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To Make Men Free

A Novel
Narrated by: William Dufris
Series: The Civil War (Gingrich), Book 4
Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4.5 out of 5 stars (59 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

With To Make Men Free, New York Times best-selling authors Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen take listeners to the center of a nearly forgotten Civil War confrontation, a battle that was filled with controversy and misinterpretation even before the attack began.

Drawing on years of research, the authors weave a complex narrative interweaving the high aspirations of African American troops eager to prove themselves in battle and the anxiety of a president who knows the nation cannot bear another major defeat.

June 1864: the Civil War is now into its fourth year of bloody conflict with no end in sight. The armies of the North are stalled in fetid trenches outside of Richmond and Atlanta, and the reelection of Abraham Lincoln to a second term seems doomed to defeat - a defeat that will set off the call for an end to the conflict, dismembering the Union and continuing slavery.

Only one group of volunteers for the Union cause is still eager for battle. Nearly 200,000 men of color have swarmed the recruiting stations and are being mobilized into regiments known as the USCTs, the United States Colored Troops. General Ambrose Burnside, a hard-luck commander out of favor with his superiors, is one of the few generals eager to bring a division of these new troops into his ranks. He has an ingenious plan to break Fort Pegram, the closest point on the Confederate line, defending Petersburg - the last defense of Richmond - by tunneling forward from the Union position beneath the fort to explode its defenses. Burnside needs the USCTs for one desperate rush that just might bring victory. The risks are high. Will Burnside be allowed to proceed or will interference from on high doom his plan to failure?

The battleground drama unfolds through the eyes of James Reilly - famed artist, correspondent, and friend of Lincoln, who has been employed by the president to be his eyes and ears amongst the men, sending back an honest account of the front. In so doing, he befriends Sergeant Major Garland White of the 28th USCT regiment, an escaped slave and minister preparing his comrades for a frontal assault that will either win the war, or result in their annihilation.

To Make Men Free is Gingrich and Forstchen’s most compelling fact-based work yet, presenting little known truths, long forgotten in the files of correspondence, and the actual court of inquiry held after the attack. The novel draws a new and controversial conclusion while providing a sharp, rousing, and harshly realistic view of politics and combat during the darkest year of the Civil War. This must-listen work rewrites our understanding of one of the great battles of the war, and the all but forgotten role played by one of the largest formations of African American troops in our nation’s history.

©2011 St. Martin's Press (P)2011 Macmillan Audio

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Memories of a Daughter of Dixie

As a 76-year-old daughter of the South, specifically Atlanta and Henry County just south of Atlanta, I guiltily confess to a rapid heartbeat at playing of “Dixie” at high school football games in the 1950’s. I took at face value and without question social inequities and the southern version of the Civil War as taught in the public schools. I knew that my great grandparents had suffered horribly during Sherman’s March to the Sea. To this day I have two small china plates, remnants of a tea set that my great grandmother carried with her in my family’s rush to get away from the burning of Atlanta and Sherman’s scorched earth practices as he led the Yankees on
their March to the Sea.

In spite of all this, my parents had taught me to respect all people, no matter the color of their skin. My grandmother, one of the Good Women known by all in abject poverty, fed anyone who was hungry, though sometimes on the back stoop. I knew to to call anyone, black or white, ma’am or sir if they were older than I and never to disrespect anyone.

I lived in Birmingham during my high school years and watched in horror from the third floor library as all but a handful of students in my still segregated school poured forth from its doors into a riot that took place in the streets within my sight. This was a pocket of rioting that took place all across Birmingham, prompting “Bull” Connor to unleash his police dogs against blacks. I do not recall whether they were rioters or marchers, but it was a frightening thing in either event and made an indelible impression on me.

I also remember visiting the President of the small Liberal Arts college I attended and asking why there were no black students. I was told, “You will understand later,” and gently sent on my way. He was right: I did understand later that he and the Board of Directors did not want donations to dry up. I also remember with some cynicism that when basketball became a rallying cry for alumni, black students were recruited for the team. Winning a national title, which they did, attracted more donations.

Enough of my rambling and on to a review of this Audible book. I have now listened to the entireCivil War series. The literary device of viewing the “colored” troops through the eyes of a journalist artist was a most effective way of telling the other Civil War story. I had no idea of the numbers of black soldiers who volunteered, nor of the degree of their devotion to the cause. As was alluded to in the Afterword, I was one who had thought most of the black soldiers were runaway slaves. A real eye opener and paradigm shift!

The performance is impeccable. Enough said.

One thing that has not been said, to my knowledge, is concerning Newt Gingrich’s southern roots, Georgia, no less. At times I felt myself thinking, “Newt, you have turned into a Yankee.” Then my rational mind would think, “Newt, you are an American!” That a Son of the South has helped a Daughter of the South to reach a deeper understanding is a blessing.

And yet, I still wonder why people of all colors can’t just get along. Are we doomed to fight this war forever?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Well told story - lesser known Civil War battle.

This book ranks alongside "The Killer Angels" as my favorite Civil War fiction. It opened my eyes to the African American soldier in the war. Particularly well done was the attitudes of the era and how they affected lives. The authors managed to make me angry with their presentation of the situation these soldiers faced -- a rare accomplishment.

This book has had negative reviews on Amazon as being too politically correct, something that gave me pause--did that mean pc for the 1850s or for current times? Much of the story is about the politics of the1850s and presenting them in the political context of that era. However, some aspects (such as Lincoln's views) could be considered as "revisionist", if one didn't believe him to be a complex, thinking man.

I read the pc comment as being about race relations. I think the authors did a good job showing the ugliness of racism without promoting it.

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I enjoy history but...

I found this story a bit tedious at times. It’s well narrated but the story really slowed down in some places.

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  • kh
  • 06-25-15

History untold

I really enjoyed this reading. I am encouraged to dig deeper into the background of the USCT, and Mr White.

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Unforgettable!!!!

What did you love best about To Make Men Free?

I could not possibly begin to say what I liked best about this book

What other book might you compare To Make Men Free to and why?

This book stands alone with no comparison

What does William Dufris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Emotion

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, I laughed, I cried. William Dufris was able to narrate this book and make the characters real. You feel like you are standing there watching the story unfold right in front of you

Any additional comments?

Do not overlook this book! A must read for anyone interested in American history or if your just looking for an excellent story

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Mike
  • SUTTER, CA, United States
  • 02-25-12

Another Good Book To Add To A Good Series

If you enjoy Civil War books, and can take some fiction with the facts, I would recommend reading this series. The authors blend both fact and fiction to tell a very interesting story on how certain aspects of the war might have been if different actions or decisions had been made. It helps to know a little about the different battles, but even if you don't, the books make for very interesting reading.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Sad!!!

Hard to listen to politically correct actions that killed men. Wow what a sad commentary on the generals of the civil war and especially Mead.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful