Monday, June 4, 2018

Booknotes: The 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War

New Arrival:
The 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War by David A. Ward (McFarland, 2018).

Though it doesn't include a roster, David Ward's The 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Civil War is a full-length regimental study. Composed of "nearly 1,200 Irish and German immigrants from Schuylkill County," the unit saw action in many of the great eastern theater campaigns and battles with the Second Brigade, First Division of the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac before being mustered out in late 1864. Like many of the "Fighting Three Hundred," only a pitiful remnant (100 men) were present in the ranks at discharge.

According to Ward, no member of the regiment wrote a full history of its wartime service during the era when those were composed in droves. Before now, the best source for information on the 96th resided in Samuel Bates's classic compilation History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, so a modern treatment has been very long overdue.

Ward's self-stated goal is to "examine the organization, operations and character of the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Emphasis will be placed on the social life and customs of the enlisted men and the military campaigns and battles in which the regiment experienced the hardships and horrors of combat. A principal goal is to examine this regiment of infantry as a subset of the Pennsylvania community they represented in the early 1860s and to document the war's effect on the lives of some of its participants."

The unit's fighting history appears to be recounted in the book in highly detailed fashion. Map coverage is good as well, with full-page George Skoch map depictions of the battles of Eltham's Landing, Gaines' Mill, Crampton's Gap, Salem Church, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor (with specific attention paid to the 96th's place on those fields).

Bibliography and notes indicate extensive manuscript research and use along with wide examination of other primary and secondary sources. More from the description: "Drawing on letters, diaries, memoirs and other accounts, this comprehensive history documents their combat service from the point of view of the rank-and-file soldier, along with their views on the war, slavery, emancipation and politics." For those readers looking for roster information, Ward does include an appendix that specifically directs readers to what sources and records are available.

5 comments:

  1. Does the book include anything on the unit's continued service after consolidating with the 95th?

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  2. David Ward does excellent work, and we discussed publishing this, but as a trade press just was not able to do so. I am glad it found a home. If you like unit histories, I am confident you will enjoy this study.

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  3. AnonymousJuly 12, 2018

    I have just finished reading Dave Ward's book. It is well written and I've fount it to be very informative. I am a student of the 96th Regiment Pennsylvania Vlounteer Infantry and of the Sixth Corps. I would very much recommend this wonderful history of a great Regiment to any Civil War Enthusiast. A wonderful addition to any Civil War library. Congratulations Dave on a very successful venture.

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