Book Review by Roy E. Perry: “The Last Full Measure” by Jeff Shaara

Last Full Measure

Editor’s Note: Roy E. Perry reviewed books for “The Tennessean” and “Nashville Banner” for more than thirty years. “Underground Nashville” is always proud to post Mr. Perry’s latest review.


The Last Full Measure is an engrossing novel of the last two years of the Civil War. The story begins on July 13, 1863, nine days after Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg (both on July 4). On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14—the annual observance of Jesus’ crucifixion—Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and died the next morning, April 15, at 7:22 a.m. After Lincoln’s assassination, Robert E. Lee said, “I surrendered as much to Lincoln’s goodness, as I did to Grant’s Army.”

But what happened in the two years preceding Lee’s surrender? In vivid detail, Jeff Shaara describes the bloody conflict between the armies commanded by Grant and Lee: the battles of the Wilderness and Cold Harbor; the nine-month-long siege of Petersburg; and the battles of the Crater, Five Forks, and Saylor’s Creek. In this “war of attrition,” time was on the side of the Union army, as Grant’s forces, like a boa constrictor, slowly squeezed the life out of Lee’s exhausted and starving troops.

In his prefatory remarks, Shaara writes: “It is the job of the historian to tell us what happened, to provide the dates and places and numbers, all the necessary ingredients of textbooks. It is the job of the storyteller to bring out the thoughts, the words, the souls of these fascinating characters, to tell us why they should be remembered and respected and even enjoyed. While this is a novel, it is not false history. The time line, the events, and the language are as accurate as I could make them. It has been my great privilege to become close enough to these marvelous characters to tell their story, and so, to bring them to you.”

Mr. Shaara has succeeded admirably in combining the best qualities of the historian and the storyteller. He privileges us with revealing “interior views” of the main characters involved, especially Lee and Grant. The fifty-eight chapter titles alternate (mainly) between “Lee” and “Grant,” permitting us to eavesdrop, as it were, on the thinking and feeling, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, of these two commanders. (Several chapters are also titled “Chamberlain,” referring to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Gettysburg’s Little Round Top.)

Shaara is surely the most talented and entertaining contemporary writer of Civil War novels. The Last Full Measure is another of his excellent entries into this genre. I recommend it highly.


For many years Jeff Shaara was a dealer in rare coins, but sold his Tampa, Florida, business in 1988 upon the death of his father, Michael Shaara, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Killer Angels, on which the movie Gettysburg was based. Jeff “took up the torch” passed to him by his father; his other Civil War novels include Gods and Generals; A Chain of Thunder; A Blaze of Glory; The Smoke at Dawn; and The Fateful Lightning.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer. ************

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit:


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Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.” Dave Carew




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