cover image The Smoke at Dawn: A Novel of the Civil War

The Smoke at Dawn: A Novel of the Civil War

Jeff Shaara. Ballantine, $28 (528p) ISBN 978-0-345-52741-7

Shaara's third volume of four focusing on the "%E2%80%98Western' theater of the Civil War," after 2013's A Chain of Thunder, is a top-notch war novel. As in his previous books, whether about the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, or the two World Wars, he manages to make the minutiae of troop deployments and battlefield tactics absorbing even for the non-buff. This series is especially appealing for its look at an obscure yet crucial juncture: the 1863 "campaign around Chattanooga," which here is portrayed as a bellwether of the Confederacy's ability to prevail in the wider conflict. Along well-known figures such as Grant and Sherman are involved, Shaara primarily enables the reader to experience the hell of war through the lower ranks, such as sniper Fritz Bauer. As with the best historical war novels, knowing the ultimate outcome of the bitter fighting is not a bar to engagement. (June)