Sunday, September 21, 2008

Allardice: "Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register"

[Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register by Bruce S. Allardice (Univ. of Missouri Press, 2008). Hardcover, introduction, photos, appendices. Pages main/total: 436/448. ISBN: 978-0-8262-1809-4 $44.95]

With previous works More Generals in Gray,Texas Burial Sites of Civil War Notables: A Biographical and Pictorial Field Guide (with co-authors Jim Mundie, Dean Letzring and John Luckey), and his new study Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register*, Bruce Allardice is cementing a fine reputation as an author of authoritative reference books. At its heart, Confederate Colonels provides readers with short biographical sketches [see example below] of the 1,583 officers who ended their military careers at the rank of full colonel.

In his lengthy introduction, Allardice notes and analyzes many of the difficulties (e.g. poor records, incomplete records, duplication, honorary ranks, rank inflation, etc.) that needed to be addressed while compiling his register. Central to his definition of just what made a Confederate colonel is the requirement that the officer be legally commissioned in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS). However, certain circumstances rendered the process not entirely black and while. When other supporting evidence was available, the author elected to include those officers whose official promotion records were lost or who were promoted too late in the war to be properly recorded. Likewise, promotions from the isolated Trans-Mississippi department are recognized as well. Thus, Allardice's methodology for inclusion is a judicious mix of official requirements and common sense based on other reliable evidence in the absence of official government documentation.

In addition to definitional disclosures, Allardice's introduction provides researchers with a number of statistical summaries gleaned from the author's research. Along with demographic information such as age, education, state breakdown, military background, pre-war occupation, place of birth, and ethnicity, issues of casualty rates/turnover and field promotion were also addressed by Allardice. The three appendices offer alphabetized listings of colonels that were promoted to general officer rank, served in state military organizations, and "named as PACS colonels in one or more credible sources" (pg. 431).

Basic information common to each biographical entry includes:
"(1) date of birth; (2) place of birth; (3) college attended; (4) prewar residence and occupation; (5) prewar military experience; (6) spouse(s); (7) service record (ranks, units, dates of promotion); (8) instances of being wounded or captured; (9) postwar residence and occupation; (10) public/political posts held; (11) date of death; (12) places of death; (13) place of burial ... (14) any published writings on the officer or manuscript collections of his papers and, whenever possible, ... (15) a short quote from a contemporary illustrating the officer's character". (pg. 25)
Here is a sample entry from page 104 [reprinted with permission from Univ. of Missouri Press]:
Cockrell, Jeremiah Vardeman. Born May 7, 1832, near Warrensburg, Johnson Co., MO. Attd. Chapel Hill College near Lexington, MO. To CA 1849-1853. Prewar farmer in MO. Methodist preacher. Studied law. Md. Jane Douglass; Louisa Mayo. 2d lt. Co. E, 2d Cav., 8th Div., MSG, 1861. Capt. Co. A, 5th MO Inf. Bn., early 1862. Retired at May 24, 1862, reorganization. Col. of a newly raised partisan ranger regiment in western MO, July-Sept. 1862. Led this command at Lone Jack. Elected col. when the regiment originally organized but not reelected when the regiment reorganized for Confederate service as the 7th MO. He spend the next year recruiting soldiers in MO and was WIA. In 1864 he accompanied Price's Raid in order to collect his family and take them South. Moved to Sherman, TX, postwar. Lawyer, farmer, and stock raiser. Judge. Chief justice of Grayson Co. US congressman 1893-1897. Died March 18, 1915, Abilene, TX. Buried Abilene Municipal Cemetery. Gen. Jackman remembered his as "so true a Confederate, so brave in battle, and with so much goodness of soul". Brother of Gen. Francis M. Cockrell.
Presumably, space limitations precluded select source listings, but the time and diligent research effort that must have went into this massive undertaking cannot be discounted. While a photograph is not provided for each officer, a gallery of twenty-four images was included. The alphabetical listing renders the usual index unnecessary, but an index cross referencing the colonels by state might have proved a useful tool. With the recognition that it would add considerably to the book's length, perhaps it might be considered for a possible future edition.

Without reservation, Confederate Colonels is a reference book essential to all serious Civil War libraries. Highly recommended.

* - indeed Allardice (with Lawrence L. Hewitt) has another reference book coming out soon (planned for October) for Kentucky Confederate generals and field grade officers, to be published by Univ. of Kentucky Press.

2 comments:

  1. Bruce AllardiceSeptember 23, 2008

    Drew, thanks for the kind words! As you speculated, we couldn't find space in the book (already 400+ pages) for that state/units index. I'd be happy to answer any questions people have on units or officers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bruce,
    Thanks for visiting and for the comment. Keep up the great work.

    ReplyDelete

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