Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crabb: "FACING SHERMAN IN SOUTH CAROLINA: March through the Swamps"

[Facing Sherman in South Carolina: March through the Swamps by Christopher G. Crabb (The History Press, 2010). Softcover, photos, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:168/191. ISBN:978-1-60949-015-7 $21.99]

Recent years have seen the publication of a number of excellent 1865 Carolinas Campaign related studies, although far more attention has been devoted to the later events in North Carolina.  Seizing on an opportunity to look into less well trodden ground, Christopher Crabb's Facing Sherman in South Carolina details the Union army's "amphibious" land campaign in the state, conducted between the Savannah River and the capital at Columbia.

Crabb's writing vividly recreates the awful terrain experienced by William T. Sherman's large army as it pressed northward into soggy South Carolina after capturing Savannah in late December 1864. The text is supplemented with numerous modern photographs of the swamps and waterways traversed by the army, impressing upon the reader the unexaggerated scale of the difficulties. After crossing the Savannah River, the bluecoasts had to traverse a vast number of swollen swamps, streams, and rivers, the most significant of the latter being the Salkahatchie, Little Salkehatchie, the north and south branches of the Edisto, and, finally the Combahee.  Roads were often flooded (as an example, a mile long stretch of one had to be bridged in six places) and, when the columns were able to take advantage of causeways, they were often opposed by entrenched Confederates on the far side of burned out bridges.

Opposed by weak Confederate forces, comprised of scattered mounted units, Lafayette McLaws's understrength division, and a stream of tattered Army of Tennessee remnants shipped into theater by rail, Union forces could only be briefly slowed. Crabb describes well the successful tactics employed by the federals, who generally fixed the fortified defenders in place with skirmishers and sought crossings above and below to take the enemy positions in flank or rear.  Regular Union volunteer infantry and mounted infantry units, as well as the specialist 1st Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, were able to quickly corduroy vast stretches of road and erect temporary pontoon bridges and ferries in impressive fashion. With each crossing guarded by a late war sized Confederate brigade (only a few hundred effectives at best), the Union flanking maneuvers could not be thwarted. In this way, casualties for the swamp campaign were very light.  Undoubtedly, Confederate weakness in numbers and morale was also a deciding factor.  In addition to documenting the above military events, Crabb also covers the effects of widespread foraging and looting on area plantations. 

While the author's tactical and terrain discussions are noteworthy, his book does have significant weaknesses. The formatting of the endnotes is unorthodox, but the greatest fault lies in the decision not to include any maps. In this way, full reader comprehension of the often excellent level of detail rendered in the text, in terms of physical locations, terrain descriptions, and military movements, is lost. It's an unfortunate limitation of the book's usefulness, as otherwise the study is really worthwhile reading for those interested in the 1865 Carolinas Campaign..

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Booknotes IV (January '11)

New Arrivals:

* The Notorious "Bull" Nelson: Murdered Civil War General by Donald A. Clark (SIU Pr, 2011).

As the early war period in Kentucky of one of my main areas of interest, I am greatly looking forward to reading this biography of Nelson (the first to appear in print, I've been told). Though credited with a significant role in sustaining the Union cause in the Bluegrass state, the man's reputation remains decidedly mixed. Clark's interpretation is eagerly anticipated.

* The Civil War: A Concise History by Louis P. Masur (Oxford Univ Pr, 2011).

Imagine trying to write a history of the Civil War in less than 100 pages.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Call for contributors to Civil War in the Far West-themed journal issue

On the H-Net discussion page today, the guest editor of the Journal of the West put out a call for articles to fill out a theme issue in recognition of the Civil War sesquicentennial. Details can be found here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bostick: "CHARLESTON UNDER SIEGE: The Impregnable City"

[Charleston Under Siege: The Impregnable City by Douglas W. Bostick (The History Press, 2010). Softcover, maps, photos, illustrations, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:147/159. ISBN:978-1-60949-015-7 $19.99]

Still going strong after several years now, The History Press's Civil War Sesquicentennial series has been turning out books ranging from well documented specialized works to overviews directed at a more general audience. Douglas Bostick's Charleston Under Siege is a fine example of the latter.

At around 150 of main text, Bostick's brief overview of a big subject is nevertheless quite inclusive. The well known events of the Civil War years in Charleston are covered, including the firing on Fort Sumter, the 1862 Battle of Secessionville, the seizure of the steamer Planter by slaves, the 1863 ironclad and Fort Wagner assaults, the 1863-65 direct bombardment of the city and its defenses, the prisoner-of-war saga of the "Immortal 600", the CSS Hunley tragedy, and the ultimate abandonment of the city in 1865.

The author also notes other less celebrated events, such as the Confederate capture of the USS Isaac P. Smith on the Stono River, the 1862 sortie by the ironclads CSS Chicora and Palmetto State that briefly broke the blockade. Bostick devotes more space to the torpedo boats than the oversaturated Hunley story.

Maps are sparse and borrowed from other publications, but the book is endowed with a nice array of engravings and photographs, 80 in total. For general interest readers seeking a short but comprehensive history of the subject, Bostick's Charleston Under Siege is a good alternative to the only other study of similar breadth, E. Milby Burton's now four decade old work The Siege of Charleston: 1861-1865.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More on Geiger and financial fraud

Soon after posting my review of Mark Geiger's Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865, I received an email from an internet friend and frequent correspondent, who also is an author and leading expert on the Missouri State Guard.

He questions: "where did the money that was supposedly funneled to the Missouri State Guard go? Certainly, the records of the Guard don't show any expenditures on small arms, uniforms, rations, etc. Gen. James Harding, quartermaster general of the Guard, constantly complains that there were no funds to purchase arms, cannon, and so forth. Therefore, it appears that most things were purchased on credit. I just don't see that the money ever made it into MSG coffers".

Shame on me for not thinking to the ask the question. Although Geiger mentions in the book that Shelby's brigade received some of the funds in 1862, this is supposedly millions of dollars we are talking about, and he appeared content (although, admittedly, it isn't essential to his thesis) to not follow the money to its ultimate destination.

So where did the money go?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Geiger: "FINANCIAL FRAUD AND GUERRILLA VIOLENCE IN MISSOURI'S CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865"

[Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865 by Mark Geiger (Yale University Press, 2010). Hardcover, maps, photos, tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:158/314. ISBN: 978-0-300-15151-0 $55]

Most readers interested in the Civil War in Missouri know that, after the hostile June 1861 Planter's Hotel meeting in St. Louis between Union General Nathaniel Lyon and Missourians Governor Claiborne Jackson and former governor Sterling Price, the state legislature responded to Lyon's threats by authorizing the creation of the Missouri State Guard. What is less well known is how this new military force was funded and the how the means employed led to profound and unintended consequences. A work of refreshing originality, Mark Geiger's Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865 explores the issue on several levels. It first seeks to establish the facts behind a conspiracy between Gov. Jackson and the pro-secession managers of Missouri's rural branch banks to funnel funds to the secessionist militia. Geiger also attempts to make the case that the fraud was a (and perhaps the) significant factor in intensifying the guerrilla conflict. Finally, the author believes the unforeseen financial and legal fallout destroyed the power of the pro-southern political class, driving many of its members from the state altogether. Unlike Kentucky (which many wags maintain became a Confederate state after the war), post-war Missouri's southern drain, combined with the continued heavy influx of northerners, ensured that it could not maintain a significant sectional identity.

Before he was elected governor, Claiborne Jackson was the state banking commissioner, a role that obviously familiarized him with the system and its deep intertwining of family connections [in Missouri's case, the planter community] with commerce. Thus, he was well positioned to take advantage of the fact that three-fourths of the branch presidents (located across the state, but outside St. Louis) were at least initially pro-southern in sentiment. Geiger does an excellent job of relating to the reader who these men were and documenting their connections to, and financial dealings with, prominent secessionist families. The author, an experienced professional financial auditor, pored through circuit court records to discover that at least $3 million dollars was diverted to the Missouri State Guard and Confederate forces in the state from the banks in the period 1861-62. The pro-southern men that signed these promissory notes did not expect to be held responsible for the debt, as Jackson assured them that the state would assume the principal and interest after the fighting ended.  Unfortunately for all concerned, Union forces rapidly took control of most of the state, arresting or replacing all the bank officers and suing the note signers for recovery of the money.  With the signers unable to pay, hundreds of the thousands of acres of land were seized and auctioned during the war.

All of the above is very clearly explained by the author and backed by extensive evidence. However, the overriding thesis of Geiger's book, that these widespread forced sales were the primary force behind the extraordinary level of guerrilla violence in the state remains largely unconvincing. Although the author makes a valiant and impressive effort, from multiple angles1, to link the two2, the fact that the guerrillas left behind little in the way of documentation [there is no primary evidence linking guerrilla motivation to the land seizures] seems to preclude such a confident assertion.  The author's statement that "it seems likely that without the indebtedness, the incidence of guerrilla violence in Missouri would have been closer to that experienced in other border states" (pg. 111) strikes one as an oversimplification and an interpretive leap, especially when one considers the excellent scholarship dealing with the 'inner' Civil War that has emerged in recent decades, demonstrating that the intensity of violence in Missouri is not as unique as previously thought. Nevertheless, just because Geiger's argument appears inconclusive does not make it implausible, and indebtedness as a contributing factor to guerrilla violence is certainly compelling on some level.

However one regards his main thesis, Mark Geiger's discovery and documentation of the conspiracy hatched by Missouri politicians and sympathetic bank officers to funnel massive amounts of money toward the support of state militia and Confederate forces is a major achievement. His work is also an extremely valuable introduction to the antebellum banking system that existed there. Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865 is recommended reading for all students of the conflict in that troubled state.

Notes:
1 - Factors include family connections between young guerrillas and the older note signers, geographical overlap, and the timing of increased guerrilla activity with that of land seizures.
2 - In addition to the book's expansive endnotes, 70 pages of documentation append the work. This material includes a fine historiographical essay, notes on methodology, an outline of numerical data and calculations, a list of the promissory note court cases that comprised the author's sample for analysis, and, finally, a large group of data tables pertaining to Missouri banks, bankers, defendants, cases, guerrillas, and planters.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Booknotes III (January '11)

New Arrivals:

1. Facing Sherman in South Carolina: March through the Swamps by Christopher G. Crabb (The History Pr, 2010).

This book covers the entire Union march through the Palmetto State, covering the skirmishes in the swamps and along the river lines in Sherman's path. There are a lot of great modern photographs of the ground described, but, sadly, no maps at all.

2. Charleston Under Siege: The Impregnable City by Douglas W. Bostick (The History Pr, 2010).

Looks like a capable introductory work on the subject, with the usual suspects such as the firing on Fort Sumter, the 1863 ironclad and Fort Wagner assaults, the Hunley saga, and the abandonment of the city in 1865.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If you saw this cover art ...

would you question the book's, and by extension the author's and publisher's, level of seriousness?   We all know jacket endorsements do not always carry significant meaning, but this history of a pro-southern group of western Virginia guerrillas does carry accolades from a pair of professional historians.

Maybe I'll give it a try anyway.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wildman: "IOWA'S MARTYR REGIMENT: The Story of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry"

[Iowa's Martyr Regiment: The Story of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry by David Wildman (Camp Pope Publishing, 2010). Softcover, 9 maps, illustrations, footnotes and endnotes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:280/338.  ISBN:978-1-929919-31-4   $24.95]

Camp Pope Publishing (formerly the Press of the Camp Pope Bookshop) has done much to bring the Civil War contributions of Iowans to the attention of the reading public, and the newest release, David Wildman's Iowa's Martyr Regiment: The Story of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry, is another fine unit history. But it is not a typical one.  While many Hawkeye formations forged enviable battle records in the western and Trans-Mississippi theaters, the 38th always seemed to miss the action. Nevertheless, the roster of dead was incredibly high for such a comparatively meager combat history. While only two men were killed in action or mortally wounded, sickness sent over 300 of its soldiers to an early grave.*.

Organized in the summer of 1862 with members recruited primarily from five northeastern counties, the 38th regiment was initially stationed at New Madrid, Missouri, where the men manned the earthworks and helped suppress local guerrilla activity. Later, when General Grant failed to carry Vicksburg by direct assault in May 1863, more men were needed for siege operations, and the Iowans were sent there as part of General Francis Herron's division. The regiment occupied trenches located at the extreme right of the Confederate lines, opposite South Fort, coming under artillery fire, but suffering negligible casualties.

After the Vicksburg garrison surrendered, the 38th boarded transports and headed up the Yazoo River to Yazoo City.  Soon, however, they were taken back down the Mississippi and shipped to Texas, where they occupied Brazos Island at the mouth of the Rio Grande.  The forces stationed there monitored border activity and occasionally headed inland to the Brownsville area.

By late June 1864, the decision was made to withdraw most Union forces from Texas. The Hawkeyes returned to New Orleans and were consolidated with the 34th Iowa [rather curious given that the unit still had over 500 men on its active rolls]. It would be 1865 before the men would see serious combat, as part of General Frederick Steele's Pensacola column, marching by a roundabout route to Confederate held Fort Blakely. In the final assault, the soldiers from the old 38th penetrated the Confederates line to the right of Redoubt No. 4, a section of the front occupied by a brigade of stubborn Missourians. The author deems this twenty minute action the regiment's "one moment of glory."

The published and unpublished letters, diaries, and memoirs of dozens of officers and men form the heart of Wildman's research. In addition to the author's careful chronicling of military movements, he extensively covers the unit's camp life, political infighting, and the deleterious effects of the waves of sickness that frequently rocked the regiment. Wildman documents his lengthy narrative with both footnotes and endnotes. The book's nine maps are adapted mostly from previously published material, not a great deficiency in this case given the regiment's lack of a prominent role in most engagements described in the text. However, given that a unit roster of some kind is almost an expected feature of modern regimentals, the lack of one here is a source of minor disappointment.

Every regiment deserves a published history, even those that couldn't even begin to sniff Fox's "Fighting 300" list, and Wildman's book is a good one. His Iowa's Martyr Regiment is perhaps the fullest treatment I've encountered of a unit that spent so little of its service on the firing line. Even if the reader has little specific interest in the 38th, the author offers more than enough context to make his book worthwhile reading for students of the Vicksburg, Rio Grande, and Mobile campaigns, as well as counterinsurgency operations in southeast Missouri. Given its quality, as well as the lack of modern, full length Iowa regimental histories in general, this study is a notable addition to the Civil War literature.

* - I have nothing to back this up, but, at over 150 to 1, the 38th may very well have the highest ratio of non-combat losses to KIAs of any three-year Civil War regiment.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Confederate "Tales..." Part Two in Spring '11

From Camp Pope Publishing's newsletter:
"I’m currently at work on CONFEDERATE “TALES OF THE WAR IN THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI,” PART TWO: 1862. Hope to have it out this spring some time."
This is a great new series. I reviewed Part One early last year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"A Severe and Bloody Fight" reprint

The most recent Arkansas Historical Preservation Program battlefield update reminded me of a reprint that I've been meaning to mention. 1996's A Severe and Bloody Fight: The Battle of Whitney’s Lane & Military Occupation of White County, Arkansas, May & June, 1862 by Scott H. Akridge and Emmett E. Powers (White County Historical Society) is my favorite local Civil War military history book. Out of print for quite some time, the society reprinted it recently, and it can be obtained for the very reasonable price of $13 (incl. shipping) from their website.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Booknotes II (January '11)

New Arrivals:

1. Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865 by Mark Geiger (Yale Univ Pr, 2010).

The promotional blurbs I've read seem to be a bit all over the place in terms of the book's main thrust, but the heart of it seems to be a shady financial scheme to transfer funds from Missouri banks to secessionist forces. The author demonstrates how the fraud fueled guerrilla violence and helped shape the state's future. Sounds pretty pathbreaking.

2. Iowa's Martyr Regiment by David Wildman (Camp Pope Pub, 2010).

I mentioned this one recently (at this post).

3. Kansans At Wilson's Creek Soldiers' Letters From the Campaign for Southwest Missouri by Richard Hatcher and William G. Piston (Wilson's Creek NB Foundation. 1993).

Undoubtedly, much of this material made its way into Hatcher and Piston's excellent Wilson's Creek campaign study.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Booknotes (January '11)

New Arrivals:

1. Railroads of the Civil War: An Illustrated History by Michael Leavy (Westholme, 2010).

The text portion of the book is a pretty general overview (not a scholarly look at the war's use of railroads or their equipment), but the pictorial facet is the main focus and there are loads of photographs I [admittedly, not a railroad guy] have never seen before in print.


2. Shadow of Shiloh: Major General Lew Wallace in the Civil War by Gail Stephens (Indiana HS Pr, 2010).

This attractive oversize volume has the appearance of a well researched and documented examination of Wallace's command history in western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maryland. I look forward to reading what, if anything, it can add to our current understanding of the Shiloh controversy.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Book news - UT Press SS '11

The UT Press seasonal book catalog seems to always be among the last released to the public, but the wait is always worth it, with a bunch of new titles of interest.

Hewitt and Bergeron's Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 3: Essays on America’s Civil War is scheduled for April. No content description yet from the press page.

B.F. Cooling will finally complete his Kentucky-Tennessee trilogy with July's release of To the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and Beyond: Stabilization and Reconstruction in Tennessee and Kentucky, 1864–1866 . His treatment of the Henry and Donelson campaign remains my favorite on the topic, but I never did get around to reading volume 2.

The venerable Voices series also has another volume coming out soon, Last to Leave the Field: The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers, edited by Timothy J. Orr.

Finally, there's also a revisionist history of Andrew Johnson's Civil War and presidency from the scholar editing his papers.

On a general note, April appears to be the busiest publishing month of the season.   Not surprising given a certain ruckus over a federal rock pile 150 years ago.

Friday, January 07, 2011

"One Blanket and Ten Days Rations: 1st Infantry New Mexico Volunteers in Arizona 1864-1866"

Students of the 1862 Confederate New Mexico and Arizona campaign will recall the role of the 1st New Mexico, but the men whose Civil War service is recounted in Charles and Jacqueline Meketa's One Blanket and Ten Days Rations: 1st Infantry New Mexico Volunteers in Arizona 1864-1866 (Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 1980) belonged to a different unit. In 1863, the governor of New Mexico reactivated the 1st NMVI as a three year regiment and recruited its officers and men from scratch (the original unit was disbanded).

One Blanket and Ten Days Rations is a scholarly treatment of the military service of companies A and I. In addition to capsule organizational and campaign histories of these companies, rosters, demographic data, and lists of dead, desertions, disabilities, and equipment are provided by the authors. The men of Company A were nearly all Hispanic and I only slightly less so. Both companies organized and trained at Fort Union before being sent to southern Arizona to participate in General Carleton's 1864 Apache campaign. The pair did not serve together, with A going to Fort Bowie at Apache Pass and I joining California volunteers for the unsuccessful Pinal Mountains Expedition (July - August). None of Carleton's lofty operational goals were met and the New Mexicans spent the balance of their service in garrison, patrol, and escort duties. This book is a fine documented history of arduous volunteer infantry service on a forgotten front.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Van Tilburg: "A CIVIL WAR GUNBOAT IN PACIFIC WATERS: Life on Board USS Saginaw"

[A Civil War Gunboat in Pacific Waters: Life on Board USS Saginaw by Hans Konrad Van Tilburg (University Press of Florida, 2010). Hardcover, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:338/380. ISBN:978-0813035161  $69.95 ]

In the Civil War naval literature, the role of the United States Navy's Pacific Squadron always gets short shrift. No full length monograph exists, and an otherwise excellent recent study of Union naval leadership leaves out the Pacific altogether! From this, one might get the impression its ships and men did nothing important, but that would be far from the truth. Often by simply "showing the flag", the Pacific Squadron protected American citizens and interests all across that vast ocean during the Civil War years. Its vessels were also tasked with keeping an eye on the French in Mexico, as well as the political instability of Central and South America, the former especially important in the transshipment of gold. Ships also ranged up and down the U.S. coastline investigating suspected pro-Confederate political plots and attempts to outfit privateers. Far flung merchant and whaling fleets also needed protection from Confederate commerce raiders. An important element in all this was the relatively new USS Saginaw, and its fourteen year career is recounted in A Civil War Gunboat in Pacific Waters by Hans Konrad Van Tilburg.

Constructed at Mare Island in San Francisco Bay, the U.S.'s first Pacific naval yard, and commissioned in 1856, the lightly armed Saginaw immediately joined the small group of U.S. ships stationed in Chinese and Japanese waters. There, it helped bolster American political, trade, and missionary interests, providing protection for citizens of the U.S. and other western countries threatened by China's civil conflicts and Japan's intense antipathy toward foreigners.

The Saginaw was still on station in the Far East when the American Civil War broke out, but it would be 1863 before the vessel could limp back to Mare Island for extensive upgrades and repairs. At Mare Island, it was put on alert to repel an attack on the facility by a group of Confederate sympathizers, a situation that turned out to be a non-event. The ship also traveled north to Washington Territory after it was reported that a privateer was being outfitted in Puget Sound. Similar rumors abounded for the rest of the war, but the Saginaw never did encounter a privateer face to face. However, it did transport some of the captured Confederate agents who had attempted to seize the armed steamers Salvador and Guatemala. Another wartime mission undertaken by the Saginaw was oversight of the salvage of the SS Golden Gate, which wrecked off Manzanillo, Mexico, spilling into the surf $1.4 million in gold. Other Mexican adventures included contending with incompetent consular officials and a French blockade of Mexico's Pacific ports.

Like on board was rough, with tropical disease rampant during duty in the lower climes, with "seasoning" killing or disabling many men.  Discipline was also a significant problem, with drunkenness (even with the abolition of the daily grog ration) and desertion constant companions, although the author seems to suggest that poor leadership was a contributing factor.  Van Tilburg does hint at the international and interracial flavor of the American navy's manpower, but it is somewhat unfortunate that he did not go into detail about the Saginaw's crew composition. In terms of political allegiances, the author does mention that, during on board voting for the 1864 presidential election, ten white members voted for McClellan and twenty black crewmen voted for Lincoln.

Although the book's title suggests a Civil War concentration, much more than half the text covers the Saginaw's brief post-war career, which included visits to Hawaii and an extensive exploration of Alaska. However, the events surrounding the ship's 1870 sinking at remote Kure Atoll (near Midway) is the primary focus. At the time, Midway's location was viewed with favor as a major coaling station. It is unsurprising that so much of the book is devoted to the end of the Saginaw's career, the marooning of its crew, and the dramatic rescue voyage, as Van Tilburg headed the team that discovered and documented the wreck. Its archaeological features are discussed in the book's final chapter.

While one might wish for more detail and focus on the Civil War career of the Saginaw and its crew [and the inclusion of the type of multi-view schematic ship drawing of the type common to studies of this type would have been nice], A Civil War Gunboat in Pacific Waters nevertheless provides an excellent overview of a largely, and undeservedly, forgotten aspect of the Union navy's wartime operations. Its comprehensive summary of the variety of duties fulfilled by squadron vessels like the Saginaw is a fine contribution to our understanding of the Civil War in the Pacific theater. Hopefully, this book will inspire other scholars to study this vast area of largely untrodden ground. For those whose interests lie elsewhere, Van Tilburg's study is also a valuable historical and archaeological account of one vessel's involvement in the infant stages of the projection of U.S. power in the Pacific.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Iowa's Martyr Regiment

Clark Kenyon of Camp Pope Publishing has long specialized in Iowa's Civil War contributions, and his latest publishing effort is a new unit history, David Wildman's Iowa's Martyr Regiment: The Story of the Thirty-eighth Iowa Infantry [344 pages, 32 illus. and maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-1-929919-31-4 $24.95]. Presentation is typically excellent, and, among a wealth of other primary source materials used, the letters, diaries, and memoirs from fifty members of the unit enrich Wildman's study.

Even though it was posted at various places along the Mississippi River and was sent to Texas, Florida, and Alabama, the regiment distinguished itself little prior to Fort Blakely in 1865.  But widespread death stalked it anyway. Suffering only 2 men killed or mortally wounded throughout its service, but with 315 officers and men sent to early graves by disease, the 38th was unusually hard hit by non-combat losses, even by Civil War standards.

Expect the book to be reviewed here sometime in the near future.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 A. M. Pate, Jr. Award Winner

Donald Frazier's Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of Louisiana and Texas, January 1861-January 1863 (State House Press, 2009) was recently announced as the winner of the Pate Award. I believe it is the still the only significant book honor that exclusively considers Trans-Mississippi subjects.

And Happy New Year to all and welcome to another year of news and reviews.