The Whirlwind of War:  Voices of The Storm, 1861- 1865 - Stephen B. Oates

The Whirlwind of War: Voices of The Storm, 1861- 1865 - Stephen B. Oates

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"The Whirlwind of War" is the second book in prize-winning historian and biographer Stephen B. Oates' extraordinary "Voices of the Storm" trilogy, which began with "The Approaching Fury", Oates' compelling narrative about the 40 tumultuous years that led to "America's Armageddon". An intensely dramatic and intimate portrayal of the people, events, influences and consequences of the American Civil War, "The Whirlwind of War" builds on the great themes and follows many of the important figures that were introduced in "The Approaching Fury".

Oates brings his moving narrative of the complex, bloody and destructive war to vivid and memorable life by writing in the first person, impersonating the voices and assuming the viewpoints of several of the principal figures: the rival presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis; the rival generals, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman; the great black abolitionist, editor and orator, Frederick Douglass; the young Union battlefield nurse, Cornelia Hancock; the brilliant head of the Chicago Sanitary Commission and cocreator of the northern Sanitary Fair, Mary Livermore; the Confederate socialite and political insider, Mary Boykin Chesnut; the assassin, John Wilkes Booth; and the greatest poet of the era, Walt Whitman, who speaks in the coda about the meaning of war and Lincoln's death.

As the book moves through the war years, the interconnecting dramatic monologues lend passion and a strong sense of immediacy and freshness to the story. The protagonist in one monologue becomes the antagonist in another. Each speaker takes his or her turn onstage, serving as narrator for critical events in which he or she was the major instigator and participant or eyewitness.

Often revisionist but always persuasive, Oates brings powerful new insights, facts and conclusions to his narrative. For example, drawing on his own research and that of modern technical scholarship on the assassination, Oates convincingly describes Booth as a Confederate agent, working with the approval and support of the highest authorities in Richmond, probably Jefferson Davis himself, and explains how his plots to abduct and then to assassinate Lincoln were part of several schemes to be executed by rebel secret service men.

Oates also portrays Sherman, Lee, Jefferson Davis, Lincoln and Mary Lincoln in new and in-depth ways. Thus they are seen in a more realistic light, rather than how they have become positively or negatively mythologized over the years.

Exciting, powerful, highly revealing and driven by character and narrative, "The Whirlwind of War" makes a significant contribution to American and Civil War literature, and its people and voices will linger long in our memory.