Jeff Shaara returns to the Civil War terrain he knows so well, with the latest novel in the series that started with A Blaze of Glory and A Chain of Thunder. In The Smoke at Dawn, the last great push of the Army of the Cumberland sets the stage for a decisive confrontation at Chattanooga that could determine the outcome of the war.
Summer, 1863. The Federal triumph at Vicksburg has secured complete control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy, cementing the reputation of Ulysses S. Grant. Farther east, the Federal army under the command of William Rosecrans captures the crucial rail hub at Chattanooga. But Rosecrans is careless, and while pursuing the Confederates, the Federal forces are routed in north Georgia at Chickamauga Creek. Retreating in a panic back to Chattanooga, Rosecrans is pursued by the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. Penned up, with their supply lines severed, the Federal army seems doomed to the same kind of defeat that plagued the Confederates at Vicksburg. But a disgusted Abraham Lincoln has seen enough of General Rosecrans. Ulysses Grant is elevated to command of the entire theater of the war, and immediately replaces Rosecrans with General George Thomas. Grant gathers an enormous force, including armies commanded by Joseph Hooker and Grant’s friend, William T. Sherman. Grant’s mission is clear: Break the Confederate siege and destroy Bragg’s army. Meanwhile, Bragg wages war as much with his own subordinates as he does with the Federals, creating dissension and disharmony in the Southern ranks, erasing the Confederate army’s superiority at exactly the wrong time.
Blending evocative historical detail with searing depictions of battle, Jeff Shaara immerses readers in the world of commanders and common soldiers, civilians and statesmen. From the Union side come the voices of Generals Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Thomas—the vaunted “Rock of Chickamauga”—as well as the young private Fritz “Dutchie” Bauer. From the Rebel ranks come Generals Bragg, Patrick Cleburne, and James Longstreet, as well as the legendary cavalry commander, Nathan Bedford Forrest. A tale of history played out on a human scale in the grand Shaara tradition, The Smoke at Dawn vividly recreates the climactic months of the war in the West, when the fate of a divided nation truly hangs in the balance.
Praise for The Smoke at Dawn
“Civil War history fiends will be riveted.”—Parade
“A beautifully written novel . . . Shaara once again elevates history from mere rote fact to explosive and engaging drama.”—Bookreporter
“Shaara’s mastery of military tactics, his intimate grasp of history, and his ability to interweave several supporting narratives into a cohesive and digestible whole . . . will appeal to a broad range of historical- and military-fiction fans.”—Booklist
“Top-notch . . . As with the best historical war novels, knowing the ultimate outcome of the bitter fighting is not a bar to engagement.”—Publishers Weekly
Continuing the series that began with A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara returns to chronicle another decisive chapter in America’s long and bloody Civil War. In A Chain of Thunder, the action shifts to the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. There, in the vaunted “Gibraltar of the Confederacy,” a siege for the ages will cement the reputation of one Union general—and all but seal the fate of the rebel cause.
In May 1863, after months of hard and bitter combat, Union troops under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant at long last successfully cross the Mississippi River. They force the remnants of Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton’s army to retreat to Vicksburg, burning the bridges over the Big Black River in its path. But after sustaining heavy casualties in two failed assaults against the rebels, Union soldiers are losing confidence and morale is low. Grant reluctantly decides to lay siege to the city, trapping soldiers and civilians alike inside an iron ring of Federal entrenchments. Six weeks later, the starving and destitute Southerners finally surrender, yielding command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces on July 4—Independence Day—and marking a crucial turning point in the Civil War.
Drawing on comprehensive research and his own intimate knowledge of the Vicksburg Campaign, Jeff Shaara once again weaves brilliant fiction out of the ragged cloth of historical fact. From the command tents where generals plot strategy to the ruined mansions where beleaguered citizens huddle for safety, this is a panoramic portrait of men and women whose lives are forever altered by the siege. On one side stand the emerging legend Grant, his irascible second William T. Sherman, and the youthful “grunt” Private Fritz Bauer; on the other, the Confederate commanders Pemberton and Joseph Johnston, as well as nineteen-year-old Lucy Spence, a civilian doing her best to survive in the besieged city. By giving voice to their experiences at Vicksburg, A Chain of Thunder vividly evokes a battle whose outcome still reverberates more than 150 years after the cannons fell silent.
Praise for A Chain of Thunder
“[Jeff] Shaara continues to draw powerful novels from the bloody history of the Civil War. . . . The dialogue intrigues. Shaara aptly reveals the main actors: Grant, stoic, driven, not given to micromanagement; Sherman, anxious, high-strung, engaged even when doubting Grant’s strategy. . . . Worth a Civil War buff’s attention.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Searing . . . Shaara seamlessly interweaves multiple points of view, as the plot is driven by a stellar cast of real-life and fictional characters coping with the pivotal crisis. . . . [A] riveting fictional narrative.”—Booklist
“Shaara’s historical accuracy is faultless, and he tells a good story. . . . The voices of these people come across to the reader as poignantly as they did 150 years ago.”—Historical Novels Review
“The writing is picturesque and vibrant. . . . [an] engrossing tale.”—Bookreporter
“[An] exciting read . . . [Jeff] Shaara returns to the U.S. Civil War in this first book of a new trilogy. . . . This novel is meticulously researched and brings a vivid reality to the historical events depicted.”—Library Journal
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Spring 1862. The Confederate Army in the West teeters on the brink of collapse. General Albert Sidney Johnston is forced to abandon the critical city of Nashville and rally his troops in defense of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Hot on Johnston’s trail are two of the Union’s best generals: Ulysses Grant and Don Carlos Buell. If their combined forces can crush Johnston’s army and capture the railroad, the war in the West likely will be over. There’s just one problem: Johnston knows of the Union plans and is poised to launch an audacious surprise attack on Grant’s encampment—a small settlement in southwestern Tennessee anchored by a humble church named Shiloh.
Drawing on meticulous research, Jeff Shaara dramatizes the key decisions of the commanders on both sides of the conflict—and brings to life the junior officers, conscripts, and enlisted men who gave their all for the cause. With stunning immediacy, Shaara takes us inside the maelstrom of Shiloh as no novelist has before.
“Brilliant . . . riveting . . . a work to be embraced.”—Bookreporter
Includes a preview of Jeff Shaara’s next Civil War novel, A Chain of Thunder