Monday, April 20, 2009

Fox: "Our Honored Dead: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the American Civil War"

[Our Honored Dead: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the American Civil War by Arthur B. Fox (Mechling Bookbindery, 2008). Hardcover, 27 maps, photos, illustrations, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. 534 pages. ISBN: 0-9793772-1-8 $39.95]

Arthur Fox is probably best known to Civil War readers for his book Pittsburgh during the American Civil War, 1860-1865 (Mechling, 2002), and his latest book is a direct offshoot of his previous work on Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Befitting the contributions of Allegheny County's fighting men, Our Honored Dead is a mighty reference book.

It begins with a 35-page social and economic history of Pittsburgh and its role in the Civil War. What follows is a deeply researched unit guide. Where many reference books begin and end with the three-year volunteer infantry, cavalry, and infantry units, Fox's study focuses equally on the various militia and short-term organizations. In addition to the aforementioned 3-year volunteers and Pennsylvania Reserves, county home guard organizations, three- and nine-month regiments, 100-day regiments, independent companies, and militia regiments (raised in response to the 1863 Confederate invasion) are all covered.

The study roughly follows the format of Dyer's Compendium-type guide, in most cases providing more detail and more extensive service histories. As an example of a typical regimental unit entry, Fox lists the field officers (with promotion and discharge dates, notice of wounds, etc.) for the unit, and also does this for the companies composed of Allegheny County men. An organizational summary and service history follows, as well as company losses. Notice of existing regimental histories are thoughtfully included, as well a short paragraph highlighting other sources of interest. The test is extensively documented.

Our Honored Dead is also heavy on visuals. There are 27 maps (including 3 pullouts), and drawings and photographs are sprinkled throughout the text. My sole complaint is with the photocopy quality of the reproductions (really my only significant problem with the book as a whole). The ten appendices address a wide range of subjects -- a statistical summary; listings of Medal of Honor recipients, black Allegheny County soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts, Union generals associated with Pittsburgh, steamships constructed in the county, and county nuns serving as nurses; an Allegheny Arsenal payroll; a monuments guide; a veteran case study, and a discussion of manuscript repositories. A bibliography and index cap it all off.

Our Honored Dead: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the American Civil War is an exhaustively compiled reference guide to the region's fighting men and units. It's a worthy addition to both public and home libraries. Anyone researching Civil War Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania's contribution to the Union war effort will find Fox's work of uncommon utility.

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