The Battle of the Crater was one of a series of disastrous Union attacks on the Confederate positions around Richmond and Petersburg launched during 1864 and whose failure ensured that the American Civil War would drag on into 1865. The Union attack was meant to take advantage of the explosion of a massive mine that had been dug under a strong point in the Confederate lines. A fresh division of black troops was picked to lead the attack, and underwent rigorous training to ensure its success. Unfortunately just before the attack the Union commanders decided to withdraw that division from the attack. The randomly chosen division that replaced it hadn't been trained, and the attack ended in disaster.
The blurb suggests that the novel is set in the aftermath of that failure. In fact the attack itself takes place three quarters of the way into the book, with most of the book following one regiment of black troops (the 28th USCT) as they prepared for the attack, partly as seen through the eyes of an NCO in the regiment, and partly through the eyes of a war artist secretly reporting to Lincoln.
This is a entertaining read, despite being based around one of the more depressing Union failures of the Civil War. The authors avoid picking sides when allocating blame for the eventual disaster, and instead do a good job of tracing the development of the battle from the initial very promising plan to the eventual failure. This story deserves to be told, and this novel does that well.
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Author: Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Publisher: Thomas Dunne/ St. Martin's Press