carol bundy author nature of sacrifice civil war boston heroes  

"Charles Russell Lowell [was] killed at Cedar Creek two weeks short of his first wedding anniversary, one month short of the birth of his child, and less than three months before his thirtieth birthday. This was a man who in the Shenandoah Valley campaign had had thirteen horses shot from under him, a man whom, in three and a half years of battle, no bullet had touched. And so when the spent minié bullet hit him high in the chest, knocking him from his horse and reducing his voice to a whisper, he had refused to leave the field. At the summons to attack, he had been strapped back into his saddle, and with sword drawn he had led the charge, his red officer's sash making him an irresistible target for the rebel sharpshooters on the rooftops of Middletown . . . News of his death traveled fast. General George Custer, his fellow brigade leader, cried. General Wesley Merritt, his division commander, mumbled that he would give up his command if only Lowell were there to receive it. General Philip H. Sheridan, who owed to Lowell the rescue of his reputation on that day, said, 'He was the perfection of a man and soldier.'"
—from the Introduction to The Nature of Sacrifice

Rarely in Union narratives do you find so compelling and romantic a tale on which to hang a bit of history. I saw a biography of Charlie Lowell as a chance to tell the story of the Civil War from the point of view of the children of the Transcendentalists. Steeped in idealism, these young men yearned for practical applications, Lowell most of all. He believed that the world advances by “impossibilities achieved.” The American experiment in democracy was one; the abolition of slavery would be another.





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