A GOOD TIME TO PACK IT IN. Winston Groom's Vicksburg: 1863 argues that Independence Day, 1863, would have been a good time for the Confederacy to request terms, its raid into Pennsylvania having been turned back, and its control of the Mississippi River gone. Book Review No. 23 commends the work to Civil War aficionados of long standing and to new students of the era, perhaps intrigued by the upcoming sesquicentennial. The former might discover new tidbits: for instance Mississippian Jefferson Davis, who could be thought of as the Robert S. McNamara of his day, imported camels for the Southwestern Territories, the last descendant of which was sighted in 1929. The latter will get enough background on Genl Grant's entire river campaign, commencing with Belmont and culminating at Chattanooga, to understand how the rebellion was quashed in the west, no matter how badly the eastern commanders performed.

Mr Groom is an Alabaman, with ancestors who took up arms in rebellion. His writing reflects the realities on the ground, without the apologia that sometimes comes from works by southerners. There is one potential wistful note, at page 437, in the useful where-all-the-principal-actors-went chapter, where a descendant of one of the southern commanders suggests that Genl Grant faced a series of grits-eatin' surrender monkeys. "If Jackson, or Lee, or even Longstreet -- any of the killers -- had been sent out there Grant wouldn't have been free to starve out fortresses." Petersburg.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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