Sunday, July 14, 2013

16th Tennessee series

A while back, I received a package of three books, all part of author Jamie Gillum's 16th Tennessee regimental series. I finished the first of these The History of the Sixteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Volume 1): We Were Spoiling for a Fight ~ April 1861-August 1862 (2011) and a brief mention will be made of the others.

The men who would form the 16th hailed from eight east-central Tennessee counties and were assigned to the brigade of Brigadier General Daniel S. Donelson. The unit became a well traveled one, being sent first to the mountains of western Virginia.  The major military operation there was Robert E. Lee's aborted Cheat Mountain campaign, but the regiment battled climate and sickness more than Union soldiers. From Virginia, the Tennesseans were transported to the South Carolina sea island coast, where they picketed the approaches to Union-held Port Royal and guarding against further inroads in the region. Responding to the string of western theater disasters in the early months of 1862, the regiment detrained at Corinth having missed Shiloh. At this point, Gillum details the 16th's reorganization, undertaken upon the expiration of the original one-year enlistment term and in accordance with the stipulations of the newly passed Conscription Act. He also describes the 16th's participation in the sometimes heavy skirmishing associated with the Corinth siege operation. When the rail center was finally abandoned, the men accompanied the rest of the army to Tupelo, before being transported to Chattanooga preparatory to the invasion of Kentucky. Thus ends Volume I.

The book's structure is a fairly conventional one within the regimental history genre, composed of author narrative interspersed with block quotes from diaries, letters, memoirs and other documents. The bibliography's size is unexpectedly small, but is made up almost entirely of primary sources, published and unpublished. Footnotes are of two main types, source citations and Compiled Service Records transcriptions. In common with most self-published books, this one could really use the full services of an editor, helping with tasks ranging from typographical error correction to proper formatting of the notes and bibliography.

It is unknown if a roster is in the works (the logical place, of course, would be in the unpublished third and final volume), but, as stated above, CSR information is present for individuals mentioned in the text. The book, like the other two, also contains a wealth of supplemental material. Appendices include a listing of the various commands to which the 16th was attached; a detailed inventory of clothing, arms, and equipment issued to the men; casualty numbers by battle; and selections from veteran questionnaires.

My overall impression is that there's quality work in the project, but it remains at a raw state.  Spending the time rectifying the drawbacks mentioned above would go a long way toward improving its scholarly standing.

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The History of the Sixteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Volume II): No Hope of Getting Out Alive - Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga and Chattanooga September 1862-December 1863 (2012) carries the history of the regiment forward through the Missionary Ridge disaster. It is during this 15-month period that the regiment sustained its first serious losses in battle, first at Perryville then Murfreesboro. The 16th also participated in the Tullahoma Campaign, and the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The amount of regimental and brigade level detail is substantial, especially for Perryville, with maps to match. The third and final volume is due sometime this year.

In addition to the three-volume regimental history, a satellite study was also created. The author is of the fervent opinion that the standard accounts of the 16th at Perryville, as documented in the park's official history, and the books of Kenneth Noe and Kenneth Hafendorfer, are erroneous in significant ways.  The Battle of Perryville and the Sixteenth Tennessee Infantry Regiment: A Re-evaluation (2011) comprises Gillum's moment by moment recreation of the true story as he sees it.

1 comment:

  1. Looks interesting. Wish it had proper editing and was available in hardcover.

    It sort of reminds me of the modern regimental history 'From the Flame of Battle to the Fiery Cross: The 3rd Tennessee Infantry with Complete Roster' by James Van Eldik which despite some problems I found quite interesting and readable. It is a sort of forgotten modern Army of Tennessee related regimental.



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