"Hearts Torn Asunder" A Review
by Gordon Thorsby
Almost every Civil War book and article discusses the strategic, tactical, logistical and political issues of the war. Rarely do they delve into a deep understanding of what soldiers and people were truly experiencing as the war closed. A new work, “Hearts Torn Asunder,” by Ernest A. Dollar Jr., discusses the final conflicts in North Carolina and the people who lived through it. It tells the reality that during Sherman’s final campaign, we lost our moral selves, North and South, and we may still be trying to find our way…one hundred sixty years later.
In 1864, Grant advanced five armies into the South to attempt to end the war. In February through early April, 1865, North Carolina broke was the recipient of four Northern armies, a starving Confederate army trying to defend the State, and stragglers from the Army of Northern Virginia who had just surrendered were wandering down roads. This doesn't include a starving civilian population and thousands of refugees from other states. The Civil War was different in the Carolinas. It was chaos and it was violent on a personal level. Morality was often missing. Dollar wants us to see the brutal war that the Carolinas witnessed and that there were permanent scars left on many of those present.
The work is not a lengthy in-depth treatise delving into human nature. It is a fundamental story explaining what happened that helps the average or the expert student of the Civil War in the final month and how people managed to pull through it all. Appomattox was an agreement with two generals that was the beginning of the end. Bennett Place was complicated with long lines of communication, government involvement and Lincoln's Assassination influencing the negotiations Allow a couple of brief lines:
As said by a Northern soldier, “We did some things that were not creditable to our heats, but they seemed necessary…We afterwards concluded never to refer to them…”
As on the Southern side, ”…Rebel Soldiers [were] the antithesis of the postwar heroes society made them out to be. These were the “blots and blurs” Southerners like Cornelia Spencer strove to erase in order to process defeat.”
In the four years of fighting, sustained fighting hardened soldiers such that their minds "adapted" to better cope with continued killing and witnessing death. PTSD was a common consequence.
For the person who might be looking for their first book about the Civil War, this may not be your next read. If you have read ten books make Hearts Torn Asunder your next read because every new book read, you will gain an even deeper understanding of the conflict. If you are student of the conflict, this is a must read.
When you read Hearts Torn Asunder, you will realize why the Civil War still matters.
Hearts Torn Asunder, by Dollar Jr., Ernest A., Savas Beatie, 2022.