Academic journal article Military Review

The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat

Academic journal article Military Review

The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat

Article excerpt

THE UNION SOLDIER IN BATTLE: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat by Earl J. Hess. 244 pages. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS. 1997. $29.95.

In The Union Soldier in Battle, Earl J. Hess attempts to explain not only how the Union soldier faced combat but also how he continued to do so in the face of seemingly overpowering obstacles. Hess prefaces his work by categorically stating that "it is not a fully developed study of soldier morale." Instead, it is an "interpretive essay." Hess examines the experience of battle, using soldiers' letters and diaries and unit histories, all of which are often quite graphic, and an extensive description of the nature of combat itself.

Hess uses the same sources to show the motivating factors that caused soldiers to endure and triumph over combat. He examines all facets of motivation-from religion to ideology; community spirit and comradeship; support from those at home, documenting the fears they faced while tending homesteads, businesses and families; and society's impact and expectations. Hess also emphasizes the importance of older Civil War studies, many of which were written before a comprehensive database of primary literature and source materials was available. …

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