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The Last Full Measure

The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara
Mass Market Paperback
May 02, 2000 | 640 Pages
See All Formats (4) +
  • Hardcover $28.99

    May 19, 1998 | 576 Pages

  • Ebook $7.99

    Jan 05, 2011 | 576 Pages

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"Riveting . . . Vivid . . . Brilliantly depicted. . . . THE LAST FULL MEASURE IS MORE THAN ANOTHER HISTORICAL NOVEL. It is rooted in history, but its strength is the element of humanity flowing through its characters. . . . The book is compelling, easy to read, well researched and written, and thought-provoking. . . . In short, it is everything that a reader could ask for."
–Chicago Tribune

"A WORTHY COMPANION TO ITS TWO PREDECESSORS . . . These characters come alive as complex, heroic, and flawed men. . . . You are with [Robert E.] Lee, a deeply religious man, as he first begins to wonder if the Confederate cause will prevail. . . . You ride with [Ulysses S.] Grant to see the mounds of Union dead at Cold Harbor, and you share his sickening realization that thousands are dead because of his miscalculation. . . . You are at [Joshua] Chamberlain’s bedside as he fights to recover from nearly mortal wounds. . . . Each book is masterful in its own way and taken together, they are unmatched in the body of Civil War literature."
–The Baltimore Sun

"AN AMBITIOUS WORK . . . [Shaara] writes with considerable sensitivity and skill, setting vivid scenes and adding drama and suspense to a familiar tale."
–The Seattle Times

"Exhaustively researched, infused with a profound understanding of the great issues of a nation and the small quirks of the human heart and ego, The Last Full Measure is fiction that brings history brilliantly to life."

Author Essay

THE LAST FULL MEASURE is a very different book from GODS AND GENERALS and THE KILLER ANGELS.  Like GODS AND GENERALS, the book does take place over a span of years, taking up with Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg in July, 1863, to the end of the war almost two years later.  But unlike the first two books in the father-and-son Civil War trilogy, most of the connections between the North and South have been torn asunder.  Stonewall Jackson is dead.  Lewis Armistead is dead.  Longstreet is wounded.  Hancock is wounded.  Chamberlain is wounded.  And the biggest change is that the Confederacy now begins to lose the war.  They may be able to fight battles to a draw, or even to win them, but they no longer advance, they no longer can invade the North to threated Washington.  Every battle is a costly one–they cannot replace their soldier as the more populous North can.  They are ill-equipped, ill-fed, ill-clad.  But they are well led.  

Then that advantage disappears, with the appointment of Ulysses Grant as Lieutenant General of the U.S. Army.  Unlike Meade, he doesn’t retreat after a battle–he pushed forward.  He doesn’t fight to win Richmond, he goes after Lee.  He is called a butcher, but he is a pragmatist.  The only way to win the war is to press his advantage–he can replace his men, he can feed them, and he can clothe and supply them.  After chasing Lee’s army across the Virginia countryside, then bottling Lee up in the Seige of Petersburg, Grant knows it is only a matter of time.

The toughest job I had as an editor was to make sure the connections–whatever remained–between the North and South were prominent.  I had Jeff write in a Hancock chapter during the battle of the Wilderness.  Hancock is such a large part of G&G and KA that he had to make an appearance in LFM.  His farewell to Grant, when he must leave the army due to his injuries is a very good little scene.  I also had Jeff add more about Grant when Longstreet discusses him with Lee.  Longstreet was the best man at Grant’s wedding, and they served together in the 1850s.  One moment is when Longstreet muses about the Army productions of Shakespeare–performed by all men–and laughs at the thought of Grant as Desdemona or Ophelia because he was the only one small enough to fit into the dresses!

THE LAST FULL MEASURE is a much sadder book, of course.  The South is broken, and Lee simply cannot make a fight by the end.  However, it is the remarkable Chamberlain who begins the healing process, reconnecting the North with the South by order his men to present arms when the Army of Northern Virginia marches by to stack their muskets and furl their battle flags for the last time.

Doug Grad, Editor

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