Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Review of Barry & Burt: "SUPPLIERS TO THE CONFEDERACY VOLUME II: More British Imported Arms and Accoutrements"

[Suppliers to the Confederacy Volume II: More British Imported Arms and Accoutrements by Craig L. Barry & David C. Burt (Schiffer Publishing, 2016). Hardcover, color and B&W photos, illustrations, notes, appendices, select bibliography. 304 pp. ISBN:978-0-7643-5076-4. $39.99]

Suppliers to the Confederacy Volume II: More British Imported Arms and Accoutrements is actually the third volume in a series of reference books authored by Craig Barry and David Burt, the previous two being Suppliers to the Confederacy: British Imported Arms and Accoutrements (Schiffer, 2013) and Suppliers to the Confederacy II: S Isaac Campbell & Co., London, Peter Tait & Co., Limerick (Stainless Banner Pub, 2014). It's often said that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, and it could also be maintained that no reference book survives publication. New and revised information is always being discovered. According to the foreword, Suppliers to the Confederacy Volume II "not only expounds on information covered in the previous books, but covers items that have not been published before in the Suppliers series."

Spread throughout the volume is detailed information about the Confederate purchasing of foreign arms and equipment in Great Britain. Also presented are fine summaries of the personal background and actions of the Confederate government's chief purchasing agents, the trio of Captain Caleb Huse, Major Edward C. Anderson, and James D. Bulloch (the latter the best known of the three). The book's discussion of state and Confederate sponsored blockade running provides an excellent snapshot of the scope and type of items ordered from British suppliers.

As stated above, since the publication of the earlier Suppliers volumes, new items have been brought to the attention of the authors. These include waist belts (and various types of snake buckles), ball bags, shot and firing cap pouches, sliding belt frogs (for securing bayonet scabbards), knapsacks and haversacks, mess tins (along with their covers and straps), and canteens. For the essential task of firearm maintenance, oil bottles and (Y- and T-shaped) combination tools were imported with the Enfield rifles shipped to the South in immense quantities. The book sections for each of the above mentioned accoutrement categories exhaustively document the items. Detailed physical descriptions (to include precise dimensional measurements) are presented at length, as is information on material and finish. Period sources are put to good use in discussing manufacturing and end usage in the field. The authors also note where the items were manufactured, numbers made, how they were imported, and where they ended up. Available archaeological evidence is also integrated into the book.

Two chapters assemble capsule histories of various Birmingham [King & Phillips, Edwin & Hackett, Pryse & Redman, R&W Aston, C.W. James, Westley Richards, and Charles Maybury] and London [Charles Lancaster, London Armoury Company, R.T. Pritchett, Eley Brothers, and the Royal Small Arms Manufactory] gun makers, delving at some length into their patent designs, products, and key management figures. The London chapter also looks at specific weapons like the Adams revolver, the Brunswick Rifle, and P51 Minie rifle. Another chapter identifies more inventors and their products (ex. bayonets, scabbards, snap caps, and muzzle stoppers) that were exported to the Confederacy. Eight appendices compile more historical text and a variety of archival documents.

An indispensable feature of the book is the color photography of both well preserved items and rather degraded archaeological artifacts. These high-resolution pictures allow the user to discern essential details and point out to the reader where to find the all-important manufacturing and inspector's marks and stamps mentioned in the accompanying text (and what they look like). With at least one image on every page, the resulting photographic assemblage is a treasury of visual documentation for these items.

Everyone knows how industrially challenged the infant Confederacy was, but Suppliers really demonstrates the stark reality of the breadth and scale of what the Confederate state and national governments needed to import just to basically equip their soldiers for service in the field. The authors present convincing evidence that British arms and accoutrements in large numbers made their way into the hands of units that fought in all three major Civil War theaters, and one cannot imagine Confederate armies operating at a level comparable to what they historically did without the benefit of those imports (especially during the early period of the war prior to the ramping up of native industries).

Suppliers to the Confederacy Volume II is a deeply impressive and authoritative reference tool. Museum specialists, private collectors, auction houses, and those working in the related fields of battlefield archeology and anthropology will all want to add this volume to their research libraries.

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