Testament: A Soldier's Story of the Civil War

Benson Bobrick, Author, Benjamin Webb Baker, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (277p) ISBN 978-0-7432-5091-7
Civil War buffs will relish this extraordinary new history from Bobrick (Wide as the Waters), based on a collection of letters written by his great-grandfather, Benjamin ""Webb"" Baker. The letters date from 1861, when the 19-year-old enlisted in the Union army, to 1864, when he was honorably discharged a corporal. As a private of Company E of the 25th Regiment of Illinois Voluntary Infantry, Baker saw action at Pea Ridge, Ark.; Perryville, Ken.; Stones River, Tenn.; and Chickamauga, Ga.; and on Sherman's march to Atlanta. Repeatedly wounded, he was patched up and sent back to duty. That he survived the bad food, poor sanitary conditions and ghastly medical treatment (pus was considered a sign of health), let alone wounds sustained during battles that killed thousands, is remarkable. Webb's letters home are honest, affectionate and surprisingly good-natured considering what he endured.""We had a heavy skirmish in the evening....A ball struck John Hawkins square on the belt buckle. It made him grunt....He picked it up & is around every day now bragging that he is bullet proof,"" he wrote in 1862. Bobrick weaves excerpts of the correspondence throughout the narrative and includes his great-grandfather's letters in their entirety in an appendix to the book. This is a compelling story, rendered in vivid, graceful prose that should find an enthusiastic audience.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
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