THE SMOKE AT DAWN                          JEFF SHAARA
Posted:  Aug. 7, 2014

The Smoke at Dawn (Civil War: 1861-1865, Western Theater, #3)Jeff Shaara returns to the Civil War terrain he knows so well, with the latest novel in the series that started with A Blaze of Glory and A Chain of Thunder. In The Smoke at Dawn, the last great push of the Army of the Cumberland sets the stage for a decisive confrontation at Chattanooga that could determine the outcome of the war.
Summer, 1863. The Federal triumph at Vicksburg has secured complete control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy, cementing the reputation of Ulysses S. Grant. Farther east, the Federal army under the command of William Rosecrans captures the crucial rail hub at Chattanooga. But Rosecrans is careless, and while pursuing the Confederates, the Federal forces are routed in north Georgia at Chickamauga Creek. Retreating in a panic back to Chattanooga, Rosecrans is pursued by the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. Penned up, with their supply lines severed, the Federal army seems doomed to the same kind of defeat that plagued the Confederates at Vicksburg. But a disgusted Abraham Lincoln has seen enough of General Rosecrans. Ulysses Grant is elevated to command of the entire theater of the war, and immediately replaces Rosecrans with General George Thomas. Grant gathers an enormous force, including armies commanded by Joseph Hooker and Grant’s friend, William T. Sherman. Grant’s mission is clear: Break the Confederate siege and destroy Bragg’s army.  Meanwhile, Bragg wages war as much with his own subordinates as he does with the Federals, creating dissension and disharmony in the Southern ranks, erasing the Confederate army’s superiority at exactly the wrong time.
Blending evocative historical detail with searing depictions of battle, Jeff Shaara immerses readers in the world of commanders and common soldiers, civilians and statesmen. From the Union side come the voices of Generals Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Thomas—the vaunted “Rock of Chickamauga”—as well as the young private Fritz “Dutchie” Bauer. From the Rebel ranks come Generals Bragg, Patrick Cleburne, and James Longstreet, as well as the legendary cavalry commander, Nathan Bedford Forrest. A tale of history played out on a human scale in the grand Shaara tradition, The Smoke at Dawn vividly recreates the climactic months of the war in the West, when the fate of a divided nation truly hangs in the balance.

This is the battle of Chickamauga and for whatever reason General Rosecrans gives up the high ground and retreats to Chattanooga. By now President Lincoln has decided to put Grant in charge of the army and the first thing does is relives Rosecrans and puts General George Thomas who is already there in command. He then orders Generals Sherman and Hooker, to Chattanooga. When Grant arrives the first thing he sees is that they must open a supply route plus a line that will flake the Confederates that have the high ground. The only way is by building a floating bridge which gets started. On the opposite side General Braxton Bragg, is really not doing anything except watching the North digging in, in front of Chattanooga. It is like he does not want to come off the mountain but now his problems are greater because his Generals are protesting his non action to Richmond. He ends up fighting with two of the strongest Southern Generals in Longstreet and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Their point of view is to attack before more Northern troops arrive. They still have an advantage. Bragg is content with doing nothing and really the best he did was get Longstreet and Forrest removed from the area. Once Grant is there it is just a matter of time before he will attack. The way the story is told is done nicely once again by Mr. Shaara, using historical facts and others records to make for an interesting story about another battle that was lost because a General did not want to act. Thinking he could out wait someone else, not listening to his other staff. Take Longstreet, he was Grants best man at Grants wedding yet not many people asked him how he would fight. When they did he would say he will continue to attack until he has victory. Vicksburg should have told these men, for they said it could not be done and though it took him mouths trying it finally paid off with success. This battle would be the same but a good way to tell the story. a very enjoyable read. I got this book from net galley.

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