February 28, 2010

Gone for Soldier by Jeff Shaara

For the Historical Fiction Challenge, I needed to read a book which took place in Mexico, Central or South America. I read Gone for Soldiers by Jeff Shaara. A book about the Mexican-American War in the 1840's.

The novel opens up as the Americans being led by General Winfield Scott invade Mexico at Vera Cruz. We are introduced to Robert E Lee, a 40 yr old engineer who graduated from West Point and according to the novel, was behind all of the successful battles in Mexico. The book only covers the second of the two year war. The theme behind the novel was to introduce the men who would become officers in the upcoming Civil War. Men such as James Longstreet, Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, Pete Pickett, etc each got a chance to show us their part in the final battle of the war.

While the majority of the book focused on Lee's strategies and Scott's frustration with Politics, it also allowed other leaders of the war to have their say. The leaders of the American soldiers were all left over from the War of 1812 and resented the younger "college" graduates who had a different way of fighting. The West Point grads fresh from school held contempt for some of the older soldiers. It showed a dividing line in the way battles were fought. The old school versus the new school. It was interesting to read.

Very little of the book was actually told through the eyes of the Mexicans. Only a few short chapters gave us Santa Anna's point of view. And even then, he was portrayed as an overly arrogant incompetent leader.

I started the book wondering why we are taught so little about the Mexican War. But at the end Shaara explains that their were many protests to the war, and the American Public felt that we were bullying Mexico into giving us more land. So it makes sense that that part of our history would be allowed to be over shadowed by the Civil War which took place 13 yrs later.

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