Like many Georgia infantry regiments raised in the spring of 1862, the 50th spent a brief period on the Atlantic seaboard before being sent to Lee's army in Virginia. Initially assigned to Thomas F. Drayton's brigade of Longstreet's Corps, the Georgians later fought in most of the Army of Northern Virginia's battles, including 2nd Bull Run, Fox's Gap, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the East Tennessee Campaign, the Overland Campaign, Cedar Creek, and Sailor's Creek. 1,400 served in all, but, by the time of the Appomattox surrender, only a handful of stalwarts [31!] remained to receive their paroles.
James W. Parrish's Wiregrass To Appomattox is an impressive product of a decade of exhaustive research on the part of the author. The results of his manuscript findings are sprinkled throughout his text, often in the form of full reproductions of letters and other primary accounts. In many works, this practice fails to engage the reader (turning it into a simple source compilation), but Parrish avoids the pitfall with his own strong narrative, providing more than sufficient background and context. It's also great to learn (from the Acknowledgments section) that the author submitted relevant portions of his manuscript for review by a large number of expert readers. In keeping with the work's military focus, a detailed demographic analysis of the rank and file is absent.
In terms of illustrations, author and publisher went far beyond the norm. Over 100 photographs greet the reader, either as extensively captioned CDVs or modern images of the various battlefield locations fought over or traversed by the 50th Georgia. Twenty-eight in all, the maps are relatively spare in terms of terrain detail, but they tend to highlight well the position(s) of the regiment on each battlefield. This service is not often provided to the reader of regimental histories, and is much appreciated here.
An array of appendices supplementing the main text. This includes a moderately detailed regimental roster. Casualty breakdowns by company are present here, as well as an Appomattox parole list, and flag discussion. Finally, grave site enthusiasts will appreciate the extensive photo gallery of headstones with text commentary.
An obvious labor of love by a descendant of two men who served in regiment, Wiregrass To Appomattox is an impressively researched, detail oriented, and comprehensive military history of the 50th Georgia's distinguished Civil War service. Highly recommended.
Last year, I reviewed another Angle Valley Press title, Southerners at Rest: Confederate Dead at Hollywood Cemetery, and back in 2006 I interviewed author and AVP publisher John Fox [part 1, part 2] about his award-winning regimental history of the 35th Georgia, Red Clay to Richmond.