Monday, February 8, 2016

Cathey & Waddey: "'FORWARD MY BRAVE BOYS!': A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865"

["Forward My Brave Boys!": A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865 by M. Todd Cathey and Gary W. Waddey (Mercer University Press, 2015). Cloth, 9 maps, photos, roster, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:337/583. ISBN:978-0-88146-544-0. $35]

"Forward My Brave Boys!": A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865 is a richly informative regimental history and roster study of a unit formed in early 1861. Its ranks filled with recruits from five Middle Tennessee counties (Humphreys, Dickson, Davidson, Robertson and Hickman), the regiment was initially led by Colonel James Edwards Rains (see cover at left), who was popular with the men and would put them in proper fighting shape even though their arms and equipment were badly deficient.

After drilling at Camp Cheatham, the 11th was ordered to rugged and hostile East Tennessee with General Felix Zollicoffer, where the regiment was initially scattered along the railroad to guard against sabotage, Union raids and local uprisings. The book's coverage of this period is quite thorough, as are those sections documenting the occupation of strategic Cumberland Gap and the series of tentative Confederate advances into SE Kentucky that followed it.

In Kentucky, the regiment dispersed enemy Home Guard camps (including the one at Barboursville) and fought at Wildcat Mountain near Rockcastle River. The 11th was not with Zollicoffer at Mill Springs but did fight at the Battle of Tazewell in Tennessee after being forced to abandon the Gap in the face of a coordinated Union offensive operation. Later, as part of Carter Stevenson's division besieging the Union garrison of Cumberland Gap, the regiment was left behind during the initial stages of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign. Though they missed the Battle of Perryville they wore themselves out marching over 400 rugged miles.

The 11th experienced its first major combat at Stones River in Middle Tennessee, where it advanced with the Confederate left on December 31 and suffered heavy casualties. It was there that the beloved Rains (now their brigade commander) was killed. Nine months later at Chickamauga, the regiment charged over Brock Field and it was deployed near the Carroll House atop Missionary Ridge during that disastrous defeat.  Being within the "Dead Angle," the 11th was highly visible at Kennesaw Mountain. The Tennesseans also attacked the Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek and suffered heavy casualties at Bald Hill during the Battle of Atlanta.

After the Jonesboro battle and the abandonment of Atlanta, the 11th was consolidated with the 29th Tennessee. Things would only get worse for the unit's rapidly dwindling numbers during the 1864 Tennessee Campaign as they would lose half their remaining strength in the carnage along the Columbia Pike at Franklin. After the crushing defeat at Nashville, the survivors of the regiment traveled by a circuitous route to North Carolina, where they were reunited with Joe Johnston and saw some final action at the tail end of the Bentonville battle.

In their research, authors Cathey and Waddey uncovered a fairly prodigious amount of primary source material (both published and unpublished) and their history of the 11th regiment's Civil War service is often a detailed one, especially in its coverage of the battlegrounds of Stones River, Kennesaw Mountain and Franklin where the regiment's heaviest fighting occurred along with their highest casualties. Throughout the book, firsthand accounts are effectively incorporated into the master narrative. The text does have the occasional editing problem and orientation can be a bit unforgiving for the novice reader but the more experienced western theater student will follow events with few problems. The book's early chapters dealing with the regiment's activities in the Kentucky-Tennessee borderland are especially enlightening given the literature's comparative neglect of the Civil War in the logistically challenging region immediately surrounding Cumberland Gap.

The volume's 160+ page roster is impressive. Not only is the amount of service record and biographical information extensive but the material is also annotated (a rarity among regimental studies). The book also contains two hefty photo galleries presenting many rarely seen images. Maps are high quality but modest in number and bunched together in the front rather than appropriately dispersed. A pair of appendices address the organizational history of the regiment and another documents casualties by battle. A POW list and a register of names present on the rolls at the final surrender are also included.

"Forward My Brave Boys!" is both a fine regimental history and an equally valuable collection of reference tools for those that might wish to conduct further research on the 11th Tennessee's officers and men.

More CWBA reviews of MUP titles:
* To the Gates of Atlanta: From Kennesaw Mountain to Peach Tree Creek, 1-19 July 1864
* Last to Join the Fight: The 66th Georgia Infantry
* The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood's First Sortie, July 20, 1864
* Going Back the Way They Came: The Phillips Georgia Legion Cavalry Battalion
* I Will Give Them One More Shot: Ramsey's First Regiment Georgia Volunteers
* The Battle of Resaca: Atlanta Campaign, 1864
* Volunteers' Camp and Field Book
* Griswoldville
* Civil War Macon: The History of a Confederate City

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