Monday, July 27, 2009

Baggett: "HOMEGROWN YANKEES: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War"

[ Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War by James Alex Baggett (Louisiana State University Press, 2009). Cloth, 8 maps, photos, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 410/458. ISBN:978-0-8071-3398-9 $45 ]

Tens of thousands of white and black Tennessee men served in all three branches of the Union army between 1862 and 1865, yet no comprehensive study of their military service exists. A handful of still useful regimental histories were published by participants in the decades following the end of the war, but historian James A. Baggett's new book Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War is the first scholarly attempt to document the organization and combat history of the fourteen cavalry regiments (and, to a lesser extent, the eight short-term mounted infantry regiments). Baggett's work accomplishes much in filling this gap in the Civil War literature.

It's safe to say the primary focus of Homegrown Yankees is on military operations, regular and irregular. The narrative is typical in its incorporation of biographical sketches of notable figures and selected quotes, and it is all done well. While the federal Tennessee units were most often engaged in rear areas safeguarding supply lines, garrisoning strategic towns, protecting Unionist civilians, and participating in counter-guerrilla actions, their roles in regular operations are also discussed at length by the author. The fighting at Okolona, Union City, Fort Pillow, Bull's Gap, and Saltville is covered in some detail. Additionally, the book recounts the regular use of unionist Tennessee cavalry during the Tullahoma, East Tennessee, Atlanta, and Nashville campaigns. Baggett also notes the cavalry's role in hindering and defending against a variety of attacks on the railroad supply lines feeding the federal army's 1864 campaign in Georgia. The "Homegrown Yankees" later joined in George Stoneman's 1865 raid into Virginia and North Carolina.

In places scattered throughout the text, the author explores the Tennesseans's often poor unit leadership, uninspired combat performance, and penchant for plunder, but one might have wished for a separate chapter providing a more in depth examination of these traits*. Similarly, much of the author's discussion of membership demographics and motivation is relegated to his excellent conclusion chapter, when readers might have been better served to have this information presented at the beginning of the book.

The book is bound in a very nice cloth covering and the publisher deserves plaudits for allowing the placement of the author's notes at the bottom of each page. The cartography is composed of large scale area maps (eight in total). While these aid in general orientation, they lack enough detail for a proper following of the movements described in the text. In terms of supplementary materials, an appendix usefully compiles information about the fourteen cavalry regiments, listing their commanders, engagements fought, and prior unit designations (if any).

Overall, James Baggett's prodigious Homegrown Yankees is a well crafted and well researched effort. The level of background and operational detail well exceeds that commonly found in other works attempting comprehensive coverage of large numbers of associated units. This feature will ensure the book's enduring value as a useful resource and reference guide for researchers. Baggett's study is an important and original one, a signal contribution to the study of southern unionism and to the literature of the western theater military campaigns.

* - On the other hand, some of the units did perform well. As an example, Baggett lauds the overall combat record of Brownlow's 1st Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, and, in places, the performance of the 3rd and 4th Regiments.

Other recent CWBA reviews of LSU Press titles:

* John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal
* A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock


  1. Hi Drew,

    Thanks for the heads up on this title. I have a GGG Grandfather who served in the 2nd TN Cavalry and appears to have died at the end of 1862 due to "fever" while still in the service. I'll be interested in reading this one.


  2. Robert,
    I think you'll like it. My GGG Grandfather (William C. Pickens) led the 3rd Tenn. Cav.

  3. I've just placed an order for this book, and can't wait to get started reading it. Having ancestors in the 7th TN Mounted Infantry, and 12th TN Cavalry, I've always had an interest in the Unionist Tennessee regiments.


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