Saturday, April 28, 2018

Booknotes: "Don't Tell Father I Have Been Shot at"

New Arrival:
"Don't Tell Father I Have Been Shot at": The Civil War Letters of Captain George N. Bliss, First Rhode Island Cavalry edited by William C. Emerson and Elizabeth C. Stevens (McFarland, 2018).

"Don't Tell Father I Have Been Shot at" compiles the Civil War letters and newspaper dispatches (to the Providence Evening Press under the pseudonym "Ulysses") of Captain George N. Bliss of the First Rhode Island Cavalry. Bliss "survived some 27 actions during the Civil War. Midway through the war, he served nine months at a conscript training camp in Connecticut, where he sat on several courts-martial. In September 1864, in a skirmish at Waynesboro, Virginia, he single-handedly charged into the 4th Virginia "Black Horse" Cavalry. Badly injured and taken prisoner, he was consigned to the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond.

A very frequent correspondent with close friend and Union College mate David Gerald, and also a fairly voluminous writer, Bliss amassed for posterity a very large collection of detailed firsthand war experiences. Certainly anyone interested in eastern theater Union cavalry operations and the 1st RI Cavalry in particular will want to grab a copy. 

For most of the war the regiment was attached to the Army of the Potomac, splitting its time in active service between the Washington defenses and fighting in numerous campaigns and battles across central and northern Virginia. Though his luck would run out at Waynesboro, Bliss was one of the few members of the regiment to escape the Middleburg disaster on June 17, 1863, even finding the time to write a letter during his escape through the mountains. Bliss was paroled in February 1865 from Libby Prison after four months of captivity and spent most of the brief remaining balance of the war in an Annapolis, Maryland parole camp.

The letters begin in March 1862 and end in May 1865. In addition to dozens of photographs, editors Emerson and Stevens contribute a general introduction, chapter introductions, a postwar biographical epilogue, and explanatory endnotes.

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