The American Iliad: The Epic Story of the Civil War as Narrated by Eyewitnesses and Contemporaries

By Otto Eisenschiml; Ralph Newman | Go to book overview

Foreword

The American Iliad is not intended to be just another story of the Civil War. Instead, it aims to present this heroic period as a panorama, letting the events pass before the reader's eyes much as they passed before the eyes of the men and women who lived at that time.

The Civil War beyond most wars went deep into every aspect of life and was much more than a series of battles. It affected every living being, both north and south of the Mason and Dixon Line and produced many strange human experiences, some of which we have woven into this narrative as an integral part of the picture.

We did not write this book. Dozens of people wrote it, people who witnessed a stirring contemporary scene and tell about it in their own words. They may have been commanding generals or soldiers in the ranks, newspaper reporters, statesmen or housewives. If they observed well, wrote honestly, entertainingly and--this is where we lay our emphasis--with dramatic suspense, we have drawn on their contributions in the compilation of this volume.

The selections we use are, for the most part, quoted verbatim. Now and then, though, we have found it desirable to make slight changes. A general may have been a fine strategist but a clumsy writer, a correspondent a good reporter but one who cluttered his sentences with commas and semicolons. We have tried to make grammar, spelling and punctuation uniform throughout, except when a quaint piece of writing seemed worth preserving or else was characteristic of a well-known personage.

As a rule we have condensed our material, but at other times we have added extra sentences so as to establish continuity or to avoid the necessity of a lengthy explanation. When an autobiographical account was written in the third person, we have changed it to the first, and where we have deviated from the original tense we have done it to fit the selection more smoothly into the balance of the text. When original wordings seemed obscure, we have clarified them. In no case, however, have we tampered with the meaning of our source material, nor have we distorted it in any way whatever.

-v-

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