An Officer and a GentlemanEdwin M. Yoder Jr.
“Carol Bundy's biography of her great-great-great-uncle, Charles Russell Lowell, … ranks in quality with the better pages of such masters as Shelby Foote and Bruce Catton."
A stunning biography of a young man from one of America’s most celebrated families who quickly rose to the rank of colonel in the Union cavalry and died, at age 29 from wounds suffered in a charge at Cedar Creek.... When Lowell died, Custer wept….
Gentleman, soldier, strategist, Charles Russell Lowell became a symbol of idealism in actionBy Michael Kenney
“[The] theme of sacrifice to redeem the nation from slavery is brilliantly explored and movingly expounded in Carol Bundy’s notable biography of Lowell, “The Nature of Sacrifice,” her first book. [It] is not just a model of historical research, but is also written with great style.”
by Walter Russell MeadBundy's careful and sensitive biography of this little-known Civil War hero is a triumph, and announces the arrival of an important new voice in American letters. Lowell, first in his class at Harvard and hailed by men such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne as one of the brightest lights of his generation, floundered through a difficult life marked by family financial reversals and tuberculosis before finding his vocation as a cavalry commander in northern Virginia. Bundy's portrayal of her distant ancestor and the Boston milieu that shaped him is gripping. Her reflections on war and its effects on both sexes approach the sublime. Her ability to evoke the mix of tragedy and grandeur that surrounded Lowell's promising but abbreviated life shows a major talent at work. Most Lowells may, as the old toast has it, speak only to Cabots, but Bundy's Charles Russell Lowell speaks to us all.
"In her fine biography . . . Carol Bundy has rendered a great service to general readers and Civil War scholars alike by redeeming one of those enmarbled names and restoring the man—Charles Russell Lowell, Jr. . . . Bundy does a superb job of conveying her subject's struggles with the shadowy world of guerrilla warfare. The boundaries between legitimate warfare and criminality were often crossed by both sides. Fortunately, there is a wealth of primary sources that enables Bundy to ably probe Lowell's side of these encounters. The result is a worthwhile exploration of how one prominent 19th-century figure coped with a warfare that was veering towards a totality that became depressingly familiar to later generations . . . [A] skillfully written biography." —Richard F. Miller, Civil War Book Review
Vivid biography details life, death of Civil War hero
James Russell Lowell - poet, essayist, professor - was one of the unlikely heroes a couple of years ago in the best-selling intellectual thriller "The Dante Club." And now we learn in Carol Bundy's splendid new biography, "The Nature of Sacrifice," that there was an actual hero in the family, JRL's nephew Charles Russell Lowell, who died in the Civil War battle of Cedar Creek.
Bundy begins her debut volume with young Lowell's funeral at the Harvard College Chapel. Present were all the literati of Boston - including celebrated Dante Club members James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose own son had distinguished himself in battle and suffered grievous wounds.
Young Lowell, only 29 at the time he fell, possessed "an irresistible magnetism," Bundy writes. It was a quality shared by fellow Union cavalry officer George Armstrong Custer, who reportedly wept when telling the story of Lowell's death.
The author uses Lowell's sacrifice to make disturbing observations and to ask difficult questions.
Lowell was ordered more than once to destroy the homes and crops of those merely suspected of being Southern sympathizers. He did so, believing he was shortening the war. But the devastation troubled many in and out of the military.
Bundy also records without much comment how frequently Harvard's young men charged off to enlist when war broke out - in stark contrast to today. She records, as well, that virtually all of Lowell's college friends came home wounded or in caskets.Her book has resonance when the meaning of "hero" has been diminished by misapplication (sports "heroes?") and overuse.If everyone who puts on a uniform is a hero, then what word remains for people such as Charles Russell Lowell?
It's perhaps through individual lives that we can best understand the social impact of the Civil War. As Louis Menand, in The Metaphysical Club, explored the war's impact on Oliver Wendell Holmes, here first-time author Bundy examines the life of another Boston Brahmin of the time, and Bundy's is easily the best account we have of the life of the brilliant, magnetic and tragic Charles Russell Lowell Jr., examining how he became a martyr for the cause of freedom. Born into one of the poorer branches of the prominent Lowell clan on January 2, 1835, valedictorian of his Harvard class, Lowell was a youthful idealist, drawn to the cause of abolition. Accepting a commission as captain in the 3rd (later 6th) U.S. Cavalry, the once-tubercular Lowell immediately made a name for himself as a reckless adventurer on the battlefield. Serving on the staff of General McClellan, Lowell chomped at the bit as the copperhead commander hesitated to wage necessary battles. Later on, Lowell helped found the famous 54th Regiment of black volunteers, fought against Mosby's insurgents following Gettysburg, and--as a part of Sheridan's forces--played a key role in implementing Grant's Shenandoah Valley Campaign in Virginia. In October 1864, aged 29 and by then a colonel, Lowell was felled at the battle of Cedar Creek by a Confederate bullet. Bundy does an excellent job of telling Lowell's tale and explaining the ethic of selfless sacrifice out of which he emerged. This is an admirable life of an admirable man.