Monday, October 26, 2009

Clary: "A HISTORY OF THE 15TH SOUTH CAROLINA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY 1861-1865"

[A History of the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865 by James B. Clary (Broadfoot Publishing, 2009). Cloth, 94 maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 323/623. ISBN:978-0-9797383-1-9 $45]

James Clary's A History of the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865 is part of the second batch of releases from Broadfoot Publishing's South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set. I've only seen two of the seven volumes released so far, so I can't accurately judge the series as a whole, but Clary's effort is one well worthy of emulation by future contributors.

At 300-plus pages, Clary's narrative history of the 15th regiment's military service contains more than enough detail to satisfy demanding readers. It also highlights features of several campaigns that have not received adequate coverage in the literature. The South Carolinians experienced their first combat during the 1861 Battle of Port Royal Sound. Following its stay along the coast, during the summer of 1862, the 15th was transferred to the Virginia front, participating in the major engagements of Longstreet's command as part of Thomas F. Drayton's brigade. Drayton was later removed, and the 15th ended up under the command of Joseph Kershaw from late 1862 onward. Kershaw's brigade fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, before being transferred with Longstreet's Corps to East Tennessee. In the spring of 1864, the men returned to Virginia, and endured the Overland Campaign and further fighting in the Shenandoah. In January 1865, the 15th South Carolina was sent home to oppose William T. Sherman's march through the Carolinas, finally surrendering at Greensboro, NC in April.

Clary's narrative is well researched, utilizing a well proportioned mix of unpublished and published material. The section dealing with the regiment's role in the Carolinas campaign was especially noteworthy. Another highlight of the book is the cartography, a total of 94 maps (most by Tim Belshaw). Belshaw's creations render well both troop positions and terrain considerations. With a map placed in the book every few pages, the reader remains well informed of the 15th regiment's progression through each campaign and battle. My only significant complaint with the study's overall presentation is with the high frequency of typographical errors.

The compilation of the other main feature of the series, the regimental roster, was also well executed by the author, with entries for all 1,442 known members of the unit. The rosters are the most consistent element among the Regimental-Roster Set volumes, and should prove to be widely useful to researchers. Other appendices add source, command organization, hospital, burial, and pension information. This is a fine regimental-roster history of a far ranging and hard fighting Civil War regiment.

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