Monday, September 24, 2018

Just Finished Reading - Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades

In Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived It, author Susannah J. Ural gives us an inside peek at the Civil War's impact on individuals and families. By using their own words from the primary sources they left, the war's toll is told in a way that makes the reader feel the weight of these troubled times as if one were there.

Whether Ural looks at individuals, husband-wives, brothers, or fathers-children, they all speak their heart-felt experiences in the conflict. Mixed in with some of the more well known stories to students of the Civil War, like those of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, Jefferson and Varina Davis, and Ulysses, Julia and Frederick Grant, are also those not so well known, like Madison and Lizzie Bowler, Andrew and Ann Erskine, Charlotte Forten, Wilbur Fisk, and William Shepherd. 

The book follows the chronology of the war, along with its ebbs and flows of good news and bad news (depending of course on the views of the writers), but the narrative of the conflict comes largely through the words of the people most affected by it, although expertly synthesized and crafted by the author. Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades reminded me of another book I read a few years back, The Private Civil War: Popular Thought During the Sectional Conflict by Randall C. Jimerson. Although different in their structure, both books rely heavily on the historical actors for their voice. Ural's research on Hood's Texas Brigade, which she has also recently published a book about, comes through in several of the people and events this work covers. 

The book does have a few distracting typographical errors here and there that an editor should probably have caught. And it seems, too, that while the first three years of the war get significant coverage and comment, the last two years appear to get a briefer examination. 

Regardless of these rather minor quibbles, Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades is an excellent book that satisfies the reader's need to learn about the Civil War through "the words of those who lived it." I highly recommend it.

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