Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sibley, ed.: "CONFEDERATE ARTILLERY ORGANIZATIONS: An Alphabetical Listing of the Officers and Batteries of the Confederacy, 1861-1865"

[Confederate Artillery Organizations: An Alphabetical Listing of the Officers and Batteries of the Confederacy, 1861-1865 edited by F. Ray Sibley, Jr. (Savas Beatie, 2014). Hardcover, photos, notes, bibliography. 390 pp. ISBN:978-1-61121-230-3 $49.95]

F. Ray Sibley discovered Confederate Artillery Organizations entirely by accident at the Duke University archives while researching the work he's best known for, The Confederate Order of Battle: The Army of Northern Virginia (1996). With only the barest bibliographical information inside, Sibley nevertheless immediately saw the value of the reference material inside. Later, his interlibrary loan specialist informed him that there were only two known copies in existence, the one at Duke and another at the Library of Congress. Sibley suspects the book was a companion volume to List of Field Officers, Regiments, and Battalions of the Confederate States Army, 1861-1865 with both published by the U.S. War Department in the 1890s. He was able to obtain a photocopy from Duke and sat down to work annotating it, the result being Confederate Artillery Organizations: An Alphabetical Listing of the Officers and Batteries of the Confederacy, 1861-1865.

The book is a comprehensive register of Confederate artillery batteries (and a few state ones) from Abat's to Zimmerman's. Battalion organizations are also included, with their component batteries additionally cross-referenced with the alphabetical list. Information is presented in three columns on each page. Unit name and officer list are on the left, home state in the middle, and on the right notations such as officer appointment, promotion, and transfer dates and destinations. Also contained in the right hand column are brief comments regarding officer woundings, deaths, resignations, and desertions as are alternate unit designations and attachment information.

The primary focus of Confederate Artillery Organizations is really on the officers but those searching for battery organization date and place, order of battle assignments, service history summaries, and gun compositions can turn to other guides like the Sifakis series, Bergeron's Louisiana unit study and McGhee's Missouri register. Though there isn't an all inclusive unit or officer name index in Sibley's book, an appendix does group the artillery officers (2nd Lt. up to brigadier general) by rank and seniority. Another supplement lists those Confederate officers who were in U.S. service prior to the war.

An incredible amount of research went into the edited work's nearly 4,000 footnotes. Sibley consulted a vast ranges of sources, including government documents, archival materials, diaries, journals, letters, memoirs, unit histories, biographies, campaign studies, and more, in his quest to corroborate, correct, and enhance the information presented in the original publication. Sibley also added new batteries and officers missing from the 1890s work. The notes are very helpful in clearing up possible points of confusion.

Its authority considerably enhanced by Sibley's exhaustive editing, Confederate Artillery Organizations is a rediscovered and improved gem that no Civil War reference library should be without.  Both author and publisher are to be applauded for making this obscure but highly useful tool widely available for the first time.

8 comments:

  1. Joel ManuelMay 08, 2015

    I will probably never consult a reference work of this type, but I LOVE that somebody put forth the effort to edit and publish it.

    Joel Manuel
    Baton Rouge

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's definitely a very narrowly specialized reference guide.

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  2. AnonymousMay 08, 2015

    F. Ray Sibley's Book on the AoNV order of battle is labeled as Vol. 1. Does he have any plans for a Vol. 2? 1996 is the publishing date, maybe he's just taking his time?

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    Replies
    1. All I know is he plans additional Confederate OB volumes for West, Trans-Mississippi, and coastal defense theaters.

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  3. AnonymousMay 09, 2015

    Thanks for the review, Drew. A true labor of love for Ray--and us. It is books like this that help all the other researchers write more complete histories on other topics. Hence its value.

    --Ted Savas

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    Replies
    1. Yes. There should be a book prize for reference works.

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  4. AnonymousMay 12, 2015

    I do appreciate the positive review, Drew. Thank you. It was a 10-12 year research effort. I hope it proves useful. Thank you, again. Ray Sibley

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    Replies
    1. These kinds of projects can be pretty thankless so I wanted to express some appreciation for the work. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next, esp. the T-M OB volume.

      Drew

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