Monday, October 30, 2006
Banasik (ed.): "Duty, Honor and Country"
[From the The Camp Pope Bookshop website: Volume VI: DUTY, HONOR AND COUNTRY: THE CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM P. BLACK, THIRTY-SEVENTH ILLINOIS INFANTRY. Edited by Michael Banasik. Volume VI of our series presents 119 letters written by William P. Black, Captain of Co K, 37th Illinois Infantry. The letters cover a multitude of subjects from the Battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, Arkansas, to operations in Louisiana and Texas. William’s letters are straightforward, well-written, and informative. Editor Michael Banasik has added his usual exhaustive historical annotation, and he has compiled the most detailed roster of the 37th Illinois Infantry ever published. The book is further enhanced by other useful appendices, including, for the first time since its publication in the St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, January 1, 1863, the infamous Prairie Grove letter by officer “F” of the 37th, in which the bravery and leadership of William’s older brother Colonel John Black at Prairie Grove is impugned. The scandalous letter led to the Court Martial of its author, the unpopular Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Frisbie. 512 pages, 6 x 9 paperback, illustrations, maps, notes, roster, appendices, bibliography, index. (Published 2006; ISBN 1-929919-10-7) $24.95.]
I am very impressed with the overall effort behind Duty, Honor and Country, Camp Pope's latest contribution to its long standing (and much appreciated) leadership role in the publication of primary source materials from the Civil War's Trans-Mississippi theater. Captain Black's letters are presented in an attractive, yet sturdy paperback, richly augmented with notes, maps, and illustrations.
As the introduction above notes, Capt. Black experienced the war in all the states of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi. He doesn't relate his battle experiences in great detail--except for an account of the battle of Prairie Grove for the National Tribune--but Black writes well and does provide the reader with great insight into the often destructive world of officer politicking in a Civil War regiment. The subject is brought up to some degree in almost every letter, often involving the writer's older brother, Col. John Black. A picture of camp life at various postings throughout the T-M is effectively drawn, and some of Black's most interesting and novel observations involve border happenings near Brownsville, Texas during the war's latter period.
I would highly recommend Duty, Honor and Country's inclusion in the library of any reader or researcher of T-M Civil War history. The experience has certainly left me favorably disposed toward obtaining other volumes in the series and we can only hope future installments are planned as well!