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 Historical Fiction Review   

 

 

Baptism at Bull Run         
By James P. Reger
Harbor House, 2004
Hardcover, $24.95  (375 pages) 
ISBN: 1-891799-14-2
 
 
 

The popularity of the Civil War as America’s defining self-division and most imaginatively engaging conflict shows no signs of waning in spite cultural moments in which it seems that now the Vietnam War, now the Second World War, might replace it in the public mind. Film documentaries, biographies, novels with alternative historical endings . . . all modes of discourse on the Civil War carry a following as devoted as ever, and it seems that each example of these genres takes on the task of re-fighting that war, in different ways of course, a fact which is perhaps to be expected. 

James P. Reger is a son of a border state whose ancestors rode with Jeb Stuart. A teacher of history in California, Reger has written a new novel in the Civil War historical genre that focuses itself exclusively on the two battles commonly referred to as the first and second of Bull Run. Drawing on his historical research, each chapter has its focus on a historical figure or figures but never really strays from a reimagining of these two battles.  

While the battles are being refought in this first novel, Reger keeps a fairly even hand in his attempt to reveal all the horrors of war, especially this uncivil one, and the remarkable innocence and ignorance of a nation that went to war as if on a two week holiday.  

Lincoln, Generals Scott, McDowell, Hunter, Heintzelman, Tyler, and William Tecumseh Sherman are the major participants on the Federal side, while Johnston, Longstreet, Beauregard, Stuart, Jackson, and Early populate the novel from the Confederacy. While there is little social and historical context in the novel, some of the more mythic characters in this drama come off as remarkably human. There is no sugar coating the bloody-minded mess of battle either. 

Fans of the Civil War, history buffs, and amateur military historians will enjoy this book.

 

Vince Brewton
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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