Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Die Like Men by Tim Kent

John Bell Hood
Die Like Men is a chronicle of John Bell Hood's ill-fated Nashville campaign.  This fictional account provides readers a seat at the table with Union and Confederate commanders as they discuss strategy in battles at Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville.  Tim Kent's narrative takes us into battle with Confederate officers as they lead their men against Union troops at Franklin and defend against General George Thomas' forces at Nashville.  The ever present protagonist is John Bell Hood.

Kent portrays Hood as a man driven to succeed, but  Hood emerges as a sad, perhaps pathetic character whose Pollyanna view of the military situation is detached from the realities of the battlefield.  "Say what they want of me, Hood thought, but I am a good commander."  He faults his army for not having "the winning spirit."  Perhaps the  ultimate blow to Hood's confidence comes on their retreat to Alabama as his soldiers sing, "... but the gallant Hood of Texas played hell in Tennessee."  

Battle of Franklin
The novel captures the failure of generals to support their field commanders and vice versa.  Union General Schofield complains that Thomas won't come to his aid at Spring Hill and Franklin.  Thomas protests that Schofield is not attacking soon enough at Nashville. Hood frets over his officers' efforts to reach Spring Hill before the Union army.  Confederate commanders question Hood's grasp of reality and strategies.

George Henry Thomas
Die Like Men describes the bravery of Patrick Cleburne, John Adams, and Otho Strahl  at Franklin and Thomas B. Smith at Nashville.  We read of General Cheatham who left the battle to have a liaison with a local woman and Union General Wagner and Confederate General Brown who were rumored to have been drunk at Franklin.

The book is hurt by the hand-drawn battle maps.  A simple graphics program could have produced professionally looking images.  Some of the dialogue seemed to inconsistent with phrases and vocabulary of the Civil War era.  At times the generals spoke more like the common soldiers.  I would have liked to see more of the battles from the perspective of the men of Company B of the 35th Alabama Infantry.

Even with the above defects, Die Like Men is a good read that engages the reader as we follow Hood's campaign that seems to grasp failure from the jaws of victory.

We rate Die Like Men two stars

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