Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review--Soldiers of the Southern Cross


Wilson, William Gregory. Soldiers of the Southern Cross: The Confederate Soldiers of Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Self Published, Roanoke, AL. 2011. 313 pages, 160 pages text, index, bibliography, 43 appendices, b/w photos. ISBN 9781450749626, $35.

As the Civil War continued to take it's deadly toll each state was required to shoulder it's share of replenishing troops. Whether through volunteer efforts or conscription soldiers were needed in efforts both in the east and the west. Author William Gregory Wilson has produced a fascinating and usefull book outlining the sacrifices made by a single county in eastern Alabama. Ultimately Tallapoosa County would send over 3,000 sons, fathers, and brothers to war with nearly 850 not returning.

Tallapoosa County was formed in 1832 on land once owned by the Creek Nation. The land had both good and bad areas for farming with the best land being near the Tallapoosa River. Despite the differences in land quality the county grew and as was the norm agriculture was the lifeblood with cotton being the main crop. Cotton was of course built on the back of slave labor. At the onset of the Civil War the county population of right around 24,000 contained approximately 28% slaves. As would be expected the rise of the Republican party and the election of Abraham Lincoln led to calls for secession. While not approved of by all delegates the state approved an Ordnance of Secession on January 11, 1861. With the firing on Fort Sumter the war was on and so was the race for recruits.

Wilson has divided his book up by regiments that primarily fought in the east and those in the west. If he was able to verify that soldiers from Tallapoosa County mustered in to a regiment it is included. This of course means that some receive much more in depth coverage than others. The 47th Infantry as a whole receives nearly 30 pages while other Companies from small regiments may only garner a paragraph or two. Of course the 47th took part in the most legendary of Civil War battles, Gettysburg, at perhaps the most well known location there, Little Round Top.

This book is ambitious and accomplishes a lot. It could accomplish even more with a professional editing job. Overall the spelling and grammar are fine and the overall look and feel of the book are much better than the majority of self published works. I think a professional history editor could have made the flow of the book go better and also helped make more cohesive sense of it all.

That said there is a tremendous amount of research contained within this books pages. More than 40 appendices break out each Company that had soldiers from Tallapoosa County. These men then receive a very brief biographical treatment most of which was obtained through service records. The bibliography contains many primary resources and archive collections that were referenced. Also included are photos of soldiers both from the war period and then later in the lives of these brave men.

This is a book that should be in the collections of most libraries in the state of Alabama. With its more than reasonable price genealogical societies should also own a copy and anybody with ancestors from this region of Alabama should not miss checking this book. The index contains all the soldiers referenced whether in text or in an appendix. For anybody with an interest in local Alabama history this is also a must own. While this may not have broad appeal to all interested in Civil War history this is a book that can still be strongly recommended.

Please be sure to check Mr. Wilson's website and also his Facebook page.

Thanks go to Mr. Wilson for providing a complimentary review copy.

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