Waters, Zack C. and James C. Edmonds. A Small But Spartan Band: The Florida Brigade in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. 2010. 254 pages 194 pages of text. Index, bibliography, notes, 21 Illustrations (maps and photos). $29.95.
For those with an interest in Floridians who fought in the Civil War you understand the difficulties in finding good material. For the most part the contributions to the fighting side of the war were limited and source material is difficult to find. This is not to say that Floridians did not do their part for the Confederate effort however. Zack Waters and James Edmonds have spent years researching to try and put an end to the belief that Floridians (or Flowers as they were often called due to Florida being the "Land of Flowers") were cowards in battle as has been put forth in the past. For those Floridians who fought in the Army of Norhtern Virginia they have finally received their due credit.
Traditionally the Florida Brigade has consisted of the 2nd, 5th, and 8th Infantry Regiments and was led by Edward A. Perry (thus Perry's Brigade). Three other regiments (9th, 10th, and 11th) were added later in the war. As the war progressed the brigade was at times led by Col. David Lang and later on a permanent basis by Brigadier General Joseph Finegan. The very end of the war saw T.W. Brevard promoted to Brigadier General. Brevard was commanding at the surrender at Appomattox.
Perry's Brigade was at many of the major battles of the war though they did not participate in all of them. Floridians suffered major losses at battles such as Seven Pines, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg (they took part in Pickett's Charge), The Wilderness, and Cold Harbor. In addition to battlefield casualties the brigade had major issues with sickness and desertion which became more problematic as the war progressed. Sickness during the siege at Petersburg became rampant as poor rations, poor living conditions (including filth and vermin), and bad weather took their toll. The winter of 1864 prompted Dr. Thomas Palmer to ask that the Florida troops be sent home as they were unaccustomed to such conditions. His request was of course denied.
Desertion, or French leave as Waters and Edmonds call it, became a problem for the Confederacy as a whole but a major issue for the Florida brigade. While the above mentioned rations and living conditions played a major part in why men left there were other reasons as well. While a general sense of hoplessness was beginning to take over Waters and Edmonds argue that the home front played a larger part in desertions. While morale was low on the field it was even lower at home. Letters from home described the difficulties those left behind were suffering, including slave issues. Many men were torn between their duty as soldiers and their duty as husbands and fathers. Often being a family man prevailed. It is also argued that a lack of strong command help push men to leave. In the Florida brigade under Finegan many officer positions went unfilled due to both lack of qualified men and also Finegan's failings. Those higher up also must share blame. By not being able to provide food, clothing, and pay to the soldiers the Confederate government must be held accountable.
Waters and Edmonds have shown that the men from Florida who fought in the Civil War were neither cowards nor were they the major leaders. These were average men fighting for what they believed in. All they asked in return was to be treated fairly by their government. Unfortunately issues beyond their control did not allow this to happen. While many deserted the large majority remained and ultimately surrendered their weapons at Appomattox, effectively signalling the end of the war.
Waters and Edmonds have written a much needed work and they are to be commended for the effort it has taken. The lack of and difficulty in finding Florida material makes this book an achievement to be respected. The notes section runs over 30 pages and contains much valueable information. The bibliography will no doubt be relied upon by generations of future researchers.
There are some areas I feel improvements could be made however. As I have seen other reviewers say more maps could be added. This is a consistant gripe with almost every book however. Cartographers could make a living just off of Civil War books with the way we want maps. While overall the writing is good I found myself confused regarding the Seige of Petersburg and what transpired. I don't know much about this though so it could just be my lack of knowledge of the subject. Col. David Lang played a vital role in Perry's Brigade and I would have like to have had more information on him and also on how and why T. W. Brevard was appointed Brigadier General over him.
A Small But Spartan Band has earned it's place amongst the important works on Florida during the Civil War. I do not believe this to be the final or ultimately most authoritative work we will see however. That being said based upon what I have seen this is the leader and future authors will rely on the research Waters and Edmonds have done. Recommended!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
My wife and I were able to get away for a few days just before our anniversary. We spent several days in Savannah, Georgia. Having been to Savannah in June let me tell you March is much better. The heat in Juene is just stiffling. Just be sure not to try and go on St. Patricks Day. This is a huge event there and hotel prices are through the roof not to mention the crowds. We were there the days following and it was not bad at all.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yesterday I received the new catalog from the University of North Carolina Press. I was excited to see that they are offering a 20% discount on orders. Just use the code 01DAH10 to receive this discount. It can be used online, over the phone (1-800-848-6224), and through the mail. UNC Press has a strong Civil War catalog so you may want to check out this sale.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I received this link from the Lincoln Forum today. Join the Rhode Island Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission for a trip with "Abraham Lincoln" to the Blackstone Valley. Learn more about the train ride here. Sounds like it could be a fun time.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Wittenberg, Eric. Like a Meteor Blazing Brightly: The Short But Controversial Life of Colonel Ulrich Dahlgren. Edinborough Press, Roseville, MN. 2009, 318 pages, 249 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, maps, b/w photos.
Brave, enthusiastic, careless, connected, smart, daring, careless, lucky, unlucky. These are just some of the words that quickly come to mind after having read Eric Wittenberg's highly entertaining work on Ulrich Dahlgren.
Wittenberg has taken on an important, but often overlooked, subject in Dahlgren. Dahlgren came from a well connected family, his father being John Dahlgren, "The Father of Modern Naval Ordnance." Through his father Ully was able to meet presidents Zachary Taylor and later Abraham Lincoln. These connections, in addition to his own abilities, led to his being promoted to the youngest Colonel in the United States Army.
Wittenberg traces the military career of young Ulrich including his stints working along side Generals such as Franz Sigel, Joe Hooker, and later George Meade. We read of Dahlgren and his enthusiasm and the problems this caused at Fredericksburg. In the Gettysburg campaign Dahlgren makes a major find in seizing letters to Robert E. Lee from Jefferson Davis. These letters showed that Lee would not be receiving reinforcements and that he would be on his own. General Meade however did not follow up on this intelligence and eventually Lee and his army were able cross the Potomac and make an escape. Shortly after the battle Dahlgren was shot in the leg while in Hagerstown. The injury cost him his leg below the knee shortly thereafter. He returned from this injury with the new title of Colonel.
Judson Kilpatrick then helps recruit Dahlgren in his plan ostensibly to free prisoners from Belle Isle and Libby Prison. Whether this was really the goal of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid has been the subject of debate ever since. Dahlgren led a group of 500 men who attacked from the south of Richmond. Delays caused him to miss his meeting with Kilpatrick and ultimately led to Dahlgren being killed during a Confederate ambush. Here's where the story takes a turn. Papers were found on Dahlgren's body that he was to burn Richmond, free the prisoners, capture Jefferson Davis and the Confederate cabinet and assassinate them. Based upon this strained relations are even more so. Dahlgren is give an "anonymous" burial though there is an interesting story included on the retrieval of his body for burial by family. Wittenberg then spends a good amount of time examining the "papers". He puts forth a compelling argument that shouldn't be shared in a review. Whether you agree with his ultimate findings there is little doubt that Wittenberg has done his research and his conclusion is well thought out and stated.
Overall a well written book that reads quickly. The research is extensive (40 pages of notes and 18 pages of bibliography). Wittenberg does rely heavily on a memoir written by Ulrich's father and of course objectivity of such a source can be questioned. Overall though Wittenberg has written what seems to be a balanced account of this young man. While pointing out the potential greatness of Ully he doesn't hide the warts. For anybody interested in the Civil War this should be on your "to be read" list. Unfortunately you are unlikely to find this at your local B&N so online ordering is your best bet.
Monday, March 1, 2010
I received the following email from Oxford Univeristy Press today. I noticed a few Civil War related titles. Might be worth checking out.
Get your hands on new books for the new season! Take advantage of our famous annual Spring Sale with savings of up to 65% on new and bestselling titles. Choose from a wide variety of subject areas—including Political Science, Religion, Business and Economics, Reference, Dictionaries and many more.
To purchase the perfect title, simply:
1. Click on the subject area you are interested in and filter by a discount-savings range—30% off, 50% off, or 65% off.
2. Add your books to the cart.
3. Once your books are in the cart, the discounted price will display in red. Complete your order as usual.