Reviewed by Thomas E. Coyne
Martin . . . Martin . . . Martin, we need maps and illustrations. Your descriptions of battles and the human misery of war are excellent as usual, but having to go to Rand McNally to trace the route of the army takes away from the flow of the novel. Plus, I’m never going to be able to build a bridge over the creek just by visualizing your directions. Please! — Tom
Martin R. Ganzglass is at it again. In this, the third in his series of Revolutionary War novels*, he has captured the extreme and deep seated patriotism of our nation’s forebears, the disdain of the British military and Loyalists and the cruel reality of war. Those readers seeking a story of battles and glorious victory will also get a strong dose of the human misery of wounds, blood, amputations, suffering and death that most history books leave to the cold statistics of numbers.
Ganzglass is exceptionally good at weaving into his tale the unpleasant aspects of the birth of our nation that most of us did not know and some would like to forget. For example, the suspicion of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) by both the Continental Congress and the British authorities because their religious beliefs forbade them to assist the war effort of either side may have been even handed but was hardly laudable for a nation which would have as one of its founding principles . . . freedom of religion. The denigration of a group for what they believe or how they look is not a modern day phenomenon.
For this, Ganzglass is to be commended. The United States was not created by noble minded saints, but by men and women inspired by both high ideals and, at times, the basest of motives.
Generals made mistakes that caused battles to be lost and men to die. Soldiers left the Continental Army to serve in other branches of the war effort that paid more money. The men ignored the contributions that women made that sometimes were the difference between life and death. This story of our nation’s birthing reveals that what we have is even more to be cherished and protected.
The reader will also come away with one clear impression. Those early Continental Army soldiers were tough. Bad weather, poor or no food, endless marching, fear, danger, scant supplies and clothing . . . they endured all and kept coming.
In this continuation of Ganzglass’s mission to make history readable, the author fleshes out his main characters, introduces some new ones and keeps tab on absent participants. One caveat is that, even given the mores of the time, the dialogue, especially between young people in love, is a tad stilted.
A reminder, even as Blood Upon The Snow is a novel, Ganzglass goes to great lengths to insure its historical accuracy. His End Notes are a reflection of serious research and make plain where people and events were manipulated for the sake of the plot. This is history, readable, interesting, believable.
I wonder if they will use End Notes when the movie comes out?
Reviewer Thomas E. Coyne (full disclosure — he’s John Coyne’s older brother) is Vice President for Student Services Emeritus at Western Michigan University. He has a B.A. in History from Western Michigan University (1955) and an M.A. in History from the University of Michigan (1956).