Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

Gen. Grant's Fifth Offensive in the Petersburg/Richmond Campaign has long been a fascinating subject to me, so whenever I come across a book discussing some aspect of these movements I'm interested to hear the author's take. Initially successful, the Union assaults north of the James River, which were directed by Gen. Benjamin Butler, stalled out with stiffer resistance after capturing Confederate works at New Market Heights and Fort Harrison. 

Since reading John Hope Franklin's The Militant South, 1800-1861, by John Hope Franklin, way back in graduate school; as well as doing a significant research project at the same time on North Carolinian Henry King Burgwyn, who tried to get into West Point but landed at the Virginia Military Institute before eventually becoming the colonel of the 26th North Carolina, the ideal situation of a military-based education and its importance to Southerners has intrigued me. 

In an era of politicians who drew and threw fire with their words, few were as caustic and expressed a self confidence as John Randolph of Roanoke. Randolph spent several terms as a U.S. congressman and part of a term as a Senator from a Southside Virginia district. Randolph famously exclaimed, "I am an aristocrat. I love liberty and hate equality." John Randolph's formative years and education had a significant impact on what type of man he came to be and projected in his public service. This book gets into John Randolph the private man, tortured by ill health and troubled relationships.

This slim volume attempts to briefly detail Lincoln's initially tentative thinking on the use of African Americans as soldiers in the Union army, to his evolved position on potentially extending citizenship and even voting rights to those who served as fighting men in effort to preserve the Union; and with the Emancipation Proclamation, the additional war aim of ending slavery.

The concept of nationalism was one that the Confederacy had to embrace with the formation of its government after eleven slave states seceded. However Confederate nationalism seemingly did not end with the end of the Confederacy. It survived through the war, through Reconstruction, and lives on in many people's thinking into the twenty-first century.

Many ethnic groups participated in the Civil War, both for the Union and for the Confederacy. Many served to prove their right to the full fruits of citizenship. This book contains essays that discuss the experiences of Germans, Irish, Jews, Native Americans, and African Americans. Without these groups' participation, the Civil War would have been a much different war. I am certainly looking forward to learning a lot from these fascinating essays.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"He Left No Effects": Pvt. Joseph Gatewood, Co. A, 43rd USCI

On April 28, I made a post about Joseph Crossman, a free man of color, who fought and died in the actions near Hatcher's Run on October 27, 1864. Crossman served in Company B of the 43rd United States Colored Infantry. While searching for African American soldiers who were killed in that day's engagement, I also came across another soldier named Joseph, and who was in the 43rd USCI, but who was from Company A, Joseph Gatewood (sometimes noted as Gaitwood).

Reviewing Gatewood's service records, several things caught my attention. First, was Gatewood's place of birth, and yet his place of enlistment. He was noted as being born in Alabama, most likely enslaved. However, he enlisted in Buffalo, New York. If I were speculating, I would guess that Gatewood somehow managed to escape his life as a slave and made his way to Buffalo, which due to it extreme northern location and proximity to Canada, proved to be somewhat of a haven for runaway slaves, especially after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

The second thing that drew my notice was Gatewood's age. He was only 18 at the time of his enlistment on September 2, 1864. His age made me wonder how old he was when he arrived in Buffalo. Did he come to the city on Lake Erie alone or with family and friends? His given occupation was the ubiquitous description of "laborer," so often listed for enlisting men of color. He is described as five feet five inches tall and with a black complexion, and with black eyes and black hair.

Thirdly, and associated with the previous, was the fact that Gatewood's service records note that he was a "substitute for [a] drafted man." Did Gatewood receive compensation from the "drafted man" to serve in his stead? Did Gatewood enlist out of monetary concerns, or out of patriotic or other altruistic motivations? Or, was it some combination of the two, or a multiple of other reasons?

Lastly, if you haven't already caught it yourself, was the realization that Gatewood was killed in action less than two months after enlisting. Unlike some other soldiers, his records do not give further details on where on his person he received the wounds that took his life. The inventory of his personal effects has two big X marks across it and plainly states "He left no effects." Another page states "He has not drawn any clothing with the exception of his outfit when enlisted."

Like Joseph Crossman, his fellow 43rd USCI soldier, Gatewood's place of burial is not noted. He was likely buried on the field where he fell. Regardless of where his remains reside, it is fitting and proper to at least note the service of this young man, otherwise lost to history and who apparently did not have to serve, yet did and in another's place, only to fall a victim of battle.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Just Finished Reading - The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts during the Civil War

The Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts during the Civil War, edited by Brian D. McKnight and Barton A. Myers; Louisiana State University Press, 2017.

When the Civil War bug bit me about thirty-five years or so ago, I was fascinated by the scope of the conflict. I dreamed of going to the many battlefields of Virginia and Tennessee. A weekend family trip to the more approximate Perryville Battlefield State Shrine temporarily satiated my quest for battleground exploration, but when I brought my enthusiasm for the subject to my grandparents home and farm in Clinton County, Kentucky, I began to learn that the Civil War was not experienced the same everywhere.

Clinton County was the native home of notorious Confederate guerrilla Champ Ferguson, and although Ferguson later moved to White County, Tennessee, he returned often to the area to carry out various terrorist activities. On one visit my grandfather told me a family story of Ferguson and his men raiding my ancestors' corn crib. The anecdotal tale made me want to learn more about Ferguson and other guerrillas. However, the only book I could find at the time was Thurman Sensing's, Champ Ferguson: Confederate Guerrilla, which was first published in the 1940s.

Fortunately, for those of us interested in Civil War guerrilla studies, scholarship in this field has expanded tremendously over the last decade or so, with some excellent studies emerging in the last five years. Topics and geographical regions previously unexplored, now are providing us with a much better understanding of how the war was often carried out in the "shadows" of the larger and more familiar military campaigns.

One of the most exciting recent additions to this growing body of scholarship is Guerrilla Hunters: Irregular Conflicts during the Civil War, a series of excellent essays edited by Brian D. McKnight and Barton A. Myers, both of who have produced individual significant works on guerrilla actions.

Guerrilla Hunters opens with a thought provoking introduction by the editors which seeks to "present guerrilla studies in their full complexity, not as a field unto itself." In reading the rest of the essays, this goal is met.

The full complexity the editors wish to expose is partly achieved through the range of geographical diversity in which the essays examine. Of course, the traditional border regions, where irregular operations flourished such as Missouri, Kansas, and Kentucky come in for their fair share of coverage. But essays such as "Irregular Naval Warfare along the Lower Mississippi," by Laura June Davis, and "American Warlord: Reconsidering 'Guerrilla' Leader John Gatewood," by Adam H. Domby, give us a look into both previously unexamined geographical regions and topics.

Many of the essays also develop informative new perspectives. For example, Aaron Astor's essay on Tennessee/Kentucky border Unionist Tinker Dave Beaty and his men and their social networks show the importance of family and kin connections in determining who community members could turn to for protection, and even sustenance support. Similarly, Lisa Tendrich Frank's contribution, "The Union War on Women," looks at how Confederate home front women often endured the counter-guerrilla operations of the Union army, who ironically used many of the same tools to fight irregular forces that they found reprehensible. Matthew M. Stith puts two emerging Civil War fields of study together: environment and guerrillas, in his "Guerrilla Warfare and the Environment in the Trans-Mississippi Theater." The land, weather, and animals/insects of this region, still considered a wilderness in many contemporary circles, shaped how the bushwhackers and their pursuers experienced their unique type of civil war. Likewise, Joseph M. Beilein, Jr.'s "Whiskey, Wild Men, and Missouri's Guerrilla War," examines the influence of alcohol on probably the most active geographical area of guerrilla operations. Beilein argues that alcohol fueled a significant amount of aggressiveness and bad decision making among those who operated in irregular fashion.

Other intriguing essays include Matthew C. Hulbert's "Larkin M. Skaggs and the Massacre(s) at Lawrence," which takes likely the most infamous guerrilla episode and examines it from an new angle. As Hulbert states "when the massacre is broken down into a momentous wave of home invasions perpetrated by pro-Confederate bushwhackers against the households they believed were allowing jayhawkers to function efficiently as pro-Union guerrillas, it much more closely resembles how irregulars themselves understood the waging of war in the Missouri-Kansas guerrilla theater." Also, Andrew Lang's "Challenging the Union Citizen-Soldier Ideal," looks at how Union volunteers sometimes struggled reconciling their images of what a citizen soldier should look like and behave like when forced to deal with irregular forces. Union regulars found that sometimes occupying a region and attempting to control guerrillas set their conceptions of warfare on its head and required the destruction of private property and potentially harming civilians.

Finally, I appreciated that the editors provided a thorough "Readers Bibliography of Civil War Studies." This list of scholarship available on the subject only boosts the Guerrilla Hunters's overall importance.

Whether mentioned above or not, all of the essays contained in this volume advance our understand of an important and ever emerging facet of the Civil War. Irregular warfare studies such as Guerrilla Hunters shed light on the dark corners of Civil War scholarship and remind us that there are still areas of our nation's most significant four years that need examining and rethinking. I highly recommend this work to any student of the Civil War. By reading this book you will certainly not be disappointed in what you learn or how it makes you think about other aspects of the conflict.