Thursday, May 16, 2019

"General Meade" - A Novel of the Civil War by Robert Kofman - An Excellent Read

Author Robert Kofman has written a carefully researched novel that highlights the journey that General George Meade took as he assumed command of the troubled Army of the Potomac. Kofman makes judicious use of letters that Meade wrote to his wife, Margaret, throughout the course of the Civil War. In addition, he spices the narrative with telegrams that were exchanged between Meade and Washington, outlining updates on troop movements, tactics, and strategies being deployed to pin down Robert E. Lee's intrepid troops. To fill in the gap, the author imagines conversations among the principal actors in the unfolding drama.

What becomes clear as the narrative develops is that the war could have ended much earlier had not Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton insisted that a large portion of the Union troops be positioned to thwart any possible invasion of Washington. As a result, there were insufficient numbers available to pressure Lee at Richmond and following the Battle of Gettysburg, when the rebel forces were most vulnerable.

It also becomes very clear that the delicate dance between military strategy and political strategy made things difficult for Meade. Lincoln appointed a number of politically influential men to be generals who has no real military experience, but were able to help ensure his reelection in 1864. These generals proved to often be an impediment during the implementation of battle plans. Despite  chronic interference from Washington in the execution of the plan to defeat the rebel forces, Meade developed a strong and loyal appreciation for Lincoln's leadership. He also had great respect for General Grant, even though Grant often overshadowed Meade in the latter stages of the war.

Mr. Kofman's writing style in describing battles is almost cinematic. Having spent time on several occasions at Gettysburg, I was able to read the author's account of that pivotal battle and feel as if I were there to hear the roar of the cannons and the rebel yell that accompanied Pickett's charge.

This novel serves as an excellent addition to the already rich corpus of works that shed light on the national tragedy that was The War Between the States.



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