Monday, September 11, 2006

Hardway: "On Our Own Soil: William Lowther Jackson and the Civil War In West Virginia’s Mountains"

On Our Own Soil: William Lowther Jackson And The Civil War In West Virginia's Mountains (Quarrier Press, 2003) by Ronald V. Hardway is a hybrid work (half W.L. Jackson bio/half battle history of 19th & 20th Virginia Cavalries). The biographical materials are brief but fairly well researched, covering Jackson's family history, his antebellum career in northwestern Virginia, and his post-war travails (unlike some other Confederates, he found a return to his pre-war home county very unwelcome). Overall, his military service was rather undistinguished, and to his credit, author Ronald Hardway does not seek to embellish his military record in the eyes of history.

The unit study part of the book covers two rather unruly regiments. Partly formed from various independent companies who styled themselves as 'rangers' and scouts, discipline in the 19th and 20th Virginia was lax according to Hardway. A reviewer, I think it was Bob Krick, recently said beware of books with large numbers of consecutive citations from the same source. This is obvious, but the quote echoed in my head while reading this book, particularly the parts covering military events. In On Our Own Soil, it's common to come across a citation from the O.R. followed by a half dozen or more ibids.

Although some obscure raids are covered, the military history isn't very illuminating stuff overall and some of the confusion is compounded with subpar maps. Additionally, the reader isn't given the opportunity to learn much about the fighting men of these units (perhaps the H.E. Howard regimental series can add something in this regard). The author mentioned that only four soldiers from these units left published memoirs, but what about letters, newspaper articles, or diaries? To be fair, I am not aware if those sources exist in any numbers, but this particular volume left me unsatisfied, unlike several other books I treasure that were published by The West Virginia Book Company/Pictorial Histories/Quarrier Press.

1 comment:

  1. I found this book to be immensely helpful for genealogical reasons. While there are some gaps, there were enough facts to establish "probable cause" for my purposes. Once again, satisfaction is in the mind of the reader. I was well pleased with the book.


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