Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Booknotes: The Civil War Letters of Alexander McNeill, 2nd South Carolina Infantry Regiment

New Arrival:
The Civil War Letters of Alexander McNeill, 2nd South Carolina Infantry Regiment
edited by Mac Wyckoff (Univ of S Carolina Pr, 2016).

After just a quick sampling of the material, it's easy to see why Mac Wyckoff, an author or editor of many books (including a regimental history of the 2nd South Carolina), was enamored enough with the correspondence of Alexander McNeill (Company F, 2nd South Carolina, Kershaw's Brigade) to edit his letters for publication. McNeill's lengthy and erudite letters number in the hundreds and span the entire war, offering a mountain of primary source material [the book is over 650 pages in length]. Expounding on a variety of non-military topics in his letters to fiance and later wife Almirah, he also "fulsomely reported his experiences and thoughts on a soldier’s life during this war, describing combat, camp life, the building of winter quarters, the marches, company election of officers, weather, food, and morale. McNeill chronicled his experiences at First Manassas (Bull Run), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and other battles." As the description notes, with lesser available Confederate firsthand source material for the war's final months compared with other periods, McNeill's detailed record of his end game observations with Lee's army and in the Carolinas is all the more valuable.

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