Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman by Scott McGaugh

This is a very difficult book to rate.

On the one hand, it is extensively researched, to the point of almost repetition and dryness. On the other hand, this is a biography, and the author suffered extensively from the fact that his subject was a private man who apparently left no correspondence behind–nor, apparently, did much of his family including his wife. This means most of the biography is drawn from published sources; we learn little about Letterman the human being.

This is unfortunate, as Letterman is a fascinating figure and someone fully deserving of a biography. But without letters or diaries to draw from, the author was severely hampered.

I’d recommend this to people with a particular interest in Civil War medicine, or those looking for an overview of what a Civil War army-level medical director did.