BRIGHT STARRY BANNER: A Novel of the Civil War

Alden R. Carter, Author . Soho $27 (452p) ISBN 978-1-56947-355-9

This monumentally ambitious novel covers in exquisite and graphic detail one of the bloodiest two-day engagements of the Civil War. Carter, the author of nine YA novels and 20 works of nonfiction, is confident of his materials in his first adult novel, masterfully describing massive military maneuvers while also shifting to the viewpoint of individual after individual caught up in the horrific action. The Battle of Stones River on the outskirts of Murfreesboro, Tenn., is not a clash as familiar as Gettysburg or Antietam, but it was a compelling, brutal episode in Civil War history. From December 31, 1862, to the morning of January 2, 1863, the Union forces under William S. Rosecrans engaged the troops of Confederate commander Braxton Bragg. When the smoke cleared, both sides declared victory. Among the combatants was Ambrose Bierce, at age 20 a topographical engineer with Rosecrans, who witnessed horrors he later would write about: "The two lines have achieved a frightful equilibrium in the trading of death—an exchange that, if left undisturbed, might eventually lead to the last two men in the world killing each other." In a series of brilliant vignettes, Carter pays homage to Bierce's tales of the war such as A Horseman in the Sky . While Carter provides backstory for his many characters, he lacks a major love story that might help the novel rival such commercial successes as Cold Mountain . For a depiction of war, however, this is as good as it gets. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Paperback - 454 pages - 978-1-56947-381-8
Ebook - 316 pages - 978-1-61695-136-8
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