Sunday, November 30, 2008

Patrakis: "Andover in the Civil War"

[Andover in the Civil War: The Spirit & Sacrifice of a New England Town by Joan Silva Patrakis (The History Press, 2008). Softcover, illustrations, photos, notes, bibliography. Pages main/total:113/128. ISBN: 978-1-59629-437-0 $21.99]

With her book Andover and the Civil War, local researcher and writer Joan S. Patrakis provides readers with a war and home front narrative history of the Massachusetts town (located near the Merrimack and Shawsheen rivers) and its contributions to the Union war effort. Riding the initial wave of patriotic fervor, the citizens formed the Andover Light Infantry (Co. H, 14th Massachusetts), whose early war duties were spent garrisoning forts [the 14th regiment was later re-designated the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery].

Patrakis traces the men's service at places like Ft. Warren, the Washington defenses, and Maryland Heights. Outside the military sphere, the reactions and contributions of the home front are given equal attention. Prominent citizens, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, are featured. The community received a terrible blow when the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery suffered heavy losses at Spotsylvania, the first significant battle the Andover men from Company H participated in. Cold Harbor and the Petersburg Campaign followed. The post-war period and commemorative efforts by Andover to honor the service of its soldiers are also discussed by the author.

In creating her narrative, Patrakis incorporates lengthy excerpts from letters, journals, and newspaper articles -- many of which were unpublished items culled from local historical society archives. History Press publications typically excel in their presentation and visual impact, and this one, heavily supported with period photographs and other illustrations, is no exception; the only drawback is the lack of an index.

The impact of this study will likely be most felt in the local market, where it will serve as a useful, broadly appealing introduction to the impact of the Civil War on the Andover community, highlighting the contributions and sacrifices of its citizens. But others interested in the wartime experiences of small New England communities should find Andover in the Civil War useful as well.

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