Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eggleston: "THE TENTH MINNESOTA VOLUNTEERS, 1862-1865: A History of Action in the Sioux Uprising and the Civil War, with a Regimental Roster"

[The 10th Minnesota Volunteers, 1862-1865: A History of Action in the Sioux Uprising and the Civil War, with a Regimental Roster by Michael A. Eggleston (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2012). Softcover, maps, photos, drawings, roster, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:102/229. ISBN:978-0-7864-6593-4 $40]

Members of what would become the 10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry regiment fought in driblets during several of the early chaotic encounters of the 1862 Sioux Uprising in their home state. When fully organized under the command of Colonel James H. Baker, the regiment joined General Henry Hastings Sibley's brigade-sized expedition into Dakota Territory from June to September 1863. Finally sent across the Mississippi the following year, the 10th was attached to A.J. Smith's corps, fighting Confederates at Tupelo before being returned to the Trans-Mississippi to pursue the Price Expedition in Missouri. The unit closed out the war at Nashville (where it would suffer more casualties than all previous engagements combined) and Mobile. This geographically wide ranging service is explored in Michael A. Eggleston's The 10th Minnesota Volunteers, 1862-1865: A History of Action in the Sioux Uprising and the Civil War, with a Regimental Roster.

Unfortunately, the regimental history section is a bit substandard. While eschewing the traditional narrative format for a more journal-like structure is completely fine, the execution, with its choppy writing, careless errors, and typographical mistakes, leaves much to be desired. Also, while Civil War Trans-Mississippi students and Indian Wars readers will welcome summaries of lesser known battles with the Sioux at places like Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, Stony Lake, and Whitestone Hill, those expecting detailed descriptions of the specific battlefield roles assumed by the 10th Minnesota in the 1862-65 clashes with Indians and Confederates will be disappointed. Eggleston frequently employs block quotes from three of the Tenth's unpublished memoir (James Hart and Thomas Hunt) and diary (George Pettie) writers, but they are generally attached to the text without enough context to offer more than a vague understanding of the 10th's place in any given battle.

Illustrations are plentiful and well selected (the battle drawings from Alonzo Connolly's A Thrilling Narrative of the Minnesota Massacre and Sioux War of 1862-63 are noteworthy). The maps, however, do not stray below the theater level. The appendices contain more documents (like Baker's published reminiscence) and information for those with a particular interest in the Sioux Uprising and Dakota War. The regimental roster, as well as the extensive casualty register that follows it, will be very useful for researchers. While the book misses the mark on much of what constitutes a good modern regimental study, it does at least tread upon military historical ground scarcely addressed by Civil War unit histories*, and it deserves repeating that the roster and casualty compilations are valuable contributions.

* - see also Kurt Bergemann's Brackett's Battalion: Minnesota Cavalry in the Civil War and Dakota War.

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