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Sunday, March 13, 2016

THE SMOKE at DAWN: A NOVEL of the CIVIL WAR (Civil War in the West #3) (audiobook) by Jeff Shaara

Published by Random House Audio in June of 2014
Read by Paul Michael
Duration: 19 hours, 42 minutes

Confederate General Braxton Bragg (1817-1876)
 Jeff Shaara is well-known by fans of military historical fiction. This is his fifth book about the Civil War, the third about the campaign in The Western Theater. This book picks up a few months after Grant's victory at Vicksburg and focuses on Chattanooga.

The crushing defeat at Chickamauga suffered by Union General Rosecrans was a terrible blow after the Union's massive twin victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg just two months earlier. Confederate General Braxton Bragg swept Rosecrans' army from the Chickamauga battlefield and they fled back to the safety of Chattanooga. Bragg's forces occupy the mountains that surround Chattanooga and have effectively laid siege to the city. Already, the Union forces are suffering and Rosecrans seems confused about what to do next. Luckily, Bragg is worried about dissension among his own junior officers more than the Union forces so an extremely tough situation has not been turned into an impossible one.

Union General Ulysses S. Grant is called to Indianapolis for a meeting and is told that he has been promoted to the command of the entire Union army on the condition the he resolve the situation in Chattanooga. Rosecrans is removed, General George Thomas is placed in charge and Grant is smuggled into the city so that he can break the siege.

I was critical of the second book in this series (A Chain of Thunder) and I was more than a little reluctant to listen to this one. I am glad to report that this was a much better book.

The brooding, repetitive nature of the second book was replaced with a more balanced approach. There was plenty of brooding but most of it was Braxton Bragg verbally accosting everyone in his army that he could reach - privates, captains, generals and even getting a little dicey with Confederate President Jefferson Davis who personally came the outskirts of Chattanooga to help his old friend Bragg sort out his army's personality conflicts, not that it did much good.

 The book was not entirely about generals and politicians. It also followed Wisconsin-born "Dutchie" Bauer and his friend Captain Willis to give a view from the common man's perspective. 

The reader was Paul Michael and he did an excellent job with the wide array of voices and accents. Pretty much everyone had their own voices and there were multiple Southern accents (they vary by region, of course) and even an excellent Irish accent.

This series continues on with a fourth installment.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Smoke at Dawn: A Novel of the Civil War (the Civil War in the West)

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