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For Our Beloved Country

760 pages12 hours


War is never more horrifying, and perhaps never more compelling, than when experienced firsthand. The personal accounts collected here — diaries and memoirs written by men on the front lines — constitute a little-known history of American wars. Seven individual narratives cover seven different wars, from the Revolution to the Gulf War:

A young man joins the Continental Army in 1776 because it calls to his restless spirit. He soon learns that soldiers are treated with condescension and cruelty and often must endure hunger and floggings. His garrulous, lively, and literate memoir of the Revolution covers much of the eight-year conflict from New York to Yorktown.

An eighteen-year-old from Charlestown, Massachusetts, signs up to be a bugler with the First New England Cavalry in the Civil War and immediately finds himself on the receiving end of one of the celebrated operations of military history — the baffling Shenandoah campaign of Stonewall Jackson.

During World War I a high school teacher from Kalamazoo joins the American ambulance corps and is stationed with the French army at Verdun, the epicenter of World War I. Besides recounting the bizarre world at the front lines, the diarist also describes a tortured love affair.

A Texas farm boy raised during the Depression learns to fly sixty-mile-an-hour biplanes as a teenager. In World War II he enlists as a navy carrier pilot and serves in one of the most hazardous theaters of war in American history — the American retaking of the Pacific. From New Guinea to Okinawa, he flies against the Imperial Fleet and air force, loses seven roommates in as many months, and earns the Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

A twenty-four-year-old college graduate and ROTC officer volunteers for Vietnam because he is moved by stories of U.S. military “advisors” being killed in action. He serves during the infamous Tet Offensive, heading a platoon that leads the relief of the marines besieged at Khe Sanh and walking for days in the jungles of the A Shau Valley on search-and-destroy sweeps.

In their immediacy, drama, and plain-spoken eloquence, these accounts touch the inner lives of people serving as soldiers. These are not the important commanders, not the generals, but the hands and feet of war, the true insiders. Their narratives provide a vital and important complement to more traditional histories. A superb piece of contemporary scholarship that will be of particular interest to readers of American history and military history, For Our Beloved Country will also be enjoyed by all readers who love great literature.

“An original and eye-opening collection of diaries by ordinary soldiers who fought in seven of America’s wars, this book provides a moving and absorbing reading experience.... These diaries of what it felt like to be an American soldier on the battlefield at home and abroad are riveting as literature and as history.”
— Fred Kaplan, author of Henry James: The Imagination of Genius

“For Our Beloved Country is a remarkable book. The voices Morgan and Michalson have found are rich and full and sharply observant and skilled at evoking the intense and terrifying and, at times, ennobling realities of armed conflict. This is an enormously compelling book in the way that literature is compelling: it leads us to a direct and vivid encounter with the human condition.”
— Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winner A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

“This fascinating collection is filled with some of the most vivid, gripping accounts of the American combat experience. Farmers and lawyers, buglers and nurses, foot troops and bomber pilots reveal war as ordinary Americans experienced it. From Yorktown to Bahrain, this is war in its paradoxical horror and boredom. The graphic details and lively style make For Our Beloved Country a hard book to put down.”
— Timothy J. Gilfoyle, aut

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