Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sheppard: "BY THE NOBLE DARING OF HER SONS: The Florida Brigade of the Army of Tennessee"

[By the Noble Daring of Her Sons: The Florida Brigade of the Army of Tennessee by Jonathan C. Sheppard (University of Alabama Press, 2012). Hardcover, 4 maps, illustrations, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:244/335. ISBN:978-0-8173-1707-2 $49.95]


When Civil War readers think of hard-hitting Confederate regiments and brigades, those from the state of Florida seldom come to mind.  East and west, their contributions have been overshadowed by an unjust reputation for unreliability in battle. Thankfully, this view has been successfully challenged in recent years* Now, Jonathan Sheppard's By the Noble Daring of Her Sons finally gives the western theater "Florida Brigade" a full and evenhanded treatment that should serve well the historical memory of its men.

The western theater Florida regiments would not serve in the same brigade under newly promoted Brigadier General Jesse Johnson Finley until November 1863, so the early sections of the book track individual regiments.  Prior to the creation of Finley's command (excepting brief periods spent inside their home state), the 1st, 3rd, and 4th infantry regiments served in the Army of Tennessee, while the 6th and 7th infantries and 1st Florida Cavalry (dismounted) found themselves stationed in East Tennessee. Sheppard does a fine job of presenting the organizational histories of these units (which are also charted nicely in an appendix), while also giving readers a taste of the leadership infighting so common to Civil War volunteer formations.

Floridians were present at most of the theater's important campaigns and battles, including Pensacola, Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville, and their roles on those terrible fields of conflict are duly noted in By the Noble Daring of Her Sons. Sheppard's summaries of Florida's participation in these battles offer the degree of detail appropriate to good brigade scale unit studies. However, unlike many other Civil War histories of this type, Sheppard's is not given to exaggerating the prowess of the brigade. Its analyses of Florida's good (e.g. 2nd Jackson), bad (e.g. Nashville), and mixed success (e.g. Chickamauga) days on the western battlefields are always judicious.  Given the paucity of existing regimental histories [I only counted one -- for the 1st Florida Cavalry -- in the bibliography], the author's diligent attention paid to individual regiments prior to the November 1863 reorganization goes some way in making up for the deficiencies of the literature in this regard.  The most noticeable weakness of these sections is with the maps.  They are too few, and would have benefited the reader more if drawn at a smaller scale.

In addition to his treatment of the brigade's military affairs, Sheppard also offers insights into the background of the men (most of whom had close familial ties to nearby Georgia and South Carolina) and the overall political and social milieu that spawned them. In terms of age of enlistment and range of motivations, the author found similar patterns to those found in works by Noe, McPherson, and Glatthar, but the percentage of Florida Brigade soldiers owning slaves was lower than the average figure for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Throughout the book, Sheppard puts his manuscript research to good use, conveying the opinions and experiences of the brigade's officers and men in their own voices.

After so many decades of neglect, it is remarkable that fine unit histories for both major Florida Brigades have been published by the same press within a span of only two years. Compact without sacrificing coverage with depth, By the Noble Daring of Her Sons is highly recommended reading for those desiring to learn more about the contributions of the "Flowers" to the Confederate war effort in the West.

* - see my review of Zack Waters and James Edmonds' A Small but Spartan Band: The Florida Brigade in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia (Univ of Ala, 2010).

4 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting. I'm still waiting for a good meaty history of the Civil War in Florida.

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    Replies
    1. Me, too. We'll get it someday.

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    2. That's my retirement project...unless someone beats me to it. ;-)

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  2. Hello Drew

    Thanks for the review. Good to hear that this book which was eagerly expected lived up to expectations. Univ. of Ala. Press has recently published a number of good Civil War titles. The other Florida Brigade and the biography of Pelham were well received.

    Hopefully U of A Press will continue to publish more western theater titles.

    Don Hallstrom

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