Sunday, March 02, 2014

Redd: "ST. AUGUSTINE AND THE CIVIL WAR"

[St. Augustine and the Civil War by Robert Redd (The History Press, 2014). Softcover, map, photos, drawings, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:143/172. ISBN:978-1-60949-897-9 $19.99]

St. Augustine, Florida suffered the same early Civil War fate of many South Atlantic ports and towns, that of rapid abandonment by Confederate forces and occupation by the Union army. Robert Redd's St. Augustine and the Civil War follows a fairly common local history formula for books directed toward a more general audience. It begins with a brief historical narrative. In less than fifty pages, the author takes the reader through the secession crisis and the Civil War years. Redd documents a succession of occupying units, mostly volunteer regiments from New England, and how they interacted with the locals, a majority pro-secession population with almost one-third of the residents being slaves. Union control of the city was never seriously threatened during the war, with no battles fought nearby and only the occasional clash with regionally mobile Confederate irregulars.

The rest of the book primarily consists of personal stories related to the city's Civil War history. One chapter covers the saga of the crew manning the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis and another a history of slavery and emancipation in St. Augustine. Additional sections explore the connections of famous civilians and military figures to the city. Among these St. Augustine natives, visitors, or transplants profiled in the book are Mary Lincoln, John Hay, Franklin W. Smith, U.S. Grant, Stephen Vincent Benet [grandfather and namesake of the famous writer and poet], Edmund J. Davis, William J. Hardee, Martin D. Hardin, W.W. Loring, John M. Schofield, and Edmund Kirby Smith.  Redd also includes a fairly detailed walking and driving tour of Civil War related sites in the town. Both the tour section and the main text are supported by numerous modern and period photographs.

All of the above comprises a pretty conventional picture of local history format and content. Where the author departs from the expected is in the depth and quality of his study's bibliography, one more akin to those found in academic monographs than works of popular history. Appendices include a copy of the Florida Ordinance of Secession, a roster of the St. Augustine Blues (Company B, Third Florida Infantry), and a list of St. Augustine Confederates killed during the war. What's missing is a map of city itself, a common and unfortunately failing of many studies of this type.

St. Augustine is famous for being the oldest continually occupied European settlement in North America and residents have likely been far more exposed to the town's Spanish colonial history than its Civil War past. Redd's book should serve as a useful tool for locals to explore their city's 1861-65 related sites and experiences.  Historically minded visitors can also benefit from the well written general narrative and tour sections.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the kind words Drew. I appreciate your taking time to read my book. I would agree that a modern map of the city would have been of value and this is an area I will give more attention in future writing.

    ReplyDelete

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