Thursday, July 5, 2018

Booknotes: An Aide to Custer

New Arrival:
An Aide to Custer: The Civil War Letters of Lt. Edward G. Granger edited by Sandy Barnard & compiled by Thomas E. Singelyn (OU Press, 2018).

"In August 1862, nineteen-year-old Edward G. Granger joined the 5th Michigan Cavalry Regiment as a second lieutenant. On August 20, 1863, the newly promoted Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer appointed Granger as one of his aides, a position Granger would hold until his death in August 1864." In An Aide to Custer, Sandy Barnard edits the letters that Granger wrote home to various family members during this two-year period. They "provide a unique look into the words and actions of his legendary commander. At the same time, Granger’s correspondence offers an intimate picture of life on the picket lines of the Army of the Potomac and a staff officer’s experiences in the field."

More from the description: "As Custer’s aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Granger was in an ideal position to record the inner workings of the Michigan Brigade’s command echelon. Riding at Custer’s side, he could closely observe one of America’s most celebrated and controversial military figures during the very days that cemented his fame. With a keen eye and occasional humor, Granger describes the brigade’s operations, including numerous battles and skirmishes. His letters also show the evolution of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps from the laughingstock of the Eastern Theater to an increasingly potent, well-led force. By the time of Granger’s death at the Battle of Crooked Run, he and his comrades were on the verge of wresting mounted supremacy from their Confederate opponents."

These types of publications often skimp on maps (both in number and quality), but that's not the case with the ten detailed maps included here. In addition to being abundantly illustrated, the volume is extensively annotated with voluminous, well-researched footnotes. Editor Barnard also contributes an extensive introduction and pens supporting chapter narrative throughout the book. His epilogue describes at length the circumstances of Granger's death. An Aide to Custer "gives readers an unprecedented view of the Civil War and one of its most important commanders, and unusual insight into the experience of a staff officer who served alongside him."

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