“War is hell. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

This is one quotation that prefaces Dr. Eugene DeFriest Bétit’s book, War’s Cost: The Hites’ Civil War. The narrative describes the Hite family’s involvement and its consequences, providing detailed information about its members who fought in Virginia units. Bétit begins the book by describing the development of the Shenandoah Valley. The author presents a brief historic account of Jost Hite, one of the first to settle the valley, granted 100,000 acres on the condition that he settle 100 families to create a buffer against the French and Indians around what is today Pittsburgh. His grandson, Major Isaac Hite Jr., a prosperous Shenandoah Valley plantation owner and businessman, constructed Belle Grove Plantation near Middletown between 1794 and 1797. The manor house would later become the site of a major battle of the Civil War.

The book addresses education in the Shenandoah Valley, the existence of slavery in all thirteen colonies, the near-total devastation of the valley in four year of constant warfare, and post-war lives of the survivors. Black and white graphics add insight to the text. War’s Cost is intriguing and engaging and provides a lot of information. Historians or anyone interested in the Civil War will love it. However, it’s a serious read requiring concentration; if you don’t enjoy books loaded with genealogical details, you may skip this one. Nonetheless, it provides unique information about the war.