The Daily Show, although hysterically funny, would have you believe that the GOP was dominated by white men mindful of only their own pasts and futures. I picked up Newt Gingrich’s book, The Battle of the Crater, not realizing he cowrote the book. I have read several other books on this Civil War battle, and this was by far the best of the lot. Whatever your political persuasion, after reading this book, one realizes the admiration he has for the one in four Civil War veterans who was black and the injustice historians (and Union leaders) perpetuated by overlooking their bravery. Newt Gingrich, a current presidential hopeful, can indeed write.
I read this book as if it was a popular fiction novel, quickly in less than two days. Admittedly, he and his co-author did use some fictional devices to tie the scenes together and move the plot along. Lincoln, a Republican, was facing re-election in a weary nation that was tired of his agenda. The war had been going on for three years, and the political infighting amongst the generals was hurting the Union’s chances for quelling the uprising before the election. Lincoln needed a big Union victory badly. If Union forces could capture Petersburg, the supply lines to Richmond would be cut, a near victory secured in battle and politics, and the Republican Lincoln would surely get re-elected.
Petersburg was the site of this epic battle which had great potential for the North, with a secret tunnel and planned explosion. Gingrich and Forstchen tell this sad tale powerfully. It went horribly awry for the Union forces. This battle could have ended the war sooner if not for the underutilization of units because of their race or the arrogance of Union Army commanders.
The former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, knows his subject matter and relays it well. Whether or not he helps determine the future of the U.S. or not remains to be seen. He certainly has a clear understanding of our past. Primary season looms ahead, will he be able to verbalize as clearly his visions of America’s future as clearly as he can write of our past history? Time will tell.