Review: Like a Meteor Blazing Brightly: The Short but Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren

Like a Meteor Blazing Brightly: The Short but Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren
by Eric J. Wittenberg

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Edinborough Press (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1889020338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1889020334

LikeAMeteorShiningBrightlyUlricDahlgrenEricWittenbergThose that follow Eric Wittenberg’s work know this is a pet project that has been years in the making.  We expect the author to produce a fair balance portrait by bring his considerable experience to bear on the questions surrounding this individual.  Like a Meteor blazing Brightly is everything a biography should be, complete and balanced with none of the elements that make a hagiography.

This is more than a biography.  This is a mini history of the Civil War and the times.  We see how “access” is almost everything, the importance of friends in high places and the expectation that friends take care of friends.  Ulric Dahlgren is a Colonel at 21 of the United States Volunteers.  He could visit the White House, chat with Lincoln and stop by the War Department to say hello to Stanton.  He is athletic, hard working, intelligent, personable and brave.  All accounts agree that he is a very likable young man from an excellent family with good connections.  In short, Ulric Dahlgren is the perfect candidate for a staff officer.  A position he finds, first with Franz Sigel and later for Fighting Joe Hooker.  In each position, he managed to make himself very valuable and when George Meade takes command, he maintained his position.  Badly wounded during the pursuit of Lee’s army we get a look at medical care for the well to do.  After gangrene sets in an amputation of his leg below the knee saves his life.  The author touches on the after care of an amputee and the problems associated with amputation in passing.  This is enough to give us a glimpse into the world of pain and suffering these men endured.

Being the youngest colonel in the Army of the Potomac, the son of Admiral John Dahlgren, dropping by the White House and the War Department do not rate a biography.  Leading a raid on Richmond, carrying papers ordering the assassination of Jefferson Davis and members of his cabinet with plans to burn the city rate a biography.  The Dahlgren Raid is the subject of numerous histories.  None of them have looked at the raid from Ulric Dahlgren’s life or incorporated it into the story.  Approximately 100 pages are devoted to the Dahlgren Raid, the papers and controversy still raging.  The author’s conclusions are sure to upset people but, as always, he presents an excellent logical case for them.  I found his reasoning compelling and he convinced me that his conclusions are correct.

Very well written, informative, logical and well documented, this is an excellent book.  The excellent maps by David Roth include two present day maps that allow us to follow the path of the raid.  Physically this is a quality book, well illustrated, fully footnoted with an index and bibliography.


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