Monday, April 1, 2013

Booknotes (Apr '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Secession Winter: When the Union Fell Apart by Robert J. Cook, William L. Barney, and Elizabeth R. Varon (Johns Hopkins UP, 2013).

A variety of perspectives on this important period continue to emerge in the scholarly literature, and I always enjoy learning from them. Some of my favorite books from the past decade, like those from Russell McClintock and William Cooper, deal with the subject. This slim volume has three sections, each written by one of the co-authors: "Barney contends that white southerners were driven to secede by anxiety and guilt over slavery. Varon takes a new look at Robert E. Lee's decision to join the Confederacy. Cook argues that both northern and southern politicians claimed the rightness of their cause by constructing selective narratives of historical grievances".

2. The 14th Brooklyn Regiment in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Frank Callenda (McFarland, 2013).

This unit history, which also includes an extensive roster, provides a complete narrative rundown of the 14th's Civil War military service from First Bull Run through Spotsylvania Court House.

3. Captives in Blue: The Civil War Prisons of the Confederacy by Roger Pickenpaugh (U of Ala Pr, 2013).

If there was ever a publishing lull in the arena of Civil War prisons, Pickenpaugh has surely picked up the slack. His other recent works include Camp Chase and the Evolution of Union Prison Policy and Captives in Gray: The Civil War Prisons of the Union. In this study, he "tackles issues such as the ways the Confederate Army contended with the growing prison population, the variations in the policies and practices in the different Confederate prison camps, the effects these policies and practices had on Union prisoners, and the logistics of prisoner exchanges. Digging further into prison policy and practices, Pickenpaugh explores conditions that arose from conscious government policy decisions and conditions that were the product of local officials or unique local situations. One issue unique to Captives in Blue is the way Confederate prisons and policies dealt with African American Union soldiers. Black soldiers held captive in Confederate prisons faced uncertain fates; many former slaves were returned to their former owners, while others were tortured in the camps. Drawing on prisoner diaries, Pickenpaugh provides compelling first-person accounts of life in prison camps often overlooked by scholars in the field".

4. James F. Jaquess: Scholar, Soldier and Private Agent for President Lincoln by Patricia B. Burnette (McFarland, 2013).

This guy had a pretty colorful life. On the one hand, he was the chaplain of the 6th Illinois Cavalry, colonel of the 73rd Illinois infantry, and a personal emissary of Lincoln, but on the other he was tried for murder, failed at business, and served time in prison.

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