“A World Unto Itself”

Penitentiaries, Punishment, and Military Prisons: Familiar Responses to an Extraordinary Crisis During the American Civil War

Courier Review by Katy Berman

No federal prison system existed in antebellum America. There were instead a number of state penitentiaries, products of Enlightenment notions about humane punishment and reform.

Historian Angela M. Zombeck, in Penitentiaries, Punishments, and Military Prisons: Familiar Responses to an Extraordinary Crisis During the Civil War, examines the mission and efficacy of antebellum penitentiaries and links them to Federal and Confederate military prisons in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia which arose out of necessity during the Civil War.

Ms. Zombeck, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, describes the Civil War as a “crisis of imprisonment.”

Beginning in April, 1861, decisions had to be made quickly, but neither North nor South were prepared structurally or theoretically to handle prisoners of war.

Newly inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln turned to Francis Lieber who had written extensively about the proper modes of imprisonment; he had himself experienced captivity as a political prisoner at Kopenik, Germany in 1820. Lieber advocated “moderate, humane punishment,” with “no other intentional suffering or indignity.”

He also felt, as did many, that prisoners should be required to work in order to help pay for the costs of their imprisonment.

Questions arose over whether state or national governments had jurisdiction over military prisoners. Initially, there was no choice but to inter them in state penitentiaries, leading to inevitable conflicts over who was in charge.

Further disagreements occurred over the status of POWs; should they be housed with criminals? Were they, in fact, criminals? Penology was in its infant stage of development, and federal or Confederate officers appointed as prison wardens had little to no experience running prisons.

At Camp Chase, Ohio, for example, Governor David Tod appointed Colonel (and Methodist minister) Granville Moody as penitentiary commander on the basis of his previous visits to the prison. Col. Moody came under sharp criticism for allowing Confederate prisoners to retain their slaves and permitting them, on parole, to stroll through city streets with their side-arms.

Moody lasted only four months, but the problem of administering Camp Chase remained.

Officials on both sides of the conflict hoped their military prisons would generate enough income to be self-sufficient. The Georgia Penitentiary had succeeded at this goal in 1860, and even scheduled improvements such as a new chapel, hospital and workshops.

Elsewhere during the war, Union prisoners worked in North Carolina coal mines; others rebuilt the Rapidan Bridge which had been destroyed by their confederates. At Camp Chase, Confederate prisoners performed work that would be to their benefit such digging wells or mending shoes.

However, when prison officials started requiring a loyalty oath in order to continue working, many inmates refused.

As the war progressed, overcrowding led to greater difficulties in supervising work details, and idleness became the dispiriting condition of prison life. Letters and journals convey “the irksome, dull, almost unbearable” lives of inmates. They also reveal that POWs were susceptible to the same stigma of imprisonment as regular inmates. Many POWs focused on escape, tunneling, charging unsuspecting guards en masse, or setting fires as a distraction to enable escape.

Prof. Zombeck describes the celebrated escape of Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan from Camp Chase. Morgan and his men were treated like common criminals, a humiliation they could not endure.

On November 20, 1863, Morgan and six of his men escaped through a tunnel beneath their quarters. Prison warden Nathaniel Merion declared that the escape would not have happened if the prison had “remained under civil (or state) authority.”

There were few female prisoners during the antebellum years and they were considered irredeemable. At the Ohio Penitentiary, they routinely, “fought, scratched, pulled each other’s hair, cursed,” and used knives on each other when they could get them. By 1855, prison regulations required the employment of a prison matron to give religious instruction to female inmates and teach them decorum.

With the advent of hostilities, other types of women were incarcerated. As foodstuffs grew scarcer, property crimes increased. Southern women such as Belle Boyd and Mary Johnson were arrested for spying and smuggling. Southerner Loretta Janeta Velasquez donned male garb and took the name Lt. Harry T. Buford; she was arrested as a spy first by Union troops and then, mistakenly, by Confederates.

Southern journalists praised her daring patriotism, but she was chastised by the Castle Thunder warden, George Alexander for her unfeminine attire. He was willing to enlist her in his “secret service corps,” but only if she put on a dress.

When peace came, military prisons gradually released their POWs and government officials considered what could be done with the vacant facilities. In 1867, Congress issued an order that Camp Chase materials be given to the newly formed National Asylum for Disabled Soldiers. The sixteen acres housing Salisbury Prison were auctioned off for the benefit of the Freedmen’s Bureaus. Other prisons also attempted to create a positive legacy out of a sorrowful past.

Penitentiaries, Punishment, and Military Prisons is an admirable piece of scholarship, but not one to carry along with you to the beach. (More personal anecdotes might have placed it in that category.) Zombeck’s research makes it impossible to ignore that the most of the challenges confronting nineteenth century prison reformers are still with us today. For centuries now, Americans have wanted their prisons to offer inmates the opportunity to change their ways and become law-abiding, productive citizens. The best way of accomplishing that remains undiscovered.

Title: Penitentiaries, Punishment, and Military Prisons: Familiar Responses to an Extraordinary Crisis During the American Civil War

Author: Angela M. Zombeck

Publisher: Kent State University Press, 2018

Pages: 287

Price: $38.35

A Thousand Points of Truth

Courier Book Reviewed By Matt Thompson

(Available at Our Online Store)

Along the path of history there is a blurred line where fact becomes fiction, fiction becomes myth, and myth becomes truth. A person’s life summed up by only parts that on the surface seems tantalizing, exciting, exhilarating. As time marches on, it seems to shave legacies to a fine point. That was the case personally with the subject in V.P. Hughes book A Thousand Points of Truth, The History and Humanity of Col. John Singleton Mosby in Newsprint.

I was taken on a long journey into a first-hand account of just how someone’s life history, and who they were could be written and stuffed into the filing cabinet of legend, and I found myself having a change of view of someone who I thought was just the man the legend made him to be.

Having first seen the book without cracking the spine, I of course made the mistake of, you guessed it, judging the book by its cover.

At just short of 800 pages, Hughes wrote this book with a passionate “no stone left unturned” mentality intelligently pulling back the curtain on the widely accepted view on Mosby. Newspaper articles, dating back over a century and a half along with correspondence letters maps out not only events held within personal circles, but, a changing world which humanized the myth of who Mosby was.

In all honesty, It did take me longer than my usual book reviews but, any book I walk away from feeling that not only did I learn something, but also gave me the opportunity to look upon things with new prospective, is truly worthwhile.

I would highly recommend giving this book a read. It’s not a book to thumb through, but one to digest. No matter what light you view John Singleton Mosby in, one would have to admit he lead an interesting life, not only during his service of the confederacy, but thereafter. It’s hard to sometimes to see the flesh and bones behind legendary figures, the “Wild Bill Hickok” of every generation, the ones who tales and exploits are told and retold around a camp fire or kitchen table become the true life stories.

V.P. Hughes presents over a century worth of legend to present just who the real John Singleton Mosby was.

Title: A Thousand Points of Truth

Author: V.P. Hughes

Publisher: Xlibris

Pages: 790

Price: $32.77

Soft Cover

Asunder, A novel of the Civil War

Reviewed by: N.N. Light

(Available at Our Online Store)

I have studied the Civil War for decades and this book is an accurate portrayal of that time period. The author really brings to life the world of the 1860’s Missouri. The characters of Joe, Cyntha, Sara, Lucas and Dred, amongst others are very well crafted and quickly a reader finds himself caring for what will happen to each character. The story runs in relatively three distinct plot lines that are deeply interwoven.

The author very accurately portrays not only that war is killing and death but he also amazingly brings to light the fog of war. I have rarely seen anything outside of unit battle diaries that offer such a succinct feel for that key aspect of war. I really enjoyed Joseph in the army and Sara and her family not to mention Cyntha and her protector Josiah.

It was not clear to me as a reader that this was part one of three until late in the book.

Further, I was more than disrupted by the constant flash backs and flash forwards. It was extremely confusing at times to go from six months ahead to five months back to three days later to six months back, etc. Had this book been crafted in a smooth chronological order, it would have been 5 stars.

I personally found the portrayal of the river pirates and the Jayhawks to be too realistic and offensive. Fans of Games of Thrones/Walking Dead/Vikings will appreciate the lawlessness and disgusting behavior. I could do with much less of it. There is enough in the basis of the story with the war and all the turmoil and drama without the extra aspects. A worthy read and now I must read part two to see what happens to Cyntha as she tries to find her brother.

Title: Asunder

Author: Curt Locklear

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.

Pages: 262

Price: $16.95

Soft Cover

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Courier Book Reviewed by Greg M. Romaneck

(Available at Our Online Store)

There are times when a reader comes across a book that manifests the author’s depth of knowledge on a given subject. In other instances, readers may find books that are skillfully written by men and women who have a talent for narrative.

On occasion, you may peruse a book that tells an engaging story and does so in a way that draws you into it. David W. Blight’s recent in-depth biography of Frederick Douglass is one those rare books that combines all of these traits and does so in a way that leaves the reader not only knowing far more about an amazing person but also the way in which the world he lived in has affected our very own.

In Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom readers will encounter a man whose life is so improbable that if written in a novel many people would refuse to believe the plausibility of the plot line.

Douglass was probably born in 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass’s mother was Harriet Bailey, one of five daughters of Betsy Bailey, and a woman who was to die at a young age only eight years after Frederick’s birth.

Frederick’s father, in all probability, was his mother’s white owner.

Douglass was removed from his birthplace, and his family, when he was only seven years old, and thus began his hard years of education where the harsh realities of slavery carved their lessons into the very flesh, mind, and spirit of young Frederick Douglass.

The result of those hard life lessons of bondage, paired with the almost fantastical experiences the aging Douglass had as a prominent freedman, molded the character of a man who would become one of the most famous individuals of the nineteenth century.

Douglass fled from slavery as a young man and entered into a period of life and work that resulted in not only amazing accomplishments in the field of civil rights before, during, and after the Civil War, but also a truly exceptional life in general.

As Professor Blight chronicles in this comprehensive biography, Frederick Douglass became the primary spokesperson for the honor and dignity of African-American’s lives during his era. It can be reasonably argued that until the coming of Dr. Martin Luther King onto the national stage of the Civil Rights Movement of the mid twentieth century, that Frederick Douglass was the most significant voice for the freedom of African-Americans in the nation’s history.

Douglass was also the most widely photographed American of the 19th century.

Douglass was competitive with Mark Twain for the honor of being the most widely traveled American public figure of his century. In terms of sheer miles traveled and number of speeches made, Douglass’s efforts left him few rivals for the honor of being the most widely heard American public speaker of his age.

It is quite probable that more Americans heard Frederick Douglass give a speech than anyone else of what was a golden age for public oration.

In fact, as David Blight notes early on in this amazing book, “Indeed, to see or hear Douglass speak became a kind of wonder of the American world.” But, despite all the fame that came to Frederick Douglass, his life was one marked by bitter familial losses, physical pain, abiding defeats, and the harsh reality that all too often he and his people were beaten down by a society that seemed hellbent on punishing them for their color and heritage.

Douglass was also not a saint. Throughout his life Frederick Douglass demonstrated the ability to shine as a thinker, speaker, and writer.

A supremely talented and driven man, Douglass was also a complex web of strengths and weaknesses.

These contrasting qualities are vividly captured by Blight through his exhaustive research, cunning narrative, and great skill as a story teller.

By the end of Blight’s book readers should conclude that Frederick Douglass lived a life that was almost storybook in terms of its implausibility but also one that featured tremendous highs and lows which could break most people.

The result of the essential contradictions and improbabilities of Douglass’s success was a life of exceptional value while simultaneously being one lived on an edge of energy that periodically nearly broke his heart.

This contrasting reality is ably captured by Blight who manifests a tremendous capacity for telling the story of one singular person’s life in a way that allows readers not only to ponder upon it but also reflect on its implications for their own lives.

As Blight notes, “Frederick Douglass was first of all a man—honest within the limitations of his character and his time, quite frequently misguided, sometimes pompous, gifted but not always a hero, and no saint at all.” This is a fitting description not only for Frederick Douglass but for all of us, who are made up of contradictory elements of good and evil that clash during the courses of our lives.

By showing Douglass to be above all utterly human in his capacity to act with strength and weakness, the author of this fine book brings him to life for readers in a way that makes him approachable as a person and not simply a statue from the past.

Perhaps no element of this biography stands out more than those pages, chapters, and sections that the author dedicates to Douglass’s tireless efforts to use the written word as a tool of expression directed at freeing people.

Literacy was a hard-won skill that young Frederick Douglass surreptitiously earned. Reading was unacceptable for most slaves but Douglass managed to find remarkable ways to become literate. With some assistance from the wife of one of his masters, Douglass not only learned to read but honed that essential skill into a weapon he used to fight against the institutions of oppression that ground his people into the mud. Over the course of his life Douglass wrote literally millions of words. In Douglass’s autobiographies, speeches, newspaper articles, and the papers he edited, it can be argued that Douglass was among the most prolific American writers of the 19th century. These words of Douglass had a consistent focus aimed at illuminating the realities of slavery and oppression while at the same time impacting his audience so that change could occur. When the words used by Douglass in his thousands of speeches are added to those he scribed, the end result is an avalanche of rhetoric that helped push America closer to being a true democracy rather than a fake one built upon an ignorance of its very essence. As Blight writes, “Douglass was a man of words; spoken and written language was the only major weapon of protest, persuasion, or power that he ever possessed.”

On the personal front, as David Blight describes, Douglass experienced both great happiness and terrible emptiness. Douglass married Anna Murray, a woman who was a tremendously devoted supporter of his life as well as a loving mother to his children. But it cannot be argued that marriage was satisfying for Douglass. Anna was a loving woman but one who was uneducated and bent upon a quiet, domesticated life. Anna bore five children and watched as her husband traveled the nation and the world while she remained home tending to her growing family. This distancing of husband and wife left Frederick Douglass prone to seeking out long-term friendship with a series of highly intellectual women who themselves stirred controversy. Douglass flaunted the social code of his era by maintaining intimate relationships with several Caucasian women inclusive of his second wife, Helen Pitts whom he married in his old age. Douglass also lived to see the struggles of his own children, the death of his steadfast first wife, and the sad deaths of numerous grandchildren. This personal turmoil, and the long-suffering yet stoic nature of Anna Murray Douglass, resonate and should leave readers wanting to know more about this patient woman who stood by her “great” husband while silently enduring tremendous inner pain. Blight brings Douglass’s personal life to light in this painstaking study and does so in ways that help the reader to understand that he was not simply an historical figure but rather a living, breathing man.

In the end, Frederick Douglass saw enormous gain and loss in terms of the fate of African-Americans and their plight in the United States. Born at a time when the fate of the vast majority of African-Americans was to live in bondage, Douglass lived to see emancipation become a reality. The opportunities of equality harkened toward during the Reconstruction period gave Douglass great hope for the future of his race. Those hopes, in turn, were crushed by the end of Reconstruction and the commencement of the Jim Crow era featuring voter suppression, lynching, the eradication of hard won civil rights, and economic nullity for African-Americans. Douglass also saw the reality of a Supreme Court that seemed bent on suppressing the rights of Black people in ways offered little or no hope that the promises made during the Civil War would ever be honored. When Douglass died in 1895 the United States was a nation where segregation and inequality for Black people was the norm, while the fading memory of the realities of the Civil War was papered over by the false narrative of the Lost Cause. While Douglass saw great gains for African-Americans in his lifetime he died a man who mourned the loss of the dreams of equality that he had used to motivate his entire life. Little did he know that the struggle he dedicated himself to would persist not only into the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. King and other noteworthy men and women, but to this very day. In telling the story of Frederick Douglass’s life in a way that is noteworthy and deserving of literary honors in the field of biography, David Blight has served his readers well. Frederick Douglass was a brilliant and flawed man, and one whose extraordinary life is essential to understanding his nation’s history and all the racial contradictions that have persistently plagued it.

Title: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Author: David W. Blight

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Pages: 857

Price: $40

Hard Cover

Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero

Courier Book Reviewed By Greg Romaneck

(Available at Our Online Store)

On the pleasant evening of May 13, 1862, Charleston Harbor was very quiet. Confederate military and supply ships rocked gently on the swaying surface of the harbor. Union vessels lay miles away, guarding the entry points to the harbor but they really did not represent an immediate threat to the city.

Onboard many of the vessels crews lay asleep, completely unaware of the amazing events that were to take place in the harbor. Confederate soldiers and sailors in the ships and fortifications that ringed the entranceway to Charleston could hardly imagine the daring plan that was being carried out by an intrepid group of mariners and civilians.

Led by a thirty-three-year-old slave who was illiterate, a diehard group of bondsmen and women were determined to sally forth and find their liberation. In a bold move, this group of slaves boarded a steamer named the Planter and peacefully took control of the vessel.

Through a combination of careful planning, poor supervision by the Confederates, and boldness, this brave-hearted group of men, women, and children slipped into the inky blackness of the harbor and set out to reach the Federal blockade line miles away. Led by the intrepid Robert Smalls, this rebellious group of determined escapees wended their way past the heavy artillery pieces at places like Fort Sumter and escaped the reach of Confederate military power. Once outside the range of the Rebel guns, the men and women on the Planter struck down the Confederate colors and raised a white flag. In this way they successfully departed from a life of slavery and entered into the unknown reaches of freedom.

In leading this brave group to freedom onboard a Confederate vessel turned over to the Yankees, Robert Smalls accomplished one of the more miraculous small-scale actions of the Civil War.

To a large extent Smalls’ success was a result of his precise planning and bold actions but it also had something to do with the simple assumption on the part of Confederate leaders that black slaves were always to be underestimated. It would have been seen by most people in the North or South as an impossibility, prior to Smalls’ escape, to imagine a voyage such as this historic one out of Charleston. Smalls’ success was such a shock that it made headlines and challenged the common notion that slaves, and black freedmen and women, were capable of such bold action.

White southerners were so offended by Smalls’ actions that a bounty of $2,000 was almost immediately offered for his recapture and return to his “rightful owners.” Of course, as Cate Lineberry recounts in this engaging and informative book, Robert Small was a man who was not successful only in escaping Confederates but also in fighting back against them and their post-war principles of suppression, oppression, and the dehumanization of African-Americans. In telling the story of Robert Smalls’ amazing escape to freedom, his contribution to the Union war effort, and post-war career in government, Lineberry does justice to both her subject and the cause of African-American liberation.

In many ways one of the most surprising elements of this book is the fact that Smalls’ escape voyage makes up only the first quarter of the book. While this escape journey is carefully laid out by the author of this fine book, it serves as only the starting point for Lineberry’s work.

In fact, it can well be said that the lion’s share of content follows the author’s description of the escape from Charleston. It is in the years from 1862 to Smalls’ death at the age of seventy-five that this bold man demonstrated his capacity to take on work typically not given to African-Americans and then excel at doing it. Smalls served in the Union Navy as a pilot and then captain.

While piloting the ironclad Keokuk, Smalls was called upon to take command of the ship in combat due to the failings of its white captain. In this engagement Smalls distinguished himself, saved the Keokuk, and managed to earn enough attention to be promoted to a full captaincy. This promotion is almost astounding given that virtually no African-Americans were provided the opportunity during the Civil War to officially fulfill positions of leadership in the Union forces. Smalls went on to serve with distinction throughout the war and even had the opportunity to pilot and then command the Planter, the very ship he and his cohorts escaped in.

In the post-war Reconstruction era, Smalls served five terms in Congress. Smalls even managed to be re-elected after the Reconstruction era ended after a disputed presidential election in 1876, a feat that is amazing in itself given the movement toward Black Codes and Jim Crow laws. Smalls also was able to purchase a substantial home once owned by a former Confederate supporter who defaulted on his taxes.

Although challenged to the level of the U.S.Supreme Court over his rightful ownership of this home in Beaufort, Smalls once again acted with dogged determination and prevailed.

After the nearly full suppression of African-American voting rights by the 1880’s Smalls lost his Congressional seat. However, for the remainder of his life, with only a few years interruption, Smalls continued to serve in government as a U.S. Customs official. In addition, Smalls supported various efforts to expand the civil rights of African-Americans in ways that causes him to receive libelous publicity and several death threats.

In telling the story of Robert Smalls, Cate Lineberry accomplishes two stellar results. First, the author does an excellent job of chronicling the life story of Robert Smalls, a man whose achievements seem more like a the stuff of adventure fiction than the reality which actually did happen. Second, Lineberry does a fine job of coupling Smalls’ life path with the fate of former slaves during the Civil War and into the Reconstruction era.

The story of Robert Smalls is an inspirational one but, alas, one that is known to only a relatively small group of Americans. Cate Lineberry does a wonderful job of detailing the life and accomplishments of a man who deserves to be remembered. In the author’s own words, “Smalls deserves to be remembered and celebrated for his contributions throughout his life, but particularly for those he made during the Civil War, when he risked everything for freedom.

He was more than a Union hero; he was, and continues to be, an American hero.” (3) This very fact, and the skill with which Cate Lineberry applies to telling the story of Robert Smalls, makes this book one that readers with an interest in Civil War history and “profiles in courage” should pick up and read.

Title: Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero

Author: Cate Lineberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 272

Price: $25.99

Hard Cover

Six Days in

September: A Novel of the 1862 Maryland Campaign

A Courier Book Reviewed by Stuart McClung

(Available at Our Online Store)

The 1862 Maryland Campaign has gotten wide coverage over the years by any number of authors, Stephen Sears and D. Scott Hartwig immediately come to mind. However, their publications were narratives or campaign studies. In this case, it is a novel of historical fiction.

Author Alexander Rossino has written a story of what is essentially an insider’s look at the main Confederate players, Lee, Longstreet, etc., their perspectives and decisions made in addition to some rank and file soldiers. In particular, these are men of the Raccoon Roughs, Co. D, of the 6th Alabama Infantry of Robert Rodes’ Brigade.

In the run up to the Battle of Sharpsburg, all of the travails associated with this campaign come to the fore: Lee’s injuries to his wrists and hands and consequent need to ride in an ambulance, Longstreet’s worn heel and need to wear a slipper, the “Lost Orders” and the uncertainty that McClellan caused in the Confederate high command as a result, Stuart’s failure to keep D.H. Hill informed at South Mountain and the defensive struggle there which ended any possibility of a further advance into Maryland or Pennsylvania and the withdrawal to Sharpsburg to fight a battle which might salvage some measure of the intended campaign to bring about Southern independence.

All of these historic events are incorporated into the story’s thread as the author also focuses on the personal stories of other characters.

One is an officer, native to the Sharpsburg area, attached to Jackson’s staff, concerned that his extended family is in harm’s way as battle approaches and then also the aforementioned members of the Raccoon Roughs who provide valued context in terms of what the soldier in the ranks experienced when it came to combat and loss of friends therein, thoughts of home and family, obtaining food, water and shelter and wondering if they would live to see another day.

A highlight is the well-written description of the fighting in the two battles which occurred in the six day period. Specifically, this would be the confusion, uncertainty and fog of war inherent in combat for all participants; indeed the swirling nature of it where one only knows what is going on in one’s immediate vicinity.

To his credit, Rossino covers all three phases of the Battle of Sharpsburg, from Hooker’s advance down the Hagerstown Pike in the early morning, to the fighting in the Sunken Road where Gordon and the 6th Alabama played a major role, to the “rescue” of Lee’s army with the timely arrival of A.P. Hill’s Division from Harpers Ferry just when it appeared that all was lost. An added bonus is the inclusion of the episode where Lee plans a counter-attack against the Union right during an ebb in the fighting. Not everyone knows or is familiar with this event.

By the end of the battle, the exhaustion from combat is almost palpable as Lee and his army prepare to move back across the Potomac River into Virginia and the survivors are left to contemplate the deaths of many and the carnage and destruction on the battlefield.

As a first time foray into historical fiction, Rossino has parlayed a virtual life-long interest in the Civil War into an interesting and engaging story which rises above the usual battle narrative with inter-personal dialogue and emphasizes the decisions and dilemmas forced on Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia by the circumstances in which they found themselves.

Understandably, there are no photographs (other than those on the cover) and the one map provides the detail and scale needed to show the theater of operations of Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and western Maryland.

Other than some minor mistakes of 19th Century terminology or nomenclature, there is certainly nothing here to criticize. As noted by the endorsement of James McPherson on the cover, “this page-turner of a novel…….provides the most vivid description” that one might want to consider in a fictional setting about one of the most important six day periods of the American experience.

Title: Six Days in September: A Novel of the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Author: Alexander Rossino

Publisher: CreateSpace

Pages: 390

Price: $15.99


“The Bloody Fifth”- The 5th Texas Infantry Regiment, Hood’s Texas Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. Vol. 1: Secession to the Suffolk Campaign

Courier Book Reviewed by Duane Benell

(Available at Our Online Store)

The 5th Texas Infantry Regiment was one of only three Texas Infantry Regiments, the 1st, 4th and 5th, that were sent to Virginia to fight with General Robert E. Lee’s army.

This book covers in great detail the recruiting and forming of the regiments which were made up primarily of local volunteers who formed companies with names such as “The Dixie Blues, “The Bayou City Guards,” etc.

The 5th was formed on June 30th, 1861, with men mostly from east and central Texas. After some limited training, small groups began leaving for Virginia by various means of transportation, including walking.

The regiments were officially organized and mustered into the Confederate Army “for the war” at Richmond, Virginia in September 1861. Deemed to be adequately trained, the 5th was assigned to a defensive position on the east side of the Potomac River, going into winter quarters until March 1862.

Not being used to the cold and snow of Virginia the Texans suffered greatly with the regiment loosing 261 due to sickness; 132 died and 124 were discharged or permanently furloughed.

The 5th’s first real taste of combat occurred in early May of ‘62 in a small battle along the York River opposing Union troops at the start of the Peninsula Campaign, which ended in a Confederate victory.

The 5th took part in all of the Seven Days Battles leading to the Union Army’s retreat from their effort to capture Richmond.

The regiment also saw action in the battles of Second Manassas, where they earned their enduring nickname; Antietam; Fredericks-burg and the Suffolk Campaign. As Hood’s Texas Brigade, the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas Infantry Regiments proved themselves to be hard fighters and their reputation as such was earned on the battlefield and admired by all – military and civilians alike. General Lee referred to the Texas Brigade as “an example of daring and bravery.”

The book is well researched with many never before used primary sources. It covers the regiment in detail, including first hand information taken from the men’s diaries, letters and records of army life in camp and in combat. Appendix A has organization profiles for all 10 companies and Appendix B has short biographies for 86 members of the regiment.

There are 13 maps and 14 photographs. The book is recommended for all Civil War readers, especially those with an interest in Confederate units. The second installment, Gettysburg to Appomattox, will complete the history.

Title: “The Bloody Fifth” – The 5th Texas infantry Regiment, Hood’s Texas Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia - Vol. I

Author: John F. Schmutz

Publisher: Savas Beatie

Pages: 335

Price: $32.95

Hard Cover

Three Hundred and

Sixty –Six Days at Fort Delaware

Courier Book Review

(Book Available at Our Online Store)

James Byrd Foote was the great-grandfather of the author’s wife. Gary C. Cole has painstakingly researched Private Foote’s service through the Civil War, and, in so doing, has given us an excellent picture of one Confederate soldier’s wartime experience.

It is complete with illustrations, acknowledgements, four appendices, 672 footnotes, and a bibliography.

Foote enlisted as a private in the Georgia regulars and fought at Yorktown, Seven Pines, Oak Grove, Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, Garnett’s and Golding’s Farms, Savage’s Station, Malvern Hill, Kelly’s Ford, Rappahannock Station, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Manassas, Ox Hill, Boonsborough, Sharpsburg, Suffolk, Gettysburg, Funkstown, Charleston, Chattanooga, Campbell’s Station, and Knoxville. He was captured at Knoxville and, after being moved around, was sent to Fort Delaware. This is where he spent the 366 days of the title. After that, he was paroled and sent home to Georgia. The book recounts his experiences through Reconstruction and how he prospered later. This book is a good resource for the Civil War student to understand some of the details of life of soldiering because of its extensive research.

Title: Three Hundred and Sixty-Six Days at Fort Delaware

Author: Gary C. Cole

Publisher: Trafford Publishing

Pages: 211

Price: $13.99

Soft Cover

Virginia Iliad

Courier Book Reviewed by Edith Pollitz

(Available at Our Online Store)

The full title of this work on the Old Dominion is Virginia Iliad The Death and Destruction of “The Mother of States and Statesmen.” The author, through his associates listed in his book, is clearly of a Southern persuasion, but his view is that peculiarly Virginian approach that Robert E. Lee wrestled with as war came to our sad land. South Carolinians, for the most part, WANTED out of the Union and had been toying with the possibility for 30 years.

Virginians, generally, loved the Union and wanted to stay in it, until, in the view of the majority of those voting in convention, President Lincoln’s call for them to provide troops to suppress the rebellion was simply too much to ask from another Southern state, albeit it one very different from the cotton South.

Mr. Traywick’s book is a collection of snippets of Virginia life and attitudes with a brief nod to the Founders, with an emphasis on Virginia’s Patrick Henry, followed by stories and reminiscences regarding events ranging from just before the war all the way through Reconstruction.

These pieces are authored by people from an earlier time, largely people who lived during the war. Former Confederate soldier and first president of the Virginia Historical Society George Bagby wrote some amazingly detailed and homey descriptions of life in Virginia in the 1800’s, with much discussion of bacon and greens (and cabbage) as well as his love of trees, almost to the point of humanizing them. John Wise, a delightful writer and young Confederate soldier who was the son of a former governor, is another contributor to this volume, and his description of a wartime wedding with details regarding the limited food, less than hoped for dancing partner, and outrageous fancy dress costumes cobbled together by folks who simply no longer had good clothes to wear has got to be the funniest and best piece in the book.

Constance Cary, one of the famous and beautiful Cary girls who were top belles in society, adds her piece as well, but she is more serious--discusses the fear of living in a society where trust of the many black slaves is questionable and there’s an unsaid fear on the plantations. Some of John M. Daniel’s reports for his Richmond Examiner are included.

The Reconstruction material includes the typical derision in which white Confederates held their new black and Yankee representatives in the state legislature, with unflattering descriptions of the members’ speeches, including a description by one of the black members at the constitutional convention regarding construction of pig pens in Massachusetts.

Apparently, no amendment passed on the subject as Florida is apparently the only state that currently has a pig pen amendment in its constitution.

If, in our politically correct world, one can take the contributing authors’ words as they would have been taken at the time they were written--and this gets harder and harder to do as time goes on and the past recedes further into the dark, this is a delightful book.

It definitely sheds some light on what “Old Virginia” seemed to be to those whites who were writing these accounts long, long ago

Title : Virginia Iliad

Author: H.V Traywick, Jr.

Publisher: Dementi Milestone Publishing, Inc.

Pages: 294

Price: $20

Soft Cover