The Smoke at Dawn: A new arrival Novel of the Civil War (the Civil War 2021 in the West) online sale

The Smoke at Dawn: A new arrival Novel of the Civil War (the Civil War 2021 in the West) online sale

The Smoke at Dawn: A new arrival Novel of the Civil War (the Civil War 2021 in the West) online sale
The Smoke at Dawn: A new arrival Novel of the Civil War (the Civil War 2021 in the West) online sale_top

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 

Jeff Shaara returns to the Civil War terrain he knows so well, with the latest novel in the series that started with A Blaze of Glory and A Chain of Thunder. In The Smoke at Dawn, the last great push of the Army of the Cumberland sets the stage for a decisive confrontation at Chattanooga that could determine the outcome of the war.
 
Summer, 1863. The Federal triumph at Vicksburg has secured complete control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy, cementing the reputation of Ulysses S. Grant. Farther east, the Federal army under the command of William Rosecrans captures the crucial rail hub at Chattanooga. But Rosecrans is careless, and while pursuing the Confederates, the Federal forces are routed in north Georgia at Chickamauga Creek. Retreating in a panic back to Chattanooga, Rosecrans is pursued by the Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. Penned up, with their supply lines severed, the Federal army seems doomed to the same kind of defeat that plagued the Confederates at Vicksburg. But a disgusted Abraham Lincoln has seen enough of General Rosecrans. Ulysses Grant is elevated to command of the entire theater of the war, and immediately replaces Rosecrans with General George Thomas. Grant gathers an enormous force, including armies commanded by Joseph Hooker and Grant’s friend, William T. Sherman. Grant’s mission is clear: Break the Confederate siege and destroy Bragg’s army.  Meanwhile, Bragg wages war as much with his own subordinates as he does with the Federals, creating dissension and disharmony in the Southern ranks, erasing the Confederate army’s superiority at exactly the wrong time.
 
Blending evocative historical detail with searing depictions of battle, Jeff Shaara immerses readers in the world of commanders and common soldiers, civilians and statesmen. From the Union side come the voices of Generals Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and George Thomas—the vaunted “Rock of Chickamauga”—as well as the young private Fritz “Dutchie” Bauer. From the Rebel ranks come Generals Bragg, Patrick Cleburne, and James Longstreet, as well as the legendary cavalry commander, Nathan Bedford Forrest. A tale of history played out on a human scale in the grand Shaara tradition, The Smoke at Dawn vividly recreates the climactic months of the war in the West, when the fate of a divided nation truly hangs in the balance.
 
Praise for The Smoke at Dawn
 
“Civil War history fiends will be riveted.” —Parade
 
“A beautifully written novel . . . Shaara once again elevates history from mere rote fact to explosive and engaging drama.” —Bookreporter
 
“Shaara’s mastery of military tactics, his intimate grasp of history, and his ability to interweave several supporting narratives into a cohesive and digestible whole . . . will appeal to a broad range of historical- and military-fiction fans.” Booklist
 
“Top-notch . . . As with the best historical war novels, knowing the ultimate outcome of the bitter fighting is not a bar to engagement.” Publishers Weekly

Review

“Civil War history fiends will be riveted.” —Parade

The Smoke at Dawn is a beautifully written novel about a battle usually ignored. The historical details and the personal examinations fuse perfectly—with the raw power of the battle meshed hand-in-hand with the inner struggle of the men who determine the fates of others and of nations. Shaara once again elevates history from mere rote fact to explosive and engaging drama.” Bookreporter
 
“Shaara’s mastery of military tactics, his intimate grasp of history, and his ability to interweave several supporting narratives into a cohesive and digestible whole as he revisits a catastrophic period in U.S. history will appeal to a broad range of historical- and military-fiction fans.” Booklist
 
“Top-notch . . . As with the best historical war novels, knowing the ultimate outcome of the bitter fighting is not a bar to engagement.” Publishers Weekly

“Blending historical detail with vivid depictions of battle, Jeff Shaara immerses readers in the world of commanders and common soldiers, civilians and statesmen. . . . The Smoke at Dawn vividly recreates the climactic months of the war in the West, when the fate of a divided nation truly hangs in the balance.” Huntington News

About the Author

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of A Chain of Thunder, A Blaze of Glory, The Final Storm, No Less Than Victory, The Steel Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure—two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic, The Killer Angels. Shaara was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Gettysburg.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

9780345527417|excerpt

Shaara / THE SMOKE AT DAWN

Part One

Recoil and Reposition

Chapter One

Forrest

Near Rossville, Georgia—­September 21, 1863

The prisoners were marched away under guard of only a few of his men. It was clear to Forrest, and to anyone in his command, that these Federal troops were not frightened, seemed instead to be relieved to be out of the fight. He moved the horse past them, stared up along the muddy road, and beyond, to a wide ridgeline. There were Yankees there, too, some in the road, many more just lying flat in the grass, some seated against a scattering of timber. They were stragglers, no weapons, their equipment no doubt part of the scattered heaps alongside the road. He watched for any sign of aggression, his own instinct, a hint of danger from these enemy troops. But there was only the despair, the paralysis that comes from defeat, most of the Yankees with no energy for escape, for anything at all. His horsemen were gathering them up, forming them into uneven columns just off the road, and Forrest could see the exhaustion, filthy, ragged men, torn shirts, remnants of blue uniforms. The horsemen had dismounted, rough shouts to the new prisoners of what would happen to them, useless threats, the ridiculous boasting Forrest tried to ignore. He glanced back to an aide.

“Gather ’em up, send ’em to the rear. And tell my boys to keep that nonsense to themselves.”

“Yes, sir.”

Forrest sat high on the horse, spoke out toward a group of a dozen men, the prisoners closest to him, most too tired to stand.

“You boys get to your feet. The march is back that ways. There’s food, water. Get going.”

The Federal troops seemed to recognize his authority, something in his voice, the uniform, and they began to obey, rising up with slow, automatic movement. Forrest had no idea if there was food anywhere behind him, but to these men, it didn’t matter. Any promise was better than what they had now.

The air was damp and cool, and he thought back to the early morning, climbing into the saddle, the anticipation, pure excitement over what might come. The fight that had consumed this countryside for most of two days was over completely, nothing at all happening anywhere near Chickamauga Creek. But the Federals had left a rear guard behind, several squads of cavalry, protecting the troops whose retreat was absolute. From the reports of his own advance scouts, Forrest knew that through every mountain pass the Yankees were flowing away with the kind of panic that makes men vulnerable. But not all the Yankees were in disarray. He knew of General Thomas, the tough fight the afternoon before that required too many deadly attacks from most of the Confederate forces on the field. Forrest wouldn’t know anything yet of the army’s casualty counts. That would come later, all those official reports, commanders trying to elevate themselves above the bloodletting, that no matter the confusion, the mistakes, the loss of so many good men, the generals could, after all, claim victory. He thought of Thomas, the Virginian who went north. Thomas had gathered up what he could, hunkered them down on a broad hill, good high ground, beating back every assault. Now Thomas and his Yankees were gone, pulling what remained of the Federal forces northward with as much order as those men could muster, protecting the rabble, the rest of the Union army, from being annihilated.

With the dawn, Forrest had gathered a force of some four hundred cavalrymen, had pushed out hard into the misty daylight, slogging through the mud and rain, driving hard to find the Federal position, if there was one to find. He had to believe, as they all did, that Thomas had given the Federal army the enormous benefit of time, that the Yankees might make good their escape through the mountain passes, a desperate drive toward the defensive lines around Chattanooga. If Forrest could cut them off, even a piece of that army, it would be a marvelous success. What he saw now was a hollow victory, his men finding only the basest remains of the Federal infantry. The cavalry was still out there, more of the Federal rear guard, but it was a toothless threat, a final effort to protect the men in blue slogging their way over the mountains.

He glanced back again, a larger column of his troopers gathering closer, coming together, re-­forming after the latest skirmish, and called out, “Push on! No pause. Rest will come later. Care for your mounts, but we’ve got an opportunity here. I mean to make the most of it. Major Harvey.”

The officer moved closer, and Forrest could see the man’s weariness, felt it himself.

“Major, take fifty men, move out through those scattered trees. There’s Yankees scampering away on every path, every trail. Round up what you can. Be sharp, keep your eyes out for a skirmish line, for any sign of an ambush. But I’m betting the Yankee cavalry’s mostly gone. If we’d have started sooner, pushed them harder . . .”

He let the words trail away, stared back down the muddy road, over the heads of his men. He knew they were exhausted, that their mounts were in worse shape than the men, little time for forage, for water, for rest at all. He felt the soaking wetness from the rain, magnifying his own weariness, adding to his frustration. This is our chance, he thought. Our best chance in months. And by God, we’re letting them get away.

He looked again up the long slope, saw past the debris in the road, the hill cresting in a scattering of timber.

“Forward!”

He spurred the horse, felt the unfamiliar gait, the uncomfortable rhythm, had a sudden flash of sadness. His own horse had gone down with a fatal wound not an hour before, another brief skirmish with Yankee cavalry that had gone his way. The Yankees had gotten the worst of it, again, but the wound to the horse had given him a jolt. He had seen that before, many times, the great obedient beasts standing tall in the storm of shot, absorbing the musket fire as though it were just part of their duty. Some horses could suffer a half-­dozen wounds, yet still move forward, seemingly oblivious to agony or pain, determined only to serve. But his own mount had been hit in some vulnerable place, a horrible spurt of blood, which Forrest had tried to stop with his own hand. The animal had staggered, and even as his men drove the Yankees away, Forrest had dismounted, focusing on the beast, had spoken to it, soothing words, as though it might help. But the wound was deep, the blood unstoppable, and within short minutes the horse had collapsed, one more casualty. There were other horses there, of course, but the unfamiliar mount was the cavalryman’s curse, suddenly astride a stranger, no bond between them, no rhythm to the ride. Forrest tried to ignore that, had driven the fresh animal to the head of the column, resuming the pursuit. He reached down and slapped the horse’s neck.

“Let’s go to work, old boy. This is a glorious day. You’ll see that for yourself.”

He crested the hill, saw a larger hill to the front, a long, high ridge that spread out to the north, speckled with a scattering of trees. To the left, westward, was the vast hulk of Lookout Mountain, rising up into heavy mist, the crown of the enormous rock disguised by a layer of fog. He glanced that way, nothing to see, pushed the horse beyond the ridge, rode down into a low bowl, the timber closing in on the road. Careful, he thought. One coward, trying to be a hero, taking his last shot at some officer on a horse. Not how I want to die. Stand up and face me, bluebelly. Let’s see who the better man might be.

Beside him, one of his officers moved close, the man’s voice, Captain Seeley.

“Sir, that’s the big ridge. Mission Ridge. The enemy’s likely to make a stand there. Good defensive position.”

“Nope. They’re not making a stand anywhere, not today. You see all that equipment along the road? They’re whipped. We keep pushing them hard, we’ll haul in the whole Army of the Cumberland. About time, too. I want to see the faces of all those bluebellies who thought they could shove their way anyplace they saw fit. We handed them Tennessee. But not Georgia.” He paused. “Let’s get to the top, see what kind of view we have of Chattanooga. If the fog’s not low in the valley, I’m wagering you’ll see just how right I am.”

He raised his hand, pointed toward the long ridge, spurred the horse to a trot. The climb was long and steady, and he knew the young captain would be alert, wouldn’t just take Forrest’s word for it. Good, he thought. I’m not certain, either. He doesn’t need to know that. My job’s simple: Convince them they can whip the entire Yankee nation. This past couple of days, that’s just what we did. If I have my way, we’ll finish the job.

He reached the wide crest, another glance at the enormity of Lookout Mountain, but the fog was high, the valley that spread out below clear, bathed by patches of late morning sunlight.

“Sir!”

He saw his men, and Major Harvey, farther along the ridge, a gathering near a small cluster of trees, the men surrounding a pair of bluecoats. The major was waving to him, a beaming smile, and Forrest rode that way, his men spreading out just behind the ridge, good training. They would know how visible they might be, the ridgeline mostly open. Any thick mass of cavalry could be a perfect target for enemy artillery. Harvey was still waving, excited energy, and Forrest obliged him, kept his eyes on the two Yankees. He saw the signal flag, heard a whoop high in the tree, looked up, saw one of his own men sitting on a fat branch.

“What you have here, Major?”

“Two prisoners, sir. Signalmen. Good place for ’em to be, sir. They were up in the trees, waving them flags like they was calling out for Heavenly Deliverance. Guess it didn’t work.”

Forrest looked at the two men, both staring up at him, curious. He focused on the younger man, hoped to see fear, but the man was stoic, defiant. Forrest leaned out closer, said, “What’s your name, son?”

“Kirkman. I’m from Illinois. Not telling you nothing else.”

“Don’t much care if you do, Mr. Kirkman from Illinois. What I want from you is right there.” Forrest pointed to the man’s chest, the field glasses hanging on a thin leather strap. There was no protest, the man sliding the strap over his head.

“Here you go, rebel. I reckon you captured these, too.”

“Yep, that I did. Major, call your man down from that tree. I’d fancy my own look.”

The trooper slipped down quickly, no order required, and Forrest dismounted, took the field glasses from the Yankee’s hand.

“Thank you, Mr. Kirkman. Now, I’ll just be taking a look at what your army is up to.”

Forrest moved to the tallest tree, saw the limbs trimmed, a perfect ladder upward. He draped the field glasses over his neck, climbed, felt the ache. He had taken yet another wound in the fighting the day before, a nagging slice across his back, soothed by the constant motion from the horse. But he felt it now, stiffening, a burning stab. He tried to ignore the pain, moved up higher, one limb at a time. He reached the platform the Yankees had used, their observation point, the last sturdy limb where the thinner branches had been cleared away. He stood gingerly, one hand on the tree, steadied himself, now saw why the signalmen were there. Below him the valley stretched for miles, north and west, and far out in front, the looping meanders of the Tennessee River. Just this side of the river was the city of Chattanooga, lined with stout earthworks and lines of cut timber, most of that work done by Confederates a month or more before. Even at this distance he could make out the flow of humanity, pouring through the mountain passes, across the flat plain, masses of men in blue.

On every road, in every open field, Federal troops were on the move toward the town. But there was little order, nothing to resemble a march at all. He wanted to shout, felt a great flood of joy, could see what remained of the Federal Army of the Cumberland, a distant swarm of blue insects, a massive ant bed stirred up by the Hand of God. He looked to the left, the near side of the river that wound past the base of Lookout Mountain. There was blue there as well, wagons, teamsters making use of the good road that ran westward along the river, salvaging whatever they could carry, some no doubt hauling the wounded, a great many wounded. Yes, by God, we whipped them. Anyone who has a horse is making his way out of those hills quick as the horse will take him. The whole army . . . they’ve got their minds set on one thing: getting out of this place completely. If we push them hard enough, quick enough, we’ll shove them right out of Chattanooga, back north, maybe all the way to Nashville.

He looked down, called out.

“Captain, I need to send a message to General Polk. I want to make sure General Bragg sees it as well. These are strict orders, you understand?”

He saw Captain Seeley, the young man motioning for a courier, a piece of paper emerging from the man’s coat.

“What’s the message, sir?”

Forrest stared out again across the open valley, could feel the desperation in the enemy soldiers even now, miles away, could sense the panic he knew he had to exploit. He scanned the ridgelines to the south and west, hoping to see more columns of Bragg’s men, the victorious army driving their pursuit with lustful energy, completing the great victory. But there was only the fog, thick timber hiding the roads, no signs of movement from Bragg’s army at all. Surely, he thought. Surely he knows. They must come. It is so . . . simple.

He thought of the words, knew that Polk might hesitate, and so Bragg must be told as well. They despise each other, he thought. Two cackling hens. Well, today it’s time to be soldiers. Your enemy is right out there, beaten and disorganized and they know what it feels like to be routed from the field. In fear there is opportunity. Our opportunity.

“Tell him . . . our position, our strength. We do not have the numbers up here to do much more. The army must come up. We must push them . . . hit them. Tell the general . . . we must press forward as rapidly as possible.”

He thought of climbing down, saw Seeley writing furiously, but Forrest felt frozen, the pain in his back, the exhaustion holding him in place. We must keep them scared, he thought. Drive them wherever we can, let them know we’re right behind them. Demons, chasing them to hell. We have you, he thought. We have you in our hands. And now we will crush you.



For most of the day, Forrest had waited atop Missionary Ridge with pulsing frustration, continued to send couriers back to the places where the generals were supposed to be. By late afternoon, he had grown sick of his impotence, unable to do anything more than watch from his perfect vantage point as the flood of Yankees drifted across the wide plain into Chattanooga. With no instructions, no words of encouragement from the commanders, he made the decision to leave his horsemen up on the ridgeline, while he and a small number of troopers rode back southward to face the generals himself.

Bragg’s Headquarters—­ Near Chickamauga Creek—­September 21, 1863

The room was hot, a roaring wood fire from a wide stone hearth, the thick air intoxicating, sleep inducing, Bragg’s aides supporting themselves in small camp chairs or leaning against the crude walls. The wetness in Forrest’s uniform had turned to sweat, both from the heat in the headquarters and Forrest’s manic pacing. He thumped his boot heels into the wooden floor, turned, made the short march back the other way, waited for Bragg to complete some detail, jotting notes on a piece of paper, reading, then rereading, what seemed to Forrest to be a deliberate effort to hold the horseman back.

A new burst of pain drove through Forrest, and the words came now, his weariness and the agony of the wound breaking down his discipline.

“Sir! Please! I was told you received my dispatches.”

Bragg looked up, blinked, as though fighting back sleep. “Yes. Calm yourself, General.”

Forrest could wait no more. “General Bragg, the enemy is filling the defenses at Chattanooga. I have seen it myself. I have sent messages back here, imploring this army to take advantage of the opportunity the enemy is providing us. That opportunity will not last, if we allow him to find the full protection of the barricades in the city. I firmly believe that a swift and decisive push against those works will convince the enemy he cannot remain, that Chattanooga is no safe haven. He is inclined still to retreat. He is beaten, a whipped dog that needs only a sharp strike from us. He will either surrender, or he will scamper away.”

Forrest was running out of words, nothing coming yet from Bragg. He had little respect for Bragg as a leader, had already experienced Bragg’s tendency to make battlefield decisions based on personality clashes with his own subordinates rather than whatever the enemy might be doing. If Bragg had one characteristic Forrest respected, it was a fierce dedication to discipline. Bragg might shoot a miscreant soldier just to prove a point.

But there was nothing fierce in Bragg’s demeanor now.

“General Forrest, I appreciate your zeal for combat. I share it, as you must certainly know. There is great honor in besting the enemy. I am told we bested him right here. My ranking generals seem convinced we handed General Rosecrans a crushing blow. It puzzles me why officers who are supposed to know something of battles can be so misled by first impressions.”

Forrest stopped moving, tried to decipher whatever message Bragg was giving him.

“Sir, do you not believe the enemy was swept away from this field? Every officer I have spoken to insists we secured a major victory along Chickamauga Creek. Is that not what . . . you believe?”

“General Polk sent one of his commanders . . . Maney, I be­lieve . . . sent him forward to observe the mountain passes. He reports much the same as you. But General Polk has not performed to my expectations, to my orders. I am examining even now a path of corrective action. And so, place yourself in my position, Mr. Forrest. Polk has been derelict, and yet I am to believe everything he tells me. I have thus far no complaint against you. And yet I am to act solely upon your observations. I can most reliably depend upon those things I can see for myself, General. Have you ridden across these fields, these wood lots, these patches of forest? I can rarely recall such carnage, such a human tragedy. The dead and severely wounded of both sides lie mingled in a horror that no general can accept lightly, that no civilian can ever understand. The mothers and wives of our fallen men will find no comfort in this so-­called victory.”

Forrest stared, a glance at one of the aides, a young captain, who avoided his eyes.

“General Bragg, is not the duty of my cavalry to offer you reliable information? You said yourself we have performed well.”

“You fought well, yes. I have not heard any reports of your men failing to carry out their orders. But with all respects to your accomplishments and your reputation, I learned long ago to distrust cavalry. There is a great deal of romance in your service, is there not? All that professed gallantry can lead to carelessness, more time spent impressing the ladies along the way than accuracy in locating the enemy. With respects to you, Mr. Forrest, I must accept your reports with a measure of skepticism.”

Forrest felt a boiling anger sprout in his brain, the insult more than casual. But still . . . Bragg was in command. And every officer in the army had been insulted by Bragg more than once. He took a long breath, tried to calm the instinctive response, unclenched a tight fist, a weapon that one part of him wanted to plant squarely across Bragg’s chin.

“Sir, I can only offer you what I saw myself. The enemy is in full retreat away from here. He has made a frantic withdrawal through the mountains. I made every attempt to engage him, push a fight against the obstacles he put in our path. His rear guard did little more than delay us. Every observation I made tells me that right now, there is no fight in the Federal army. We must drive General Rosecrans from the sanctuary they seek in Chattanooga. He is defeated. He is inclined toward further retreat. We must see it so. We must not allow him the false confidence of believing us too weak to crush him.”

Bragg shook his head, stared down at the desk. “I wish this entire army shared your passion, Mr. Forrest. But we are in no condition to drive forward with any conviction. We must recover our wounded, regroup, sort out the units. Entire regiments are jumbled about, their officers confused, stumbling about seeking their commands.”

“Sir, I am told that General Longstreet is prepared to move forward, that he has gathered a sizable force. . . .”

Bragg sniffed loudly, and Forrest saw something awaken in the man, the familiar fury he had seen before, that every officer in the army had seen before.

“Do not speak to me of General Longstreet. The man marches his troops into my command intending to conquer all that lies before him, as though he has been anointed with superior genius, superior forces. Am I to believe that his mission here is simply to assist me? For reasons I do not understand, the president and General Lee believe I require his help in order to succeed. The newspapers trumpet Longstreet’s name as though he alone can save our cause! Are we so inept, so consumed with misdeeds and errors that only a man from the East can deliver us? I will entertain no such notions, General. It is of no interest to me what General Longstreet believes possible, or what he intends to do. I am in command of this army, and I shall make the decisions as to how it is used. We must regroup, we must reorganize, we must replenish. We have been bloodied. We have endured severe losses.”

“What of the enemy’s losses? The enemy has abandoned this field to us. He is fleeing in a panic. Or . . . he was. I fear now we have granted him a full day to calm his demons. Every moment we delay is worth a thousand men.”

“Too many thousands of men lie out there, never to return. General Forrest, I have allowed you to speak your mind, because I know your horsemen have performed ably, and with honor. Please return to your command, and extend my deepest appreciation for their service. We shall reevaluate our situation in the morning, when this army has regained a portion of its strength. Then we will decide how best to deal with the enemy. If what I am told is accurate, and mind you, I still have my doubts, then isn’t it possible that General Rosecrans is already preparing to march away from here completely, abandoning Chattanooga, and perhaps all of Tennessee? Is not that what a great victory will grant us?”

Forrest felt the responses erupting inside of him, the heat in the room dizzying him.

Bragg rubbed a hand through his beard, seemed satisfied by Forrest’s lack of protest. “Yes, you see? I am well aware of our options. Now, I can see you are tired. It is very late, after all. We are all drained by what has happened here. Be assured, this command recognizes your good work. Get a good night’s rest. I will have orders for you tomorrow, or soon after.”

Orders to do what? Forrest kept the question to himself, saw Bragg’s eyes drift shut, a perfect symbol of the day’s end. Forrest wanted to say more, tried to ignite the protests again, but on one point Bragg was right. It was very late, close to midnight, and Forrest had been in the saddle nearly all day, and two days before that. The helplessness was overwhelming him, the anger and frustration pulling away. Nothing he could say to Bragg would change the man’s resolve to simply . . . do nothing. He does not believe the enemy is crushed, does not accept what I saw with my own eyes. There is nothing more for me to do here.

Bragg seemed to come awake again, said, “A night’s rest, General. Do you a great deal of good.”

Forrest said nothing, turned to the open door, felt the cool wet breeze flooding the heat in the fire-lit room. He moved out through the door, thought, There will be no rest for the men over there. In Chattanooga, the enemy is doing his own regrouping, reorganizing. He is fortifying those works, and gathering himself for what he must believe is our inevitable attack. But there is nothing . . . inevitable. Except perhaps . . . that those dead men General Bragg so mourns will have died for no good reason.

He moved out into the chilling mist, the darkness giving way to the light from a single lantern. His staff was mounting their horses, and Forrest took the reins from an orderly, climbed up into the saddle, sharp pain in his back, a small grunt he tried to keep silent. He looked at the others, saw Captain Seeley watching him, questioning, expectant, the enthusiasm of the young.

“Orders, sir? Is General Bragg going after them?”

Forrest shook his head, looked down, the horse moving uneasily beneath him.

“Captain . . . I cannot imagine what General Bragg is going to do. I only wonder . . . if he does not see the value in what we have accomplished here, does not understand the magnitude of our success, the opportunity that we were given. If he has so little faith that we can win victories . . . then why does he fight battles?”

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Roy E. Perry
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Shaara''s dynamic methodology infuses his narrative with an engaging immediacy
Reviewed in the United States on November 4, 2015
Jeff Shaara’s new series of Civil War novels includes A Blaze of Glory (the Battle of Shiloh; 2012); A Chain of Thunder (the Siege of Vicksburg; 2013); The Smoke at Dawn (the Battle of Chattanooga; 2014); and The Fateful Lightning (Sherman’s capture of Atlanta and his march... See more
Jeff Shaara’s new series of Civil War novels includes A Blaze of Glory (the Battle of Shiloh; 2012); A Chain of Thunder (the Siege of Vicksburg; 2013); The Smoke at Dawn (the Battle of Chattanooga; 2014); and The Fateful Lightning (Sherman’s capture of Atlanta and his march to the sea; 2015).

The Smoke at Dawn begins with the Battle of Chickamauga, the worst defeat suffered by the Army of the Cumberland. In Chapter One, as Union soldiers retreat out of north Georgia back toward Chattanooga, Nathan Bedford Forrest berates Gen. Braxton Bragg for his refusal to pursue the enemy ruthlessly, thereby losing a great opportunity for the Confederate army.

With the Union army bottled up in Chattanooga by a siege that threatens its starvation, Ulysses S. Grant, the victor at Fort Donelson, Shiloh (with Buell’s help), and Vicksburg, is promoted to lieutenant general (only the third person to have that title, since George Washington and Winfield Scott) and elevated to the lofty position as commander of the entire region west of the Appalachians. It will take Grant’s expertise to help the fly escape from the fly bottle.

The forty-one remaining chapters of this novel alternate between principals of both North and South—for the South, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Braxton Bragg, and Patrick Cleburne; for the North, George Thomas, Private Fritz “Dutchie” Bauer, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Breaking the siege, the Union forces launch a three-pronged attack: a successful capture of Lookout Mountain (“the battle above the clouds”); a vicious fight at Tunnel Hill that ends in a virtual stalemate; and the triumphant attack on and breakthrough at Missionary Ridge.

In his inimitable style, Jeff Shaara combines the historian’s diligent research with the fascinating creativity of the novelist. We learn much more than the dry facts recorded in history books (the who, what, where, when, and why); we are given insights into the various characters’ thoughts and emotions.

Surely the best contemporary novelist writing about the Civil War, Jeff Shaara presents first-person, present-tense accounts of the various strategies and tactics: “I am thinking and feeling thusly,” rather than “He thought and felt thusly.” Such a dynamic methodology infuses his narrative with an engaging immediacy.
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Ron Rives
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great Read-Great Character Development
Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2021
After defeating the Union Army at Chickamauga, CSA General Braxton Bragg blows his chance to destroy the retreating Yankees at Chattanooga. Fresh from his victory at Vicksburg, Grant is sent to Chattanooga to reinforce the besieged Union army and eventually drives Bragg''s... See more
After defeating the Union Army at Chickamauga, CSA General Braxton Bragg blows his chance to destroy the retreating Yankees at Chattanooga. Fresh from his victory at Vicksburg, Grant is sent to Chattanooga to reinforce the besieged Union army and eventually drives Bragg''s Rebels from their superior position in the surrounding hills. Bragg is painted as a disagreeable paranoid autocrat who spends more time fighting his own subordinates than he does the Yankees. His generals even sign a petition to Jefferson Davis to have Bragg removed. Davis, a friend to Bragg, refuses-fortunately for the Union. Shaara''s portrayal of Bragg may be too kind. In Grant''s autobiography, he describes an incident that sums up Braxton Bragg. In the pre-Civil War army, then Lt. Bragg was a company commander who was also assigned to be quartermaster at his post. Bragg submitted a request for supplies for his company in writing to the quartermaster-himself. As quartermaster, Bragg declined in writing that the supplies were needed. Bragg the commander responded in writing as to why the supplies were needed. Bragg the quartermaster again declined in writing. Unable to resolve the conflict, the matter was kicked to the fort commander who commented that Bragg had argued with every other officer on the post and was now arguing with himself. Colorful character. Great book.
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Bruce Altshuler
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A great novel about the forgotten Chattanooga Campaign .
Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2015
Another triumph from Jeff Shaara , this time featuring the Battle of Chattanooga , which was actually a siege followed by a campaign extending over 2 months during the latter part of 1863. The story begins after the union''s Gen Rosecrans'' severe defeat at Chickamauga... See more
Another triumph from Jeff Shaara , this time featuring the Battle of Chattanooga , which was actually a siege followed by a campaign
extending over 2 months during the latter part of 1863. The story begins after the union''s Gen Rosecrans'' severe defeat at Chickamauga by General Braxton Bragg and his retreat to a tenuous position in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Instead of attacking as was urged by most of his supporting generals, Bragg equivocated and waited for Rosecrans to collapse under a siege and a cut off of a union supply line. General Grant was called in to take over for Rosecrans, and immediately adopted a plan by his chief engineer General Smith to seize an island and open
up a Tennessee River supply route, which saved Grant''s army. The unsung hero of this campaign, aside from Smith, was union general George Thomas, known as the ''Rock of Chickamauga'' who proposed one successful tactic after another. To Grant''s credit, he followed most of Thomas'' suggestions which plan ultimately led to the Union triumph.

I found Shaara''s latest effort one of his finest, and highlighting a battle seldom recounted which was crucial in ending all Confederate presence in Tennessee forever. Shaara demonstrates without directly saying so, that by 1863, the North was able to decisively ''out-general'' the South at every turn beginning at Vicksburg and continuing until the end of the War. The South never really had an answer to Grant''s grit and determination to win the War.
8 people found this helpful
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Dane5015
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Love these books
Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2015
Shaara is a very enjoyable historical fiction author. I make it through his Civil War books more quickly than most any other books I pick up and always am wanting a little more. I definitely always keep an eye out for what he does next. Using different perspectives... See more
Shaara is a very enjoyable historical fiction author. I make it through his Civil War books more quickly than most any other books I pick up and always am wanting a little more. I definitely always keep an eye out for what he does next. Using different perspectives throughout his books gives for a more complete look at events and I feel I learn something as I trust his research and knowledge. I would say that he does seem to have people he favors in his many novels and some he portrays so negatively that it seems unfair. I cannot believe some of these people are that irrational, but who knows... It is nothing that is majorly off putting (unless maybe it was one of your ancestors). If you like the Civil War and have not already tried this, I cannot endorse them enough. I have been pleased to share my copies with friends.
5 people found this helpful
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Marco Polo
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
That''s the way it went
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2014
"Smoke" is an historical novel of the Civil War campaign around Chattanooga following the Union defeat at Chickamauga. As in most such novels, one has historical characters (among them, in this case, U.S. Grant and W.T. Sherman on the Union side, and B. Bragg, P.... See more
"Smoke" is an historical novel of the Civil War campaign around Chattanooga following the Union defeat at Chickamauga. As in most such novels, one has historical characters (among them, in this case, U.S. Grant and W.T. Sherman on the Union side, and B. Bragg, P. Cleburne, and N.B. Forrest on the Confederate side), and entirely fictional characters, built, to the extent the author can bring it off, around historical evidence.

The Union forces eventually prevailed, partly by weight of numbers, partly by the wisdom and tenacity of Grant (Sherman, the general I most admire in all of history, has a bad day and learns a hard lesson at the hands of Cleburne), and partly through the folly and dyspeptic ill temper of Bragg. But of course, wars are not fought by generals and battles often turn on the sum of the individual qualities of initiative and courage of the men at the front, privates, noncoms, and junior officers. This fact tends not to shine through in straight historical accounts as it does in historical novels, simply because the historian cannot invent characters to tell stories that illustrate how those qualities played their own part in shaping the outcome.

The battles that decided the Chattanooga campaign involved more of this sort of "fighting man takes the battle out of the hands of the generals and wins it" twists than most, which makes it particularly important and valuable that these men be given names and faces and a story.

Here, the central lower-ranking characters are very well drawn, their actions illustrate the kinds of things that might have happened and that would have made possible the kinds of extraordinary outcomes that history records for some of those battles.

Spoiler alert: read no further if you don''t like having your surprise endings stripped of their surprise.

...

...

...

Two key rank and file characters are literal, historical characters. They really did the amazing things they are said to have done, and there are diaries and medal awards to prove it.
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darnolddawg
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A riveting historical novel about the middle portion of the Civil War, from Vicksburg, heading toward Atlanta.
Reviewed in the United States on August 11, 2015
If you are a fan of Civil War history, you will love "The Smoke at Dawn." Jeff Shaara fleshes out the portion of the Civil War from the Union victory at Vicksburg, through the Confederate victory at Chickamauga Creek, and the subsequent Confederate siege of Union... See more
If you are a fan of Civil War history, you will love "The Smoke at Dawn." Jeff Shaara fleshes out the portion of the Civil War from the Union victory at Vicksburg, through the Confederate victory at Chickamauga Creek, and the subsequent Confederate siege of Union forces at Chattanooga. With Union forces trapped at Chattanooga, Ulysses Grant sends General William Sherman from Vicksburg to relieve the siege. Sherman eventually defeats the Confederate forces and relieves the siege, all the while aided by the mishandling of Confederate forces under General Braxton Bragg. Once Sherman has relieved the siege, he is free to start his march through northern Georgia heading to capture and destroy the Confederate rail hub in Atlanta.

"The Smoke at Dawn" is a classic Jeff Shaara page turner. The book is carefully researched, but Shaara is able to breathe life into the principal characters involved in this section of the Civil War, giving them personalities that leap off the page. Highly recommended reading.
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Steven PetersonTop Contributor: Baseball
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another nice work in the Shaara tradition-but Braxton Bragg?
Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2014
Shaara pere et fils have authored a number of historical novels, extending from early American history to more contemporary wars. Jeff Shaara has written many such novels; his father famously authored "Killer Angels," with its subject the battle of Gettysburg. The... See more
Shaara pere et fils have authored a number of historical novels, extending from early American history to more contemporary wars. Jeff Shaara has written many such novels; his father famously authored "Killer Angels," with its subject the battle of Gettysburg. The work here focuses on the battle of Chattanooga, with the Union forces in a bad way after a devastating defeat at Chickamauga.

As with the other novels by father and son, the action is seen through the eyes of several characters. In this work, the Confederate actors include Patrick Cleburne, a hard hitting division commander, and Braxton Bragg, an acerbic and misanthropic commanding general. For the Union side, the voices include Ulysses Grant, George Thomas (the "Rock of Chickamauga"), William Sherman, and an enlisted soldier, Fritz Bauer.

The narrative takes us from the dreary siege and the discomfiture experienced by Union troops to Grant''s arrival in Chattanooga to defeated general of the Army of the Tennessee, William Rosecrans, being replaced by Thomas, to Sherman''s arrival. We are introduced to many characters on both sides.

The work takes us through the various stages of the campaign--from opening the "Cracker Line" (probably underdone), to Grant''s and Thomas'' interactions (fairly accurately portrayed as "cool"), to the arrival of Sherman. On the Confederate side, we see the internecine conflict as Braxton Bragg finds it hard to get along with others. And this does lead me to note that Bragg was difficult, but in this novel, he is portrayed as almost mentally ill--and I am not sure that we can go that far in assessing him. His conflict with James Longstreet and Nathan Bedford Forrest and. . . . does ring true though.

We see the gathering of Union forces to assault Confederate positions--at Lookout Mountain, Tunnel Hill, and Missionary Ridge. The details make for compelling reading.

In sum, this is a fine historical novel of the Civil War, albeit somewhat clouded by what seems to me to be a unidimensional view of Braxton Bragg.
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Gordon Hastings
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
VICKSBURG--BIGGER THAN GETTYSBURG?
Reviewed in the United States on August 7, 2014
President Lincoln''s brilliant decision to elevate Ulysses S. Grant to General in Chief of the Union Army following Grant''s victory at Vicksburg on July 3, 1863 was further justified by the success of Grants first assignment following his promotion in the battle of... See more
President Lincoln''s brilliant decision to elevate Ulysses S. Grant to General in Chief of the Union Army following Grant''s victory at Vicksburg on July 3, 1863 was further justified by the success of Grants first assignment following his promotion in the battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Jeff Shaara in his new historical novel The Smoke at Dawn , the third in his Civil War Trilogy, places Grant in the Cumberland following the Confederate defeat of General Rosecrans by Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Chickamauga Creek. Grant immediately demoted Rosecrans and replaces him with General George Thomas and brings in Sherman'' s army for support. The Union army has been under siege in Chattanooga and Grant orders the siege broken at whatever the cost. Bragg, sinking in his own bombast and his repeated failure to lead , is on the verge of converting a great Confederate victory into a bitter defeat. As Sherman rides to the rescue of General Thomas and the Union Army, he makes a rare mistake by misreading the geography, giving Bragg one last chance of grasping victory from the jaws of defeat.

There is plenty of drama as Shaara tells the story of this epic battle with the versatile vehicle of historical fiction that , following in his fathers footsteps , is his trademark. Shaara is the son of Pulitzer Prize winning Michael Shaara, author of The Killer Angles.

The two previous novels in the trilogy are A Blaze of Glory , the battle Shiloh and A Chain of Thunder, the Siege of Vicksburg. Search gordonsgoodreads.com reads for other Jeff Shaara historical novels based upon the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II.
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Top reviews from other countries

steve wigley
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Bringing history to life!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 22, 2021
Jeff Shaara brings the campaign in the West to vivid life, with his novel of the struggle for Chattanooga in the aftermath of the battle of Chickamauga and highlights the character strengths and flaws of the generals and the ordinary soldiers involved. Thoroughly...See more
Jeff Shaara brings the campaign in the West to vivid life, with his novel of the struggle for Chattanooga in the aftermath of the battle of Chickamauga and highlights the character strengths and flaws of the generals and the ordinary soldiers involved. Thoroughly recommended and re-ignited my interest in the Civil War. I shall now be going back in time to read Gods and Generals.
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chris scargill
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
As a civil war enthusiast I can''t recommend Jeff Shaara s books highly enough
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 2, 2015
This is the 3rd novel in a planned series of 4. As a civil war enthusiast I can''t recommend Jeff Shaara s books highly enough. Anyone who has an interest in this fascinating period of history will find them essential reading. I''ll be sorry when the series ends. The story...See more
This is the 3rd novel in a planned series of 4. As a civil war enthusiast I can''t recommend Jeff Shaara s books highly enough. Anyone who has an interest in this fascinating period of history will find them essential reading. I''ll be sorry when the series ends. The story and characters just roll off the pages. 5 star reading.
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Mrs I Pape
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good reading
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 13, 2016
Same good standard as previous books
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Barry W
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 15, 2014
Like everything by the Shaaras - absolutely spellbinding.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 12, 2017
Excellent
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