I'm just finishing up The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara--a great Christmas gift from my wife. What a powerful book about a critical period and event of American History.
I had listened to Killer Angels unabridged on cassette, about 2.5 years ago. Had the tapes in my car. It was so riveting that I found myself routinely sitting in my car long after I had arrived at my destination. Killer Angels tells the story of Gettysburg and is written by the elder Shaara--Michael.
Both father and son tell the story of the Civil War in compelling and emotionally-engaged prose. I feel as though I am wandering the fields with the generals and officers of the blues and the grays. Both sets of officers have become like friends to me--I know it sounds corny but I think good writing does that to you.
I'm a particularly big fan of the hero of Little Round Top--then Colonel and eventual Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Much could be said of Chamberlain as a citizen-soldier and leader. My two favorite accounts in Last Full Measure are Chamberlain's advance at Gravelly Run and the account of the dignified surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomatox.
When Chamberlain gives the impromptu command to the Federal soldiers to, "Carry... Arms" in the face of the Confederate soldiers' surrender, I was close to tears. General Grant was certainly right to commission him to receive the surrendered arms of the Confederate army.
And Grant's demand for dignity in handling the entire matter of the surrender and his complete pardon of all the soldiers and officers "paroled back to their homes" in his hastily written terms given to General Robert E. Lee is a powerful example of grace and the seeds of reconciliation between countrymen.
Surrender can be a solemn, dignified, moving start to the arduous process of reconciliation.