The Nature of Sacrifice: Reviews

[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.—Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe

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…. *Kirkus Review

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.—Edwin M. Yoder Jr., The Washington Post

Bundy’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…. 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. —Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs

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

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…  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.—Publisher’s Weekly

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….. The author uses Lowell’s sacrifice to make disturbing observations and to ask difficult questions… 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?—Daniel Dyer, The Plain Dealer

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