Saturday, September 5, 2009
The Last Confederate General
I was contacted via email several months back and asked if I would like to receive a free copy of The Last Confederate General by Larry Gordon, which wa due to come out around 6 months afterward. Of course, I accepted. I wasn't 100% sure anything would come from it, but it was worth a try. After some chaos and delay, because I changed addresses (both snail mail and email), I received a copy.
This type of thing was new to me. Though I have been given books by authors who were good friends, no one had ever asked me to review a book for them before.
I was favorably impressed. It appeared to be well done. There was an index, a good-sized bibliography, endnotes, a few maps, and even some pictures. The cover was nice, and it was put together very well. I was eager to get started on it!
The thing that intrigued me about this book was the somewhat obscure subject matter. Seemingly every aspect of every major Civil War battle has been written about, and many of the major-players in the war have had countless bios done on them. This was a preson who I had never previously heard of, and that made it even more appealing.
This book tells the story of John Crawford Vaughn and his cavalry from eastern Tennessee. Vaughn is an interesting character. He was a close personal friend of Jefferson Davis, he was wounded several times in battle but returned to fight again, and his wife and family were imprisoned and held hostage by the Union army.
I understand from working with other authors just how much research and legwork gathering facts and information are required to do a historical work. With such an obscure subject, I can only imagine the countless hours of work (and often of frustration) that Mr. Gordon must have put into this book.
The book itself is a good read. It is well-written, and it keeps the reader interested. I personally enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone without hesitation. I was surprised to find pictures of Vaughn, but apparently they are not only out there, but Mr. Gordon managed to find them. They add a lot to the overall quality of the book.
A few minor faults became evident in reading, however. Throughout the book, there are many endnotes to supporting sources of some of the conclusions made. That said, the author does draw a few unsubstantiated conclusions. While they are only minor and do not detract from the historical value of the book, I did find them annoying at times. A notable one occurs on pg. 10, when discussing possible nicknames for a young John Vaughn, the author states that..."Today, no one knows what friends and family called John Crawford Vaughn...("Johnny" has a nice ring to it)." If no one knows what his family may have called him, there is no real reason to speculate on it.
These minor flaws aside, this is a good book. It may not be the best I have ever read, but as I said earlier, I did enjoy reading it. I showed it to a few friends who are authors in their own right, and also to Ted Savas, of Savas-Beatie, LLC. Ted recognized having seen the book when it was being considered for possible publication. Though he declined, he was glad to see that someone finished it, because he agreed that it was a good book.
If an entertaining read about one of the Civil War's lesser-know, but very interesting personalities is something that would appeal to you, then buy this book and read it. You'll not be disappointed. It is well-written, enjoyable, and deserves a place on the bookshelf of everyone interested in the American Civil War.