Monday, July 09, 2012

Miller: "TRIUMPH & TRAGEDY: The Story of the 35th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War"

[ Triumph & Tragedy: The Story of the 35th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War by Lee Miller (Camp Pope Publishing, 2012). Softcover, 8 maps, photos, roster, notes, index. Pages main/total:90/154. ISBN:978-1-929919-41-3 $12 ]

Triumph & Tragedy
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A popular Civil War publishing subgenre, unit roster histories range in complexity from simple name registers accompanied by rather non-specific service history summaries on up to mammoth scholarly military, biographical, social, and demographic investigations that alter in significant ways our interpretation of particular battles and the men that fought in them. Lee Miller's Triumph & Tragedy lies somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, closer to the former category.

The 35th Iowa Volunteer Infantry regiment was mustered into service at Camp Strong (Muscatine County) in September 1862, its colonel lumber businessman Sylvester G. Hill. After garrison duty in Cairo, the Iowans were sent to cover the rear of Grant's siege lines surrounding Vicksburg. The regiment was involved in significant action during 1864 the Red River Campaign, followed by the Tupelo battle, Sterling Price's Missouri expedition, Nashville, and Mobile. It was at Nashville, during an impetuous assault on one of the forts defending the Confederate left, that Colonel Hill was killed.

Triumph and Tragedy covers all of the above in less than 80 pages of narrative, so details are sparse, but there are interesting tidbits about a few lesser known Trans-Mississippi fights like Yellow Bayou and Ditch Bayou. Similarly scarce is much in the way of biographical information for the regiment's officers and men, but the author does incorporate a number of soldier accounts into the text. No demographic analysis is attempted but roster information for each individual includes name, age, home town, and wartime fate in terms of death, wounds, and capture.

There are a few errors scattered about, examples including a passage describing the Vicksburg assaults confusing corps with armies (though corrected later) and a statement that 6,000 guerrillas joined Price's army crossing Missouri in 1864. Miller would also have been better served to utilize the many fine print secondary sources available for background material rather than Wikipedia. This non-scholarly approach will probably limit the book's appeal to a more local audience of general interest readers, which was likely the author's intention.

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