Testament: A Soldier's Story of the Civil War
Simon and Schuster, Jun 30, 2008 - History - 288 pages
The story of the author's great-grandfather's Civil War experience, based on a remarkable set of newly discoverd letters—a powerful, moving addition to the firsthand soldiers' accounts of the Civil War.
I was very glad to hear from home this morning. It is the first time since I left Otterville. We marched from Sedalia 120 miles....I almost feel anxious to be in a battle & yet I am almost afraid. I feel very brave sometimes & think if I should be in an engagement, I never would leave the field alive unless the stars & stripes floated triumphant. I do not know how it may be. If there is a battle & I should fall, tell with pride & not with grief that I fell in defense of liberty. Pray that I may be a true soldier.
Not since Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage have the trials and tribulations of a private soldier of the Civil War been told with such beguiling force. The Red Badge of Courage, however, was fiction. This story is true.
In Testament, Benson Bobrick draws upon an extraordinarily rich but hitherto untapped archive of material to create a continuous narrative of how that war was fought and lived. Here is virtually the whole theater of conflict in the West, from its beginnings in Missouri, through Kentucky and Tennessee, to the siege of Atlanta under Sherman, as experienced by Bobrick's great-grandfather, Benjamin W. ("Webb") Baker, an articulate young Illinois recruit. Born and raised not far from the Lincoln homestead in Coles County, Webb had stood in the audience of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, become a staunch Unionist, and answered one of Abraham Lincoln's first calls for volunteers. The ninety-odd letters on which his story is based are fully equal to the best letters the war produced, especially by a common soldier; but their wry intelligence, fortitude, and patriotic fervor also set them apart with a singular and still-undying voice.
In the end, that voice blends with the author's own, as the book becomes a poignant tribute to his great-grandfather's life -- and to all the common soldiers of the nation's bloodiest war.
What people are saying - Write a review
Reviews aren't verified, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it's identified
TESTAMENT: A Soldier's Story of the Civil WarUser Review - Kirkus
The Civil War as seen by the author's great-grandfather, an Illinois infantryman on the Union side.Bobrick (Wide as the Waters, 2001, etc.) bases his account largely on 90 letters Benjamin "Webb ... Read full review
Testament: a soldier's story of the Civil WarUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Largely forgotten for nearly a century, the letters of Benjamin "Webb" Baker, great-grandfather of author Bobrick (Wide as the Waters), serve as the genesis and compass for the latter's latest book ... Read full review
Other editions - View all
Common terms and phrases
advance affectionate army Baker battle began believe boys Bragg brigade brother Buell called camp Chattanooga command Confederate corps Creek crossed Dear Mother direction division early engagement expect face fall Federals field fight fire followed force front give Grant ground guns hand hard hear hills hope Illinois John Kentucky killed kind land later leave letter Lincoln lived look Meanwhile miles month morning Mountain moved Murfreesboro Nashville never night once ordered passed Price quoted rain Rebels received regiment regt remained reported rest Ridge River road Rosecrans seemed sent side slavery soldier soon South stay taken tell Tenn Tennessee thing Thomas thought thousand told took town troops Truly turned Union unit victory Webb Webb's week West whole wounded write wrote
Page 116 - If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?
Page 115 - If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.
Page 116 - Fondly do we hope -fervently do we pray -that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the...
Page 18 - I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.
Page 13 - When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood.
Page 83 - But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution.
Page 83 - The whole South is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native state.
Page 13 - While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant, that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise.
Page 23 - I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife.
Page 114 - We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South...