Monday, February 29, 2016

Krick & Ferguson: "GETTYSBURG'S CONFEDERATE DEAD: An Honor Roll from America's Greatest Battle"

[Gettysburg's Confederate Dead: An Honor Roll from America's Greatest Battle by Robert K. Krick and Chris L. Ferguson (Angle Valley Press, 2014). 8 1/2" x 11" softcover, illustrations. 180 pp. ISBN:978-0-9711950-8-0. $22.95]

The exact number of Confederate's slain at Gettysburg will never be known but that doesn't mean that any effort aimed at arriving at the closest figure possible is a fool's errand. The endeavor will always be hampered by the incomplete nature of surviving contemporary records but new information is being discovered all the time. The product of forty years of collective research by Robert Krick and Chris Ferguson1, Gettysburg's Confederate Dead: An Honor Roll from America's Greatest Battle is the most up to date register, its 5,0012 compiled names the result of improved information technology and document access since the most recent edition (2004) of the co-authors's previous work The Gettysburg Death Roster.

The list itself comprises nearly the entire book but there are a few illustrations scattered about and Krick provides a brief preface to the volume. Ferguson's introduction also lays out the project's parameters. In order to qualify "(a) soldier had to be killed in action or mortally wounded in the fighting of July 1-4 and death had to occur prior to January 1, 1864, from wounds received during this four day period." (pg. xi-xii) Unwounded POWs that died in Union custody are not included in the book. The Virginia soldiers have the greatest amount of detail available, a circumstance that Krick primarily attributes to the diligence (albeit very uneven) of the many regimental historians that contributed to H.E. Howard's Virginia Regimental History Series.

The information itself is formatted in an aesthetically pleasing, easy to read tabular format. For each soldier, the death roll includes name, regiment (also rank and company, if known), date of birth (mostly just the year, but sometimes the full date), date of death, short comments (ex. MIA, hospital/POW/mortal wound status) and burial place (if known). The list is organized alphabetically by last name. In terms of soft criticism, or really more of a wishlist matter, while it's clear that the incomplete nature of much of the data makes some number crunching exercises problematic, a few basic analyses like breaking down the numbers of dead by state or by brigade/division/corps would have made a useful appendix.

There is no great shortage of authoritative Gettysburg reference books but Krick and Ferguson's Gettysburg's Confederate Dead is a noteworthy standout. Serious Civil War research and genealogy libraries will surely want to add it to their collections, but the many individuals who regularly conduct their own deep research on the battle will also benefit from owning a personal copy.

1 - Ferguson is also the author of Southerners at Rest: Confederate Dead at Hollywood Cemetery (2008) and Hollywood Cemetery, Her Forgotten Soldiers: Confederate Field Officers at Rest (2001).
2 - In his introduction, Ferguson gives a figure of 5,001 names but the cover letter that came with the book mentions 5,006. In lieu of counting them myself, I'll just mention both numbers.

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