When the Civil War halted steamboat travel on the Mississippi River in 1861, an unemployed riverboat pilot named Samuel Clemens enlisted in the Missouri militia. After two weeks of service, Clemens abandoned his post and fled westward to begin a writing career—a turn of events that precipitated the rise to fame of the man who would become known as Mark Twain. The circumstances surrounding his departure are unclear; some view Twain as a deserter, while others call into question the nature of his commitment from the beginning. Twain defended himself in speeches and in print, offering varying accounts—with varying degrees of truth—of his confusion upon enrollment, his ignorance of the moral and political forces behind the war, and his claim to have killed a man while hiding in a corncrib. Regardless of the reason for his desertion, his personal experiences and the Civil War in general are recurring topics in Twain's speeches, fiction, and nonfiction. In addition to broaching the issue in longer works, such as Life on the Mississippi and The Gilded Age, Twain directly addresses it in shorter pieces such as "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed" and "A Curious Experience." Editor David Rachels unites these selections in Mark Twain's Civil War, offering Twain fans and Civil War scholars the unprecedented opportunity to read the entire array of Twain's Civil War-influenced literature in one volume. In addition to Twain's own pieces, Rachels includes an account of Twain's war career by his official biographer as well as a story by Absalom C. Grimes, a Confederate mail runner who claims to have served with Twain early in the war. An introduction by Rachels completes the text, which analyzes Twain's military stint and assesses the war's profound influence on one of America's most celebrated authors.
For the first time, David Rachels has compiled and edited a work on just what Twain had to say about the war.Readers will find that Rachels' book provides insight into the war's influence on this great American writer, and the volume will find an appropriate place both in history collections and literary ones as well.~Charleston Post and Courier
"The book is handsome, well produced, and well illustrated.... Although it does not include cery much scholarly apparatus (no index and little historical support for unknown names, places, events, and so on), the volume is a nice addition to the Twain bookshlef, and perfect for reading in an easy chair, with its roomy pages and comfortable font and style. More should be written about Mark Twain and the Civil War~Harold K. Bush, Jr.
"Mark Twain's service in the Civil War as a confederate lasted two weeks, but he managed to write about the way, in one way or another, for most of his life, as Mark Twain's Civil War, edited by David Rachels, makes convincingly clear."~Lexington Herald-Leader
"Those interested in the American Civil War and American literature will enjoy reading this unique collection of Mark Twain's views on the Civil War located now in one volume."~Lt. Cmdr. Youssef Aboul-Enein, The Waterline
"Though these texts are available elsewhere, Rachels has created a solid work of scholarship through this collection and his analytical introduction. Whether read cover to cover or sampled over time, Mark Twain's Civil War is an important addition to Twain scholarship."~R. K. Dickson, The Bloomsbury Review
"Readers will find that Rachels' book provides insight into the war's influence on this great American writer, and the volume will find an appropriate place both in history collections and literary ones as well."~Richard W. Hatcher III, Post and Courier
"A useful and amusing volume...of Twain's writings of fiction and nonfiction."~Journal of American Cultures
Mark Twain's Civil War offers a glimpse into the character of this remarkable man and sheds light on the contemplations of a young man who may have been less concerned about the Minie balls whizzing past his ear than about having to send one of his own whizzing into someone else.~James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., The Journal of Mississippi History
If you like Mark Twain, and I do; if you like Civil War stories, especially those about the fighting men, and I do; if you like to wrestle with the idea that fiction can be true and that memoirs can be fiction, and I do; then you will agree with me that this book is both fun and a worthwhile endeavor.~Vernon Burton, Journal of Military History
Rachels has ably gathered some widely scattered material and sketched out a beginning at setting this literature in its context. His book leaves it to readers to take the next steps.~John Bird, Studies in American Culture