Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New and Noteworthy: Bonfires in the Most Northern of Southern Cities

The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta, Marc Wortman, Public Affairs Press, 352 pages, $26.95, August 2009.

The capture of three great Southern cities were turning points in the American Civil War. The capture of New Orleans in April 1862, the most populated and prosperous city in the Confederacy put Europe on notice and plugged the Mississippi River's Gulf of Mexico and trans-Atlantic trade. The capture of Atlanta in September 1864 put the electorate on notice that the war was being won and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The capture of Richmond during the first days of April 1865 routed the Confederate civil government and put it flight.

Recently, Atlanta's Civil War history has received attention In particular, Secret Yankees has revealed that the Northerners that founded the city and lived there remained loyal to the Union and supplied a vast amount of intelligence on commissary stores and troop movements. Marc Wortman offers Bonfire: The Seige and Burning of Atlanta which provides the story of Atlanta from its founding in the 1830s to its burning in the fall of 1865. IN reviewing the index and the first several pages, Wortman's narrative appears to be character driven and accessibly written.

Noted historian, Debby Applegate reports that Wortman offers "extraordinary original research" and "vivid prose and old-fashioned suspense." Wortman is the author of The Millionaires’ Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power, now in development as a feature film. An award-winning freelance writer, his work has appeared in numerous national magazines. He has taught literature and writing at Princeton University.

The destruction of Atlanta is one of the two epic moments in the film Gone with the Wind. A third epic moment occurred in 1970 when the film was released in major theatres and to my shock and dismay Nancy, my date, burst into tears at the scene where Scarlett is the most broken and then becomes the most resilient. Well, . . . it was an epic moment in my life.

Looking at the stack of soon to be read books on the floor next to my desk, Wortman's Bonfire is next; by the length its bibliography and the first several pages, it looks like one that I might wish to read a second time.

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