Monday, May 31, 2010

Seigler: "SOUTH CAROLINA'S MILITARY ORGANIZATIONS DURING THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES" Volumes I - IV

[ South Carolina's Military Organizations During the War Between the States: Volumes I - The Lowcountry & Pee Dee, II - The Midlands, III - The Upstate, and IV - Statewide Units, Militia and Reserves  by Robert S. Seigler (The History Press, 2008).  Softcover, photographs, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. $34.99 ]

A four-volume series, Robert Seigler's South Carolina Military Organizations During the War Between the States together comprise a much needed update and expansion to previous attempts at a comprehensive Palmetto State unit register. The first serious effort, William J. Rivers's Rivers's Account of the Raising of Troops in South Carolina for State and Confederate Service 1861-1865, was published in 1899, with a supplemental report by John P. Thomas released later that year. While Stewart Sifakis's Compendium of the Confederate Armies: South Carolina and Georgia (Facts on File, 1994) provides good information about higher organizational involvement -- division, corps, army -- of South Carolina units, Seigler concentrates his work on minute company, battalion, and regimental detail (along with brigade affiliations).

A useful introductory overview, repeated inside each volume, provides basic background information about the raising and organization of Palmetto State units throughout the war. The body of data pertaining to each unit is far from a simple list, but rather is a detailed narrative that, while concise, is a treasure trove of names, dates, and places.  Unit information is dealt with in narrative subsections, to include a general introduction, field officer biographies, company sketches [including campaign participation and brief profiles of captains commanding], brigade affiliations, and really nice summaries of major unit movements and battles fought. These unadorned shorthand narratives maximize the amount of important information able to be presented in the face of space constraints. Appendices list infantry, cavalry, and artillery companies with unknown affiliations, as well as a final compilation of company nicknames. In terms of illustration, detailed maps of the three main geographic regions are absent, but a fairly extensive gallery of photographs is placed at the midpoint of each book. Finally, an officer name index completes each volume.

As one might guess from the subtitles, the first three volumes are not organized by unit number but by selected region. For instance, the Midlands book covers those formations raised roughly in the geographical area bounded by Lancaster and Darlington, Camden and Columbia, and Orangeburg and Edgefield.

Special mention should be made of the effort that went into the creation of Vol. IV. Here, the author tackles the especially difficult task of making sense out of the tangled web of local and state unit designations.  To this end, a myriad of militia and reserve formations were dutifully studied, to include 90-day regiments of reserves (1862-1863), 6-month regiments of State Troops (1863-1864), battalions of South Carolina Reserves (1864-1865), Junior Reserves regiments, and regiments of South Carolina Militia (infantry, cavalry, and artillery).

Seigler's research more than meets the high standards we attach to modern reference books. All sections are carefully annotated, and the information derived from a full range of sources (e.g. newspapers; government service records and other documents; unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, and diaries; as well as an array of published primary and secondary source materials). The books from this series should be deemed absolutely essential guides for serious inquiry into the organization, composition, and campaign history of South Carolina's state and Confederate military units. All are highly recommended for personal and institutional libraries.

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