Joshua Chamberlain and the Civil War: At Every Hazard is a historical novel about one of that war’s genuine heroes, a college professor with no formal military training who, together with a small company of men, turned the tide of the battle and the war with a bayonet charge at Gettysburg. This was not the end of his exploits, however, and by war’s end, he was so respected that Ulysses S. Grant chose Chamberlain to accept the South’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The novel traces his evolution from an arrogant, overbearing professor to unwitting and unlikely hero and leader of men. Interwoven are subplots including the coming of age of his young orphaned aide, a complicated marriage, and of course, lots of rousing battle scenes. The story begins with a ferocious battle scene that orphans fourteen-year-old Emmett Collins. Following the last instructions of his father, Emmett shows up on Chamberlain’s doorstep in Brunswick, Maine, where he joins Chamberlain and the 20th Maine as they embark for war in the late summer of 1862. He grows from a boy into a man over the next three years as he accompanies Chamberlain on his rise through the ranks to Major General and recipient of the Medal of Honor.
“General, you have the soul of the lion and the heart of the woman”
As he galloped down the road, Chamberlain suddenly realized that he was completely covered in blood, as was his horse. Its coppery scent seemed to tinge the dreamlike scene before him. He could somehow see the men following behind him, careening crazily into a horde of gray uniforms. As he watched the scene unfold below as if from the perspective of a hawk floating on the wind in the sky, he saw himself between the two lines, one gray and one blue. He was barely recognizable, every piece of civilized homo sapiens stripped away, a single consummate rage driving him forward, a keening emanating from a mouth whose lips were laced tightly back over the teeth.
JOSHUA CHAMBERLAIN AND THE CIVIL WAR: At Every Hazard Cost, Matthew CreateSpace (382 pp.) $16.00 paperback April 22, 2015 Cost’s (Mainely Power, 2001, etc.) historical fiction follows the wartime activities of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. In 1862, 14-year-old Emmett Collins of Brewster, Maine, is an orphan whose remaining siblings have all enlisted with the Union Army. His father’s last letter asked him to seek help from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a noted local professor. Having decided the Union’s cause is just, Chamberlain is determined to enlist along with his brother, Tom. When Emmett shows up on his doorstep, Chamberlain decides to take Emmett along with him. The three men could not be more different: Joshua is a rarified intellectual, Tom a general store owner bored by his humdrum routine, and Emmett a lost boy with no family. Yet the three men are going to have to rely on each other as they’re thrust into some of the most dangerous fighting in the war: Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and then the long siege of Petersburg. Along the way, Emmett is witness to a country in tremendous transition as he meets some of the era’s most notable characters. The book’s title is somewhat misleading, however, as the story also deals equally with Tom and Emmett. That approach works well, though, since Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is such a mythical figure in American history that he can be hard to see as a relatable man. Tom and Emmett, then, help ground the story. Cost does an excellent job immersing the reader in the history and feeling of the time, down to the language of the enlisted men. Additionally, the narrative voice changes appropriately with Emmett as the war years roll on and he grows worldlier. However, the author sometimes relies on Chamberlain to explain to readers the significance of events such as the Emancipation Proclamation, which will be useful information for those unfamiliar with Civil War history but too direct for those already aware. A lively and enjoyable read for those interested in the Civil War experience of extraordinary soldiers. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/matthew-cost/joshua-chamberlain-and-civil-war/