In the Fall of 1863, despite Lee’s loss at Gettysburg and Grant taking Vicksburg and gaining control of the Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half, there was still a chance of preventing a Union victory. Jefferson Davis had sent one of Lee’s most trusted commanders, General James Longstreet with two Virginia divisions, west to join General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee to attack Union forces at Chickamauga.
The Battle of Chickamauga was a critical event for the Confederacy, squandered due to Bragg’s incompetence. In Christopher Datta’s Fire and Dust, Book 2 in his Fire Trilogy about the Civil War, the reader is plunged headlong into the horror of war and the backroom maneuverings of massive egos and poor decisions of those charged with managing the war for the South.
Based solidly on historical documents, this is a story of war and the men and women caught up in it, in all their glory and shame. Told both from the strategic point of view of the generals and from the ‘in the trenches’ view of those who had to fight and die. This epic tale is mainly seen through the eyes of Sergeant Sam Davis, a veteran of the Mexican War, and Harry Kolb, a young farm boy who thought fighting the war would be a ‘fun’ thing to do. Both men are also mired in emotional relationships that eventually shape their view of war in ways that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The horror and the inhumanity of one of America’s most devastating conflicts is brought vividly to life in a book that should be required reading for anyone who wants to better understand one of the events that irrevocably shaped the path America has taken since the 1860s. History and fiction are blended smoothly in a way that makes it hard to know which is which—and it hardly matters, the story is told so well. I received a free copy of Fire and Dust in exchange for my review, and I can hardly wait for Book 3, which is sure to be a fascinating read. An easy five stars.
Ellen Craft was a real person. A slave, the daughter of her owner, she was given to her half-sister as a wedding present. After she married a fellow slave, William Craft, the two of them cooked up a plan to escape to freedom. Christopher Datta, in his first novel, offers a fictionalized version of Craft’s life in Touched With Fire.
Datta’s account, though fiction, is based in large part on the true story of this couple and their intense desire, not only for freedom, but for the chance to live their lives as they see fit. A compelling story, it takes the reader into the emotions of a tortured period in American history in ways that a mere recitation of facts could never accomplish. Datta gets into the minds and hearts of his characters, through credible dialogue and detailed descriptions that make the history come alive. Not only do you come away from this book with a better understanding of the corrosive effects of slavery on society and people, but an appreciation of the power of love and faith.
But, Datta doesn’t stop there. The middle part of the book, an account of Ellen Craft’s adventure masquerading as a man and enlisting in the Union Army, contains battle scenes that not only portray the details of war in rich color, but gets into the minds of those who fought those battles.
If you like historical fiction, this is a book that you must read. If you’re a first-time reader, it is even more important that you read it – to see how history can be made to come alive.
Four Stars to Datta for this first book, and I look forward to his next effort.