Review of "Chicamauga" by Shelby Foote

Essay by Anonymous UserA, January 1997

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Suffering has no flag. Pain has no territory. Death visits us all. These are human experiences which transcend any qualities we may attribute to ourselves. Most people have heard and read of the politics, the power, and the epic battles of the civil war era. In "Chicamauga", compiled and partially written by Shelby Foote, we see our own eyes in the eyes of the nameless and formless soldiers and victims of a country divided. Through fiction, Foote succeeds in showing the striking imperfection and cold reality of the civil war's events as opposed to our usual objectification and romanticism of a very real and sobering event. To a "modern man", it is somewhat like a tear falling from the television screen while a bullet rips through your dream. Where did the drama go?

The drama of our nation splitting apart and fighting itself , which is usually spell bounding and intriguing at least, loses its fascination to "small" men's' reality.

Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln are very powerful, principled men. Even in the written word alone, their charisma can seem to draw you in to the power politics of the time. The economic dual between the North and South can, as well, draw one into the process of taking sides and becoming passionate about a particular course of action. The events leading to the civil war and the fighting itself are no doubt extremely enigmatic and almost magnetic in a way. Yet in "Chicamauga", it is the plight of small players in battle who sober your outlook from intrigue to true understanding. It is the individual suffering and confusion which color this great event. Events which you formerly saw as two sided, or perhaps even one-sided, now become ambiguous and gray. Right and wrong become confused with courage and...