Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861

Article excerpt

Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861, by David Detzer. Harcourt, September 2004. $28

"A cloud of confusion still lingers over that battlefield," declares Detzer, in an opening salvo that sets the tone for this assertive interpretation of the first major battle of the American Civil War. Detzer emphasizes the human condition of combatants in tracing the battle from its origins in the minds of President Lincoln and General McDowell to its aftermath in withdrawal of the Union Army to Washington. In Detzer's narrative, bravery and gallantry, those icons of many Civil War epics, are subordinated to the doubt, despair, fear and horror that soldiers expressed in their letters and diaries, and to the incompetence and jealousies rife within the officer corps of both armies-particularly in the Union Army. Readers of Detzer's first book on the Civil War, Allegiance (2001), will be treated to the same style of vivid description and direct language. In Detzer's judgment: Beauregard is a "glory hog"; a McDowell decision is "bafflingly wrongheaded"; and the battle is a "disorganized nightmare" of miscommunication, clogged roads, poor reconnaissance, tardy decisions, and disobedience. …

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