February/March 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 2
A Story Of The Great Civil War From Bull Run To Appomattox
by Robert Goldthwaite Carter University of Texas Press 537 pages, $15.00
The four brothers in blue were the Carter brothers of Bradford, Massachusetts, who served simultaneously in the Army of the Potomac. A loving family, they “wrote uncommonly often” to their parents and to each other. After the war, the youngest brother collected all the letters, wrote a connecting narrative, and in 1913 published an edition of two hundred copies of this book. Little known to the public, it has been treasured by students of the Civil War, especially Stephen Vincent Benét, who acknowledged in his preface to John Brown’s Body his debt to “that remarkable first-hand account.” For these articulate young men-Robert was only sixteen when he enlisted—so sweet natured and innocently dutiful, the misery and butchery they were thrust into seemed particularly frightful. They were willing to die for their country, but each dreaded ending as an unidentified, untended corpse. They had been raised to be clean, but they learned to live with lice, and to scrounge food from the knapsacks of dead soldiers. Although they were teetotalers, they found that a gulp of whisky could warm their mud-soaked bodies. They seldom knew where they were going, and they almost never knew why. By the time they get home, the reader is ready to cheer for j oy that they all survived.