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Friday, March 14, 2008

What are the Best Lines from Civil War Books?

American Book Review published what it believes are the 100 best last lines from novels. Click here for the list.

Do you have a favorite last line from a Civil War book? Or even a favorite single sentence from a Civil War book?



J David Petruzzi said...

"In some ways, it seemed like nothing had changed; however, in many ways, things would never be the same again."

As the risk of sounding un-humble, this is the final line of the new book by Eric Wittenberg, myself, and Mike Nugent that you are publishing and is coming out on May 1 - "One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg..."

The line sums up our Epilogue chapter in which we narrate the two armies taking up their positions in late July 1863 across the Rappahannock from each other - the very SAME positions they had before the start of the Gettysburg Campaign. I really think this one line sums up the 8 weeks of fighting and over 50,000 casualties of the pivotal campaign of the war, like none has done before.


TPS said...

Ok JD, I can't resist even my own question (although it seems that most other readers are easily resisting it!).

"For that first day after the surrender, and for many another day, long and weary roads were theirs, and strange and sometimes winding; but the words of their leader they kept fresh in their hearts: "consciousness of duty faithfully performed"--that was the consolation which became their reward, their pride, their bequest."

--Douglas Southall, Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants," Vol. 3.

Unknown said...

"I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast."

William Tecumseh Sherman

Although this quote is not from an actual civil war book, the quote is reportedly from William Tecumseh Sherman's personal memoirs from the Civil War. I thought it was worthy of sharing as the quote supports the sentiments of the old proverb "The more things change, the more they stay the same." That is, the media apparently then, and still often today, report rumors as facts. What is perhaps even worse is knowing the media report what they want the general public to believe. SP

Reenactorman said...

I've always been partial to William C. Davis' work. The closing line of his biography of John C. Breckinridge seems to me to be hard to eclipse as for a closing to a biography: "John C. Breckinridge's work was done."

His bio of Jefferson Davis deserves an "honorable mention" of sorts too I think. Although this paragraph does not close the book, it is the next to the last chapter and does close Davis' life: "So many of those he loved had gone before him. Surely they would all be there. And if he scanned their welcoming faces, he might have given way to a little smile of delight. For here Joseph E. Johnston was nowhere to be seen."

TPS said...

Reenactorman--I like Jack Davis' work (especially his earlier work), and his Breckinridge bio is a real keeper. His Davis bio is one of my all-time favorites, and I remember that penultimate paragraph well.



Russell said...


Nice topic. Two nominees:

The tale is told. The world moves on, the sun shines as brightly as before, the flowers bloom as beautifully, the birds sing their carols as sweetly, the trees nod and bow their leafy tops as if slumbering in the breeze, the gentle winds fan our brow and kiss our cheek as they pass by, the pale moon sheds her silvery sheen, the blue dome of the sky sparkles with the trembling stars that twinkle and shine and make night beautiful, and the scene melts and gradually disappears forever.

Sam Watkins, "Co. Aytch"

Down by the roadside near Appomattox Court House, Sheridan and Ord and other officers sat and waited while a brown-bearded little man in a mud-spattered uniform rode up. They all saluted him, and there was a quiet interchange of greetings, and then General Grant tilted his head toward the village and asked: "Is General Lee up there?"
Sheridan replied that he was, and Grant said: "Very well. Let's go up."
The little cavalcade went trotting along the rode to the village, and all around them the two armies waited in silence. As the generals neared the end of their ride, a Yankee band in a field near the town struck up "Auld Lang Syne."

Bruce Catton, "A Stillness at Appomattox"

Russell S. Bonds