Book of the Week #8

Letters from a Sharpshooter: The Civil War Letters of Private William B. Greene, Co. G, 2nd United States Sharpshooters (Berdan's) Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865, transcribed by William H. Hastings (Belleville, Wisc.: Historic Publications, 1993).

The events of an historical period are brought to life by hearing from the people who were there, who saw what happened and heard what was said. Interpreting what this meant is an entirely separate question, but the letters of someone who was there tells us something unique about how it felt to be in a particular place and time. This collection of letters, interspersed with photos, illustrations and maps describes the U.S. Civil War from the perspective of a New Hampshire boy.

William B. Greene was a seventeen year old student when he caught the contagion of war fever that swept the country in 1861, Against his mother's wishes he joined his boyhood friends to examine the options available in this national 'rush to arms.' It was never a question of if, just how. ... Private Greene's war letters are rare not only because he was a member of the elite Berdan's Sharpshooters but because he experienced the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Most enlistments were for three years and, with the appalling rate of sickness, combat death and mutilation, desertions and just plain being 'used-up', to last even those three years was unusual. ... This incredible collection of letters gives us a very personal and honest view of the American Civil War. As with many Civil War soldiers, William B. Greene, Co. G, 2nd United States Sharpshooters, Army of the Potomac, neither feared death in combat nor agonized over the killing involved. ... This is the story of a young man, and a young nation, coming of age." (excerpted from the Introduction)

During February 2013 author Mary Robinette Kowal has issued a challenge to anyone willing to take it up: The Month of Letters Challenge. In honor of this challenge, all the books-of-the-week during February will be collections of correspondence. If you enjoy these types of books you may also want to check out the Postal Reading Challenge being hosted by The Indextrious Reader.

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