Saturday, March 7, 2009

Thomas and Wilson: "Soldier Life—Many Must Fall: Two Civil War Narratives"

[Soldier Life—Many Must Fall: Two Civil War Narratives. True Histories of the 14th Iowa Infantry in Camp and Combat, Told by the Wolf Creek Rangers of Tama County by B. F. Thomas and Peter Wilson (The Camp Pope Bookshop*, 2008). 83/4 x 111/3 Hardcover, map, photographs, notes, index. 288 pages. ISBN: 978-1-929919-17-8 $30]

This publication is essentially two books in one, together they shed personal light on the Civil War service of the 14th Iowa (Company G), which saw action in the western and Trans-Mississippi theaters. The writings of the two main authors, in conjunction with a variety of letters and accounts written by other Co. G mates, cover military events in Tennessee (Ft. Donelson, Shiloh), Mississippi (Oxford Raid), Louisiana (Pleasant Hill), and Missouri (Price Raid), as well as the experience of being a POW and paroled soldier.

Soldier Life, penned later in life by Benjamin Franklin Thomas (first published in 1907), is a reproduction of the author's Civil War diary, spiced with his reminiscences. The editors altered the text (e.x. corrected spelling, replaced abbreviated text, etc.) and added footnotes. The notes, mostly detailed biographical sketches of individuals mentioned in the text, are bundled together at the end of each section, but curiously not arranged in numbered citation format. They are of both research and genealogical value. A sampling of Thomas's poetry was also inserted.

Many Must Fall is the letter collection of Sgt. Peter Wilson (spanning 1861-1865, and previously published piecemeal by the Iowa Journal of History and Politics during the 1940s). The earlier annotation is preserved, with new commentary from the current editors. The Wilson letters (mostly addressed to immediate family) are supplemented with other letters, memoirs, and newspaper accounts written by members of his unit.

Between the narratives is a photo gallery and two maps. Soldier Life - Many Must Fall is a valuable compilation of primary source materials for Civil War researchers and genealogists. The Traer Historical Museum Board (editors) and the Camp Pope Bookshop (publisher) deserve our thanks for bringing back into print the personal experiences of the "Wolf Creek Rangers" of Company G, 14th Iowa, all in a single, well produced volume.

* - also available from:
The Traer Historical Museum
514 2nd St.
Traer, Iowa 50675

$30.00 plus $5.00 postage (Iowa residents add $1.80 sales tax).

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