The Last Full Measure is a vividly detailed account of the events that took place in the Civil War after the Battle of Gettysburg. In the novel, the author tells the story of the war after July of 1863 from several points of view. He uses three main characters to depict these points: Ulysses S. Grant, General of the U.S. Army, Robert E. Lee, General of the Confederate Army, and Joshua L. Chamberlain, a simple professor from Maine. The reader can gain a detailed understanding of the war by seeing it through Grant and Lee's eyes. The reader can experience a more firsthand account of war by seeing it from Chamberlain's point of view, who is not a professional solder. After reading this novel, the reader begins to realize what war actually means.
To Lee, it is fighting for a way of life, while for Grant, it is the value of the Union and it's dwindling future. The reader also realizes the hardships that come from war. For Lee, it would be not being able to see his family grow, while for Grant, it would be his struggle with alcoholism and depression. Also while reading the book, the reader is able to pick up two sides to almost every situation, the sides of Lee and Grant. In the foreword, Shaara states that his objective is to tell the reader the feelings of the men of the Civil War, which he achieves by using an immense collection of knowledge to probe into the lives of the soldiers. Shaara gives the audience an objective novel that shows the hardships in one of the greatest wars ever fought.
Toward the end, Shaara takes a clear, anti-war stand. It is obvious that he realizes why wars are fought, but cannot understand why we have never learned from our mistakes. The novel is ended eloquently by showing the war's effects on each of the main characters and what has become of them in the time after the war. Lee tries to make up lost time with his family, while Grant serves two terms as President and later enjoys retirement. Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and later became a governor. Both Lee and Grant eventually publish their memoirs at the end of the novel and look back on the war, which is told by Shaara to be a key event in The Last Full Measure.
Overall, Jeff Shaara has brought a new light to the cloud surrounding the Civil War. He bypassed the actual battles to show the gruesome physical and mental effects of war. It is shown that the generals have a genuine respect and care for their men, but sometimes unknowingly make fatal mistakes. The mistakes made in this war were ones that the world should have learned from, but to all of our dismay, have not learned at all.