More panoramic in scope and more realistic in its details than Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, this is one of the first and best novels ever written about the American Civil War.
Drawing on his own combat experience with the Union forces, John W. De Forest crafted a war novel like nothing before it in the annals of American literature. His first-hand knowledge of “the wilderness of death” made its way on to the pages of his riveting novel with devastating effect. Whether depicting the tedium before combat, the unspoken horror of battle, or the grisly butchery of the field hospital, De Forest broke new ground, anticipating the realistic war writings of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and Tim O’Brien.
A commercial failure in its own day, De Forest’s story was praised by Henry James and William Dean Howells, who, comparing it favorably to War and Peace, acclaimed the book “one of the best American novels ever written.”
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Gary Scharnhorst