In the American Civil War missives from relatives to soldiers relating the details of what was occurring in the villages and towns unscarred by the conflict were rare. Edited by Barbara Butler Davis, Affectionately Yours: The Civil War Home-Front Letters of the Ovid Butler Family includes transcriptions of sixty-five holograph letters written from 1863 to 1865 to their son Scot. The letters are housed in the collection of the Irvington Historical Society and relate a fascinating social history of the Indianapolis community during the Civil War. The book also includes a foreword by Civil War historian Alan T. Nolan.
The Wounded Knee Massacre of December 29, 1890, known to U.S. military historians as the last battle in "the Indian Wars," was in reality another tragic event in a larger pattern of conquest, destruction, killing, and broken promises that continue to this day.
On a cold winter's morning more than a century ago, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry attacked and killed more than 260 Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. In the aftermath, the broken, twisted bodies of the Lakota people were soon covered by a blanket of snow, as a blizzard swept through the countryside. A few days later, veteran army surgeon John Vance Lauderdale arrived for duty at the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Shocked by what he encountered, he wrote numerous letters to his closest family members detailing the events, aftermath, and daily life on the Reservation under military occupation. He also treated the wounded, both Cavalry soldiers and Lakota civilians. What distinguishes After Wounded Knee from the large body of literature already available on the massacre is Lauderdale's frank appraisals of military life and a personal observation of the tragedy, untainted by self-serving reminiscence or embellished newspaper and political reports. His sense of frustration and outrage toward the military command, especially concerning the tactics used against the Lakota, is vividly apparent in this intimate view of Lauderdale's life. His correspondence provides new insight into a familiar subject and was written at the height of the cultural struggle between the U.S. and Lakota people. Jerry Green's careful editing of this substantial collection, part of the John Vance Lauderdale Papers in the Western Americana Collection in Yale University's Beinecke Library, clarifies Lauderdale's experiences at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
... And Heaven Shed No Tears
Henry Armin Herzog University of Wisconsin Press, 2005 Library of Congress DS135.P63H494 2005 | Dewey Decimal 940.5318092
Henry Herzog survived the liquidation of the Rzeszow ghetto in Poland and endured terrible hardships in forced labor camps. He documents the increasing severity of Nazi rule in Rzeszow and the complicity of the Jewish council (the Judenrat) and Jewish police in the round-ups for deportation to the Belzec concentration camp. One of these deportations took his parents to their deaths. His brothers were caught, tortured, and killed by the Gestapo. Herzog and his sister escaped to Hungary where—although she found refuge—he was betrayed, arrested, and finally put on a train to the concentration camps. Escaping by jumping off the train and fleeing into the Tatra Mountains, he joined a group of Russian partisans to fight the Nazis.
In 1884, when Albert O. Marshall published Army Life, a memoir of his service as a private in the Thirty-Third Illinois Regiment, twenty years had passed since his 1864 discharge. Marshall left the journal untouched at publication, and today it is a journal that is rare in what it is not. This memoir is not a complete story of the Thirty-Third (known as the “Normal Regiment” because many of its soldiers were from Illinois State Normal University), nor is it a complete roster of regiment members, nor a list of killed and wounded. Army Life is not, even, a purely military account written from an officer’s point of view. It is the story of a twenty-year-old private whose engaging writing belies his age but also allows his youth to shine through. Marshall tells of the battles he fought and the games he played, of his friends, fellow soldiers, and officers, and of the regiment’s activities in Missouri and Arkansas, at Vicksburg, and in Louisiana and on the Texas Gulf Coast. Enhanced with careful editing and thorough annotations, this journal Marshall carried faithfully to every mustering out is a rich and important Civil War memoir.
A high-spirited idealist who craved excitement when he enlisted in the Eighth Illinois Volunteers for three months and reenlisted for three years, Charles W. Wills of Canton, Illinois, wrote frequently to his sister Mary Emily Wills and kept a diary of General William T. Sherman’ s campaigns during the last year of the war. In the beginning of his service, Wills could boast that his company refused to enlist "roughs." He reported that he and his comrades "drink no liquors and keep ourselves as cleanly as possible.... Almost all are reading or writing, and I defy anyone to find 75 men without any restraint, paying more attention to the Sabbath. . . . Health generally excellent in our company, because we are all careful."
A student and store clerk before enlisting, Wills found that army life "beats clerking." He enlisted as a private at the age of twenty-one and by twenty-four was a major. He had thought he might receive an infantry commission eventually, but when the opportunity arose for promotion to first lieutenant in the Seventh Illinois Cavalry, "cupidity and ambition" caused him to abandon the Eighth, enabling him to hold rank "without so much walking." For a while, though, he seriously rued his lack of action. "Haven’ t I a brilliant record," he wrote. "Thirty-three months in service and not a battle." As Simon points out, however, "in the year ahead, Wills would have more than his fill of battles." Battle starved once, his enthusiasm for carnage waned as he marched with Sherman to the sea. Yet Major Wills was impressed by his troops’ "endurance, spirit and recklessness."
Wills matured in the army. He joined solely to preserve the Union, and his early comments on slaves "lacked sympathy, even decency," according to Simon. Later he came to the point where he would arm blacks— in part, with an eye toward gaining rank by leading the new regiments. Yet he was not blind to the anomalies of a slave society.
Wills died in 1883. To preserve his memory, his sister (now Mary Kellogg) printed his diary in 1904. Two years later, Kellogg combined the diary with the letters Wills had written to her earlier in the war. Simon renders this assessment: "Wills had a sparkling, witty style that contrasted sharply with that of both his contemporaries in the field and the seven regimental veterans who compiled their diaries. In assembling this book, Mary E. Kellogg wisely allowed her brother to speak for himself; rarely intruding a comment of her own, excising from his letters home inevitable expressions of concern for his sister and her welfare but leaving intact the sparkling flow of camp gossip and military speculation."
John Hay believed that “real history is told in private letters,” and the more than 220 surviving letters and telegrams from his Civil War days prove that to be true, showing Abraham Lincoln in action: “The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have rarely seen him more serene & busy. He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important things he decides & there is no cavil.”
Along with Hay’s personal correspondence, Burlingame includes his surviving official letters. Though lacking the “literary brilliance of [Hay’s] personal letters,” Burlingame explains, “they help flesh out the historical record.” Burlingame also includes some of the letters Hay composed for Lincoln’s signature, including the celebrated letter of condolence to the Widow Bixby.
More than an inside glimpse of the Civil War White House, Hay’s surviving correspondence provides a window on the world of nineteenth-century Washington, D.C.
Most Civil War historians now agree that the guerrilla conflict shaped the entire war in significant ways. Some of these “bushwhackers”—Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Clarke Quantrill, John Singleton Mosby—have become quite infamous. Illiterate Sam Hildebrand, one of Missouri’s most notorious guerrillas—often compared to “Rob Roy,” and the subject of dime novels—was one of the few to survive the war and have his story taken down and published. Shortly after this he was killed in a barroom brawl. “I make no apology to mankind for my acts of retaliation; I make no whining appeal to the world for sympathy. I sought revenge and I found it; the key of hell was not suffered to rust in the lock while I was on the war path.” —Sam Hildebrand Hildebrand’s reign of terror gave the Union army fits and kept much of the Trans-Mississippi, especially Missouri, roiling in the 1860s. Over seven years of fighting he and his men killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, whites and blacks; he claimed to have killed nearly one hundred himself. He was accused of many heinous acts. The historical significance of Hildebrand’s story is substantial, but his bloody tale is eminently readable and stands quite well on its own as a cold-blooded portrait of a violent time in American history. Like the nightmarish and depraved world of the Kid in Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, Hildebrand’s world is truly ruthless and his story is brutally descriptive in its coolly detached rendering of one man’s personal war. Published in 1870, Hildebrand’s autobiography has long been out of print and has been a rare and highly prized acquisition among Civil War