Saturday, May 30, 2009

Paine, Hyde Jr. (ed.) : "A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General"

[ A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General by Halbert Eleazer Paine, edited by Samuel C. Hyde, Jr. (Louisiana State University Press, 2009). Cloth, map, photos, notes, index. Pages main/total: 180/200. ISBN: 978-008071-3418-4 $32.50 ]

A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country is the Civil War memoir of Brevet Major General Halbert E. Paine, edited by historian Samuel Hyde. Paine begins his account with his appointment as colonel of the 4th Wisconsin infantry. Initially assigned to the eastern theater, the 4th's first campaign involved securing Maryland's Eastern Shore. From there, Paine and his men were transported by sea to Ship Island, Mississippi as part of Brigadier General Thomas Williams's brigade of Benjamin Butler's command. After the Crescent City's fall in April 1862, two half-hearted attempts at capturing Vicksburg failed. Paine missed the Battle of Baton Rouge, but after Williams was killed there, he assumed command of the city's defenses. The year 1863 saw the Bayou Teche and Port Hudson campaigns, with the colonel losing a leg during the latter in the June 14 assault on the Priest Cap section of the Confederate defenses. His reminiscence ends in August 1863, although Paine, upon recovery, returned to duty in the eastern theater.

A mixture of narrative and diary formats, Paine's detailed and sometimes humorous recounting of his Civil War military career centers on his time in Louisiana. He concentrates on military affairs, but also devotes a fair amount of space to his personal relationships, especially the near constant clashes with his superior Thomas Williams, one of which resulted in Paine's arrest after a refusal to obey orders allowing the return of escaped slaves. A lawyer, the Wisconsin colonel took great pains to present his case against Williams to the reader, and reproduced reams of orders in support of his cause [for publication, Hyde excised those of less immediate relevance]. He also wasn't the first Civil War officer to complain of the irregular tactical formation invented and insisted upon by Williams, the "Order of Combat".

Paine's descriptive account of his stint as commander of the Baton Rouge defenses is one of the informational highlights of the book. Other subjects covered extensively include the preparations for the river campaign against New Orleans, the securing of the city's northern front after its fall, and the 1863 Bayou Teche and Port Hudson campaigns.

Beyond the trimming mentioned above, the editorial intervention was light. In addition to a fine introduction, Hyde does provides some endnotes for the text; however, a much more thorough annotation of the material would have significantly enhanced the study's value. Editorial wishes aside, A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country is an important primary source document for the study of the Civil War in Louisiana, and Hyde and LSU Press are to be commended for their efforts in bringing it to publication.

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Other Civil War Books and Authors reviews of LSU Press titles:
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock

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