Gone for Soldiers

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First edition

Gone for Soldiers is a 2000 historical novel by Jeffrey Shaara about the Mexican-American War. It was written as a stand-alone novel, but could also be seen as a prequel to the Civil War trilogy written by Shaara and his father, Michael Shaara, introducing some of the key protagonists in the campaigns that first won them fame. The action begins with the Battle of Vera Cruz and follows Winfield Scott and his army as they march toward Mexico City, including the Battle of Cerro Gordo and culminating in the Battle of Chapultepec and the fall of Mexico City.

Style[edit]

Most of the story is told from the perspective of two men, Winfield Scott, commander of the American forces, and Robert E. Lee, who rose to prominence in the war, though some chapters also introduce the perspectives of other characters as well, notably Mexican leader Antonio López de Santa Anna, James Longstreet, Thomas Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant. It is critical of certain American commanders, including William J. Worth, Gideon Pillow, and David E. Twiggs, portraying them as mostly incompetent soldiers, who were little more than political appointees, while the true heroes were the lower-ranking graduates of the United States Military Academy. This idealistic portrayal of the younger officers as they rose to prominence gives little indication that with just a few years they would meet again on the battlefield in the Civil War.

Allusions[edit]

The book glosses over the story of the Saint Patrick's Battalion, portraying the actions of Scott in a positive light. Notably, the book changes the hanging of the men during the storming of Chapultepec to one where the about to be hanged deserters cheer on the US Army and the presiding officer delays the hanging so the condemned men can see the outcome of the battle.

In reality, Scott ordered the men to wait in the gallows until the United States flag was raised over the fort.

The presiding officer also ordered a man with two amputated legs dragged to the gallows, commenting "Bring the damned son of a bitch out! My order was to hang 30 and by God I'll do it!"

While the book is largely based on actual historical events and people, there are some inaccuracies. For example, in the novel, the son of Jospeh E. Johnston is a recurring minor character who is killed in the battle of Mexico City before the eyes of Robert E. Lee. Johnston's grief over the loss of his son becomes a major theme of the remaining Lee-based chapters. However, in reality, Joseph Johnston never had any children at any point in his life.