July 16, 2001 12:00 PM

Edited by Andrew Carroll

Many a soldier’s writings have wound up in museums and libraries, but Carroll, the founder of the all-volunteer Legacy Project, gathered 50,000 battlefield letters from America’s attics and garages by asking for them via a Dear Abby column.

The nearly 200 letters here, spanning wars from Civil to Gulf, capture stench and honor, gore and affection in equal measure. The authors—”I have been in one of the hardes [sic] battles that ever was fought in the new world but I never want to get in another one,” writes a Civil War soldier at Shiloh—prove with every spelling error that denial of eloquence makes that eloquence endure. No American reader can be unmoved. (Scribner, $28)

Bottom Line: A distinguished service

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