Thursday, June 18, 2015

McEnany: "FOR BROTHERHOOD AND DUTY: The Civil War History of the West Point Class of 1862"

[For Brotherhood and Duty: The Civil War History of the West Point Class of 1862 by Brian R. McEnany (University Press of Kentucky, 2015). Hardcover, photos, maps, drawings, tables, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:363/507. ISBN:978-0-8131-6062-7 $45]

Only 28 members of the West Point Class of 1862 stuck through it to the end. In For Brotherhood and Duty author Brian McEnany (himself a West Pointer) explores the academy experiences of these cadets and follows the Civil War careers of a select group.

At 125 pages in length, Part One covers cadet life at the United States Military Academy in a more richly detailed manner than most biographical treatments of Civil War figures. The special circumstances and conditions endured by aspiring military officers of the secession and Civil War period classes are effectively conveyed, with the sectional crisis leading to discipline problems and resignations and the war itself forcing a compressed curriculum aimed at early graduation that taxed the capacities of many of the students. These early chapters also introduce readers to the study's most closely followed figure, Mississippian turned Ohio Buckeye Tully McCrea.

Part Two discusses the Civil War careers of 1862 class members, highlighting their consequential actions, both large and small, in a number of campaigns and battles stretching across the East, West, and Trans-Mississippi theaters. Here, too, McCrea is the common narrative thread but the contributions of a large selection of his classmates — among them Union officers Ranald Mackenzie, John Calef, MOH recipient George Gillespie, John Egan, James Sanderson, Isaac Arnold, Samuel McIntire, Charles Warner, Morris Schaff, Albert Murray, James Lord, and William Bartlett and Confederates James Dearing, Joseph Blount, Oliver Semmes, and John West — to the fighting at the Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Port Hudson, Olustee, Pleasant Hill and Atlanta battles along with the Overland, Petersburg, Shenandoah, and Appomattox campaigns are recounted in some detail. Certain episodes, like Calef at Gettysburg, are already commonly known and well documented but many others are fresh enough tales to interest even the best read Civil War military history students. There is a decided predilection for artillerymen (undoubtedly in part due to McEnany's own army career path) and those students of the long arm with a special interest in the lives and careers of young Civil War battery officers have a wealth of material to peruse. Transitioning between chapters, McEnany does employ a creative literary device in the form of McCrea's imagined remembrances but they're clearly identified as fiction and segregated from the main text in italics format.

Numerous maps accompany the battle narratives. These are useful for general orientation but they also very helpfully plot (with prominent stars) the places on the various battlefields where the 1862 graduates stood and fought. Since these officers were frequently transferred to other units, assignment tables are also made available to the reader, with some class statistics also arranged in the same manner.

It is a bit of a surprise to find that only four members of the graduating class accepted service in volunteer units, the rest remaining in the regular army where promotions were slow. Citing factors like prejudice against volunteers, army policy, and reactions to congressional hostility, precedent, and initial assignments, as well as concern over post-war careers, McEnany explores the many possible reasons why the 1862 graduates eschewed the faster advancement and greater rank and responsibility of the volunteer army.

The appendix is comprised of biographical sketches for all 28 members of the graduating class of 1862, each entry including one or more photos and a detailed list of Civil War duty assignments. For Brotherhood and Duty is a valuable biographical register of a West Point class that went directly from the classroom to the battlefield.

More CWBA reviews of UPK titles:
* Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase
* A General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant
* The Union Forever: Lincoln, Grant, and the Civil War
* One of Morgan's Men: Memoirs of Lieutenant John M. Porter of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry
* My Old Confederate Home: A Respectable Place for Civil War Veterans
* Lincoln on Trial: Southern Civilians and the Law of War
* Bluejackets and Contrabands: African Americans and the Union Navy
* Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History
* Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee
* Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State
* Virginia at War, 1863
* Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia

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