Monday, April 8, 2019

Booknotes: Blue-Blooded Cavalryman

New Arrival:
Blue-Blooded Cavalryman: Captain William Brooke Rawle in the Army of the Potomac, May 1863–August 1865 edited by J. Gregory Acken (Kent St UP, 2019).

From the description: "In May 1863, eighteen-year-old William Brooke Rawle graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and traded a genteel, cultured life of privilege for service as a cavalry officer. Traveling from his home in Philadelphia to Virginia, he joined the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry and soon found himself in command of a company of veterans of two years’ service, some of whom were more than twice his age. Within eight weeks, he had participated in two of the largest cavalry battles of the war at Brandy Station and Gettysburg.

Brooke Rawle and the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry would serve with the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac through April 1864, fighting partisans and guerillas in Northern Virginia and also seeing action during the Bristoe Station and Mine Run battles of late 1863.

"A meticulous diarist and letter writer, Brooke Rawle documented nearly everything that came under his observant eye in 150 well-written letters home to his family." Edited by Gregory Acken, Blue-Blooded Cavalryman: Captain William Brooke Rawle in the Army of the Potomac, May 1863–August 1865 collects Rawle's wartime writings, which "provide a fascinating, richly detailed look into the life of a regimental cavalry officer during the last two years of the Civil War in the East." Acken has a good eye for interesting material and did a superb job editing the Signal Corps memoir of Capt. Louis Fortescue. We can surely expect the same quality of work here. In addition to providing extensive explanatory endnotes, Acken supplements and contextualizes the Rawle letters and diaries with lengthy book and chapter introductions while also inserting helpful bridging narrative throughout. Photographs are plentiful and the book also possesses a fine set of George Skoch maps.

In the last two volumes, the Civil War Strategies and Soldiers series has stretched its range to include edited diaries/letters. Relatively new (with now eight titles published since 2013), it's one of the best active series out there, and I always look forward to what's next.


  1. Is he possibly related to William Rawle, the early American lawyer who wrote a treatise on the Constitution?

    1. On his mother's side. He switched the order of his middle and last names in 1867. His mother's father and grandfather were both prominent Phil. lawyers. The GF is possibly the person to whom you are referring.

  2. Thanks. This is ironic---The older Rawle's treatise is used by modern neo-Confederates to argue that secession was legit because it "was taught at West Point." The book does claim that secession was legal, and was briefly used in a course in the 1820s/30s.


***PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING***: You must SIGN YOUR NAME when submitting your comment. In order to maintain civil discourse and ease moderating duties, anonymous comments will be deleted. Comments containing outside promotions and/or product links will also be removed. Thank you for your cooperation.