Jeff Shaara is well-known to anyone who enjoys military fiction. He has written many enjoyable novels that take plan in a number of American wars including the First and Second World Wars, the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. He carries on after his father Michael Shaara who wrote The Killer Angels, a Pulitzer Prize winner and arguably the best novel about The Civil War.
Jeff started by writing two novels that continue the story started by his father – the story of the three days at Gettysburg. He then branched out to different wars and different campaigns of The Civil War. Both Shaara’ novels are historically accurate. Their characters are as much as possible actual people ranging from private soldiers to the top generals; and in A Chain Of Thunder, Jeff’s novel of the Vicksburg campaign, one private citizen. Jeff introduced a private citizen to show the experience of private citizens during the siege of Vicksburg; an experience of living in hastily dug-out caves on short rations and continual fear of artillery shelling.
If you decide to check out A Chain Of Thunder, consider starting with A Blaze Of Glory, a novel about Shiloh and the first of a planned trilogy of The Civil War in the western theater.
Ralph Peters writes in a similar vein. In fact, when I read Cain At Gettysburg I wondered why Peters wrote the book because it is so similar to The Killer Angels – same style and approach, some of the same characters. Peters continues with Hell Or Richmond which picks up a few months after Gettysburg at the point where Ulysses S. Grant is appointed the commander of all the Union armies including The Army Of the Potomac and continues through the Overland Campaign up to when Grant and the Army Of the Potomac cross the James River on their way to the siege of Richmond and Petersburg. Like the Shaaras, Peters is historically accurate. I’m a stickler for good cartography in military writing both fictional and nonfictional, and I find that good maps are surprisingly rare. The maps in Cain At Gettysburg and Hell Or Richmond are just right, well executed with the right amount of detail.
At the start of the Overland campaign, Grant under estimated his opponent,Robert E. Lee, the commander of The Army Of Northern Virginia; and Lee under estimated Grant. Peters makes this very clear and goes on to show how the remainder of the was in the East was in part a duel between Grant and Lee. As described by Peters, neither was willing – on a very personal level – to be defeated by the other.
When I finished Hell Or Richmond I wanted to immediately start the next book that would run through to the end at Appomatox. I don’t know if Peters plans to write another book in this series. I can only hope so.