For anyone with a keen interest in the American Civil War, Landscape Turned Red, a book by Stephen Sears offers an absorbing recount of the complicated battle which took place at Antietam Creek in 1862. It has been cited as one of the best and most important works describing the political and military operations of General Robert E. Lee’s Maryland Campaign. You can find out more in this Landscape Turned Red book review.
Although praised for his captivating and detailed coverage of the battle, this book is recommended for the more serious reader with a deep interest and background knowledge of the American Civil War and it is most certainly not for someone who enjoys a “light” read. Feel free to look at our pick of the best civil war books.
Sears describes the battlefield and the bloodshed graphically – that there were almost 23 000 casualties on a single day-and in an intense, yet compassionate way. He also helps the reader to understand the political reasons, attitudes and state of the society of the day, as well as the widespread consequences of the series of events that unfolded that day.
Through his considerable research of diaries, letters and military dispatches of one of the bloodiest battles of the day, Sears manages to draw on the feelings and the fears of the soldiers – their experiences of living and dying, whilst still making Landscape Turned Red book a definitive and accurate military historical account.
He enables us to understand how it felt to be an ordinary soldier in the thick of the horror that was the American Civil War. This book is not just a timeline of battles and where they took place, but a beautifully written revelation of the real people who endured the horror.
He also sheds light on the men who were leaders in the war – the main characters in the drama that played out in the South. There were” Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee and George McClellan and he brings them to life by weaving their personalities and failings into the fabric of the story.
By including maps and even some rare photographs, he adds to the authenticity of his retelling and brings the story to life. After reading this book, a serious scholar of the American Civil War will feel as if they have been let into secrets and additional information that will enrich their understanding of the battle at Antietam and the causes that built up to it.
Some critics feel that Sear’s went out of his way to discredit General McClellan and did not miss a chance to show him in a bad light. Even McClellan’s successes were put down to a chance bit of luck and his many failures were put under the microscope.
For some, this attitude of Sear’s detracts from the value of this book as a reliable reference for studying the American Civil War and reduces it to a shallow summary of the 1862 Maryland Campaign. What is clear is that for many people this book is a riveting read and the praise it has received from The New York Times and The Washington Post, amongst others, means it is a novel of note.
It has the recommendation of being “the finest and most provocative American Civil War writing today”. What is important is that the reader of Landscape Turned Red can fully appreciate how dreadful the battle of Antietam was and feel compassion and admiration for the bravery shown by fighters on both sides.