Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review--A Quaker Officer in the Civil War

Carisio, Justin. A Quaker Officer in the Civil War: Henry Gawthrop of the 4th Delaware. Charleston: The History Press. 2013. 157 pages, 137 pages of text. Notes, bibliography, index, b/w photos. ISBN 9781609497514, $19.99.

Henry Gawthrop was a young man who despite his Quaker upbringing volunteered to fight in the Civil War, serving in the 4th Delaware Co. F. Members of the Quaker faith were torn between their religious views of pacifism and also their belief in abolition. Those who chose to fight risked being outcast from their church though this seems to have seldom happened.

Carisio relies heavily on the words of Henry Gawthrop. Gawthrop wrote many letters home and also a journal which he transcribed into a memoir many years after the war. As has been pointed out elsewhere there is a lack of material on the Fourth Delaware so this document written by an officer of the regiment is extremely valuable.

Gawthrop served as 1st LT in the brigade and was later  brevetted to the rank of Captain. and at one point during the war served as assistant inspector general for the 1st Brigade, 1st division, 4th corps.

Much of the early part of the war saw the 4th serving in guard duty around Washington D.C. By June 1864 the regiment had been moved and was located near Bethesda Church, near Richmond. It was here that they came under their first heavy fire of the war and suffered 40 killed and wounded. Just two weeks later they were again in battle this time suffering over 100 casualties including Lt. Gawthrop who suffered  a wound to his head that caused considerable blood loss and kept him from the regiment for nearly two months.

Overall Gawthrop was shot three times during the war with the fourth being the most critical. At Five Forks he was shot through the ankle which required the amputation of his foot. This wound would cause him problems through the rest of the war and ended his active participation.

This is a valuable piece of work in that it covers many aspects of the war. For much of their early enlistment the 4th was not active. This allows us to learn about the day to day life of soldiers. Why did they enlist, what training did they receive and others aspects are covered. The 4th went through a period of negativity as the promised bounties were not paid promptly. The 4th had to deal with contrabands while serving around Washington D. C. It was here that they attempted to educate the newly freed children. The men had concerns about what their fellow soldiers were doing to private citizens property. If southern homes and cities were burned and looted what would southern soldiers do to northern property. If you are looking for an in-depth look at the Quaker religion and the war this is probably not the book for you. Somewhat surprisingly there is little discussion of religion.

Well written and thoroughly illustrated the book includes many maps drawn by Lt. Gawthrop himself. I would have liked to have seen modern maps to compare with these soldier drawn ones but that is really just a small quibble. Strongly recommended for anybody interested in Delaware in the war and those interested in the Petersburg campaign. A good read for those interested in the Civil War.

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