From the first passage in William C. Davis’ book about “the twilight of America’s innocence: to the last, the reader is carried through what many in the 1860s believed would be the only major conflict between North and South. So optimistic were the people in Washington that a crowd of civilians came from the city with picnic hampers to witness the crushing defeat of the upstart “rebels.” The following day, however, the mood would shatter in a battle that confounded the expectations of both sides—the first Battle at Bull Run.
It was a training ground for some of America’s most colorful military figures: P.G.T. Beauregard, Joe Johnson, Irvin McDowell, and “Stonewall” Jackson. It also marked the first strategic use of railroads and was perhaps the first time the horrors of battle were photographed for the people back home. Drawing from a wealth of material—old letters, journals, memoirs, and military records—Davis brings to life a vivid and vital chapter in American history.
William C. Davis, former executive director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech University, has written numerous books, including An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government.
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