Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review--Knoxville 1863

Stanley, Dick. Knoxville 1863. Createspace. 2010, 221 pages. ISBN 9781451580310, $14.50.

Fellow blogger Dick Stanley was nice enough for send me a copy of his historical fiction work, Knoxville 1863. As I have not read anything on this battle I really didn't know what to expect. Would I need to have knowledge of the battle? Would I be able to follow the action? Would it be historically accurate?

After reading this work I have come to the conclusion that a reader doesn't really need to know anything about this battle to enjoy the book. The action is easily to follow but with each chapter being told from a different viewpoint you do need to pay attention. The characters do show up in each others chapters in ways that make sense. I really can't say if the battle scenes are historically accurate but I have to say I'm not sure it really matters. As a work of fiction this stands on it's own.

I didn't get the feeling that Stanley was trying to teach us the history of the Battle of Knoxville despite the fact that he seems to have done his research. Weaving true life characters with those he has created Stanley has created a work that keeps moving while not getting bogged down in details the way a non-fiction work might. Be sure to read his interesting Afterword where he discusses the characters, true and fictional, and also goes on to discuss some of the sources he has used in his research. Well worth the additional few minutes!

As Mr. Stanley works his way through the history of the siege and Longstreet's attack on Fort Sanders he shows us the difficulties of camp and battle life. Soldiers are subjected to bad weather, poor food, and lack of sanitation. The Confederate attack on Fort Sanders is shown as it might have happened. With poor information Longstreet sends his men into a nearly impossible situation. Stanley doesn't hide the gore but nor did I find it gratuitous. Afterwards, under a flag of truce, Stanley shows us how soldiers many times had to care for the wounded or bury the dead. Again, Stanley paints a picture showing how war is not glamorous to those fighting it.

This is a work of fiction I can recommend. While it helps to have some knowledge of the Civil War it isn't mandatory. The work should be accessible to any reader. The storyline moves along well. While this is not published by any of the big boys I didn't find the spelling and grammar mistakes I thought I might.

Dick Stanley is the author of several blogs that you might find worth checking out. The one I read most often is 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. Be sure to check his website for the book Knoxville 1863 as well. There is good information on both sites.

Thanks to Dick Stanley for providing a free review copy.


  1. Thank you for the thoughtful review, Robert. I appreciate it. Allow me to only add that the book is also available at Amazon for just $7.98 in paper and, for a limited time, $1.99 on the Kindle.

  2. Robert,

    Here's a quick, unbelabored, answer to your doubts about the accuracy of the fighting descriptions.

    The major events of the attack, i.e. Col. Fiser's assault on the flagpole and wounding, the capturing of the various flags, and the deaths of Col. McElroy and Col. Ruff follow the history found in the memoirs and reports.

    No memoir or report describes precisely what it was like in the ditch, but, giving the crowding and the lit shells thrown down there, that was easy enough to imagine.

    The defense of the northwest bastion, including one defender's use of an ax, is even more in keeping with the record, which is much more complete. So the answer to your question is, yes, the battle scenes in their main features are historically accurate.