about. The short chapters were perfect for that.

The exception to that are the comparatively lengthy biographies of Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Howell Davis in a section written by Ingrid Smyer called "The Civil War's Two First Ladies."

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Best Little Stories from the Civil War: More than 100 true stories

Reviewed on July 7, 2013.

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