In the fall of 1863, there is still a chance to prevent a Union victory in the Civil War. Robert E. Lee’s most trusted senior commander, General James Longstreet, takes two Virginia divisions west to unite with General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee. Longstreet arrives just in time to join in the Confederate attack on the Union army at the battle of Chickamauga.
As the fate of the Confederacy is decided, this epic saga plays out against the backdrop of the love stories of Mexican war veteran Sargent Sam Davis and the recently widowed Sally O’Grady, and of the young, poor and naive private Harry Kolb and Rachel Shaw, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. Their tales bring to vivid life the forgotten watershed moments of September, October and November of 1863, a period that more than any other determined the outcome of the war.
Fire and Dust narrates the history of the Civil War as it really was, and makes you a front row witness as the destiny of the Confederacy unfolds.
If you thought you knew the Civil War, think again. In Fire and Dust, Christopher Datta takes you beyond the clatter and gore of the battlefield to reveal the very hearts and minds of the Confederacy. His characters will haunt you like a rebel yell, sounding down through the years to touch you with their sacrifices, their struggles, and—most of all—their humanity. Karen Lyon, Hill Rag Magazine
Debut author CHRISTOPHER DATTA is no stranger to civil conflict or the still-extant scourge of slavery. Most recently the acting ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan where he helped end a war in April of 2012, he has spent a distinguished career moving from one strife-torn country to another, including Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. A lifelong student of the American Civil War, his research for Touched with Fire is exacting and based in part on a true story.
In 1997 I was privileged to meet and be taught by one of the foremost American Civil War experts. At the time he was a professor at the National War College with a well deserved reputation for making history come alive. Little did I know that one of my colleagues in the American diplomatic service would one day impress me even more.
Christopher Datta has now delighted us with two historical novels that go way beyond making that sad chapter of our history come alive; first, with the thrilling story of Ellen Craft in “Touched by Fire,” and now with “Fire and Dust.”
They say that he who wins the war writes the history. Datta took the challenge and proved them wrong. While scholars still debate whether Chikimauga was the turning point of the war, Datta’s elegant and authentic dialogue carries the compelling story of that horrific moment in 1863 from the perspective of the Confederates, and from the very private lives and thoughts of its participants.
The authenticity is electrifying. Most of us had no idea that civilians would scour the battlefields for their fallen loved ones; nor that the denoument of a battle could bring out compassion for the enemy wounded who moments before were trying to kill you. Most readers would shudder at the matter-of-factly way in which soldiers spoke about losing their own limbs and whether it was a beter thing to lose an arm instead of a leg, because at least they could still walk without an arm.
The casual reader may wonder whether Datta took incredible leaps of license when General Longstreet would speak, when General Bragg would show his disdain for his subordinates, when the Tennesse rebel would disparage the Virginians. Nope. It’s all there. It all rings so true that you can imagine Chris Datta rumaging through dusty letters and tomes to find just the right tone for his dialogues.
I can’t say much more without spoiling the effect of this magnificent human story. Let me just encourage, nay, plead with you to read this book. I don’t know how he will do in book 3 of his trilogy; but “Fire and Dust” left this reader thoroughly satisfied and entertained. Five Stars for “Fire and Dust.”
Fire and Dust is the second book in the Fire Trilogy. I read the first book, Touched with Fire, and thought it a pretty good read, so I decided to take a chance on this one too.
Fire and Dust has (almost) nothing to do with Touched with Fire, other than being a story of the opposite side of the war. Christopher Datta clarifies that in his author's note, and adds that the coming book three will see many of the characters in both books meet. That would be an interesting story to read.
The book started off a little too slowly for my liking, and I had to wade through several chapters of slow-moving war scenes before I was fully engaged with the story. I have to say this for Datta though - even in the more "war" (i.e. boring to me) bits, he is a good storyteller with an engaging tone.
Again, per my review for Touched with Fire, I don't know much about American history (not being an American). What I found interesting about this book was the way Datta provides a sympathetic voice for the Confederates, especially for the many normal foot soldiers who were fighting merely for their country, rather than any great cause to preserve slavery. Most of them did not even have any stakes in the fight, other than being of the opinion that their country (or state) was their own and they shouldn't be told what to do by the Union. Okay, that's probably very simplified version of things...
At any rate, I think Fire and Dust presents balanced historical materials about a (still) sensitive issue which doesn't paint any one person in stark black or white (Except maybe General Bragg). Whilst a principle may be true, any change in the lives of people, especially when it involves established institutions and conventions of a country, will always take a long time to be accepted - even when the war has been won.
*I received a free copy of this book via Novel Publicity in return for an honest review.
In the Fall of 1863, despite Lee’s loss at Gettysburg and Grant taking Vicksburg and gaining control of the Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half, there was still a chance of preventing a Union victory. Jefferson Davis had sent one of Lee’s most trusted commanders, General James Longstreet with two Virginia divisions, west to join General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee to attack Union forces at Chickamauga. The Battle of Chickamauga was a critical event for the Confederacy, squandered due to Bragg’s incompetence. In Christopher Datta’s Fire and Dust, Book 2 in his Fire Trilogy about the Civil War, the reader is plunged headlong into the horror of war and the backroom maneuverings of massive egos and poor decisions of those charged with managing the war for the South. Based solidly on historical documents, this is a story of war and the men and women caught up in it, in all their glory and shame. Told both from the strategic point of view of the generals and from the ‘in the trenches’ view of those who had to fight and die. This epic tale is mainly seen through the eyes of Sergeant Sam Davis, a veteran of the Mexican War, and Harry Kolb, a young farm boy who thought fighting the war would be a ‘fun’ thing to do. Both men are also mired in emotional relationships that eventually shape their view of war in ways that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The horror and the inhumanity of one of America’s most devastating conflicts is brought vividly to life in a book that should be required reading for anyone who wants to better understand one of the events that irrevocably shaped the path America has taken since the 1860s. History and fiction are blended smoothly in a way that makes it hard to know which is which—and it hardly matters, the story is told so well. I received a free copy of Fire and Dust in exchange for my review, and I can hardly wait for Book 3, which is sure to be a fascinating read.
I enjoyed the writing style. The book is well researched. Fictional characters seem real as does dialogue. Book looks at the battles of Chattanooga and Chickamauga from the confederate perspective. General Bragg, General Longstreet and other historical figures appear and their dialogue is quite believable.
I have no feelings of racism and count many friends and acquaintances of many nationalities, races, and religions and have always respected aspects of th South. If the decisions made in this novel by the leaders and officers are near accurate there is little doubt as to why they lost.
This book shows the hearts and minds of the confederates. I enjoyed the writing, the words flowed beautifully and it was wonderful reading about the history as well as many of the actual participants. Excellent read. I received this book from Goodreads. Thank you!