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Answering Lincoln’s Call: War in America is a true story originally told in the same 180 letters written by Lieutenant Thomas S. Armstrong about his experiences in the Civil War that were the basis for Seeing the Elephant.
Author T.W. Harvey has used those letters and other primary and secondary research to tell the story that leads up to the one in Seeing the Elephant. He describes the emotional difficulties Armstrong and his friends went through in making the decision to go to war, away from their everyday lives in Muskingum County, Ohio. And then, once they made the decision to enlist, they were subjected to life in the camp of the 78th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
From Camp Zanesville, the 78th went south to Kentucky where they arrived to hear the Battle of Fort Donelson raging and to see the thousands of casualties, realizing that in war there is no glory.
From there, as part of the Union Army of Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, it was on to southern Kentucky where the 78th was engaged at the Battle of Shiloh. Armstrong could not participate as he had come down with a terrible cold, or so he thought, and received a medical discharge, going back home to Zanesville. That is where Seeing the Elephant begins.
Harvey recounts these events as they happened to an ordinary infantry soldier, one of 2.5 million men who served their country, both North and South, during the Civil War.
He tells of the thoughts and feelings of Lt. Armstrong; his worries, fears and concerns; emotions that every man in uniform felt against the backdrop of the conflict that tore the United States apart and changed it forever.
If you have interest in the Civil War and would like to learn more about individual experiences, this is a great book for you.
It was noted earlier on this page that there were Thomas S. Armstrong documented his experiences in the Civil War in 180 letters that he sent to his family and wife-to-be. In addition, his best friend, George W. Porter penned 70 letters that he sent to his family. Together, they make up The Paula B. and Thomas W. Harvey Collection of Civil War Letters which were donated to Ohio Wesleyan University in April, 2016.
The letters have been digitized by the library staff and can be accessed through the link below and were the basis for Seeing the Elephant: One Man’s Return to the Horrors of the Civil War and Answering Lincoln’s Call: War in America.