The following are book reviews for my book Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War.
From the Civil War News:
Let me tell you right up front that I don’t know much about poetry. I know the first sentence of this review sounds like a line in a Sam Cooke song, but that is pure coincidence.
Included in this book are 48 poems, and none of them rhyme. They are all presented in a prose style. They are all a page or less. The language is sparse and direct. They read more like letters home from the front rather than poetry.
Every aspect of a soldier’s life in war is covered here in six separate sections. We follow Pvt. Hercules McGraw from his enlistment to camp and training, on the march, at Shiloh and Gettysburg, and on retreat and the journey home. All is presented to the reader with much emotion.
Although the language is spare, the feeling is rich and fulfilling. I especially enjoyed the last two chapters, which deal with the pains of war and the journey home. It was here that I came to know Hercules, his loss and regrets.
Until then I was not sure I could relate to the story. The last few pages allowed me to bond with Hercules; I came to understand his anguish and felt empathy for his fate.
The book is a rather short and simple presentation of the emotions of a common man in a troubled world. There is not the flamboyance of a Shakespeare or Chaucer, but rather a Spartan style that I found appealing. All things considered, this is a worthy effort, and reading this volume is time well spent.
Reviewer: Joseph A. Truglio
Joseph A. Truglio is president and business agent for a motion picture film technicians local union and a lifelong student of the Civil War. His memberships include the Lincoln Group of New York and New Jersey Civil War Heritage Assn. He is president of the Phil Kearny Civil War Round Table in Wayne, N.J.
From the Confederate Book Review:
I am really not much of a poetry reader as my 12th grade english teacher could probably tell you. That’s why when S. Thomas Summers contacted me about reading his book of Civil War related poetry I had to give it some thought. I’m glad I did because this turned out to be quite the little gem!
In a series of brief, mostly one page or less, poems we follow the growth and maturation of young Private Hercules McGraw. McGraw and two friends enlist in the Confederate army. McGraw joins because he feels he has to own a slave in order to win the heart and hand of Martha Lane. McGraw here clearly puts the cause of the war as slavery; “the new president up in Washington is planning on making all them free.”
The three young soldiers end up at Shiloh where two key events take place for young Hercules: he shoots his first Yankee and he also finds his friend Nate dead on the battlefield. Seeing his friend dead leads Hercules to question his motives for fighting. As the war progresses Hercules finds himself becoming more soldier like. He feels he no longer has an opinion and just does as he is told. It was best not to think.
The poem Regrets contains my favorite lines from the book:
….Walked into the war
thinking I was doing some good,
but the war never noticed I was there.
I could of sneaked off, slunk into some hole
and nobody would have guessed I was gone.
Then I could have talked to Jesus again—
It is in this poem that Hercules and his friend Willy sneak off eventually joining a regiment that ended up in Gettysburg.
While at Gettysburg, Hercules compares Abraham Lincoln to Satan and also continues to grow up. He further realizes he doesn’t need Martha Lane and that fighting a was so he can own a slave to impress her was not worth it. She was not worth it. During Pickett’s Charge Hercules witnesses his friend Willy get shot in the head and die. Hercules is happy for him. During the retreat from Pennsylvania McGraw states that God is a Yankee and he considered the war over.
McGraw eventually deserts the army and heads back home empty handed as far as material things go. What he comes home with however is a new attitude and outlook. On his journey home he witnessed a regiment of black troops fighting and he realized that these were men. Not property, but men.
The sum of these pieces is truly worth more than the individual parts. A reader does not have to have knowledge of the Civil War to enjoy this story. What a reader needs is the willingness to sit for a few minutes and enjoy a great coming of age story. Well written, this is a book that can be read in pieces or can easily be finished in one sitting. Highly recommended!
Confederate Book Review: http://confederatebookreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/book-review-private-hercules-mcgraw.html
Reader reviews from Amazon.com(all five star reviews):