Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review - "Waul's Legion: History of the Texas Legion" by Michael Steinman

[Waul's Legion: History of the Texas Legion by Michael Steinman (Author, 2019). Softcover, maps, diagrams, tables, roster, notes, bibliography. Pages:xiv,331/346. ISBN:978-1-4834-9606-1. $29.99]

The Union and Confederate volunteer armies shared the same basic top-to-bottom organization and unit types, but the Confederates in particular were most enamored, albeit briefly, with the concept of the legion, an all-arms formation that swiftly proved impractical to integrate into the rest of the army. The infantry, cavalry, and artillery components of legions typically did not go into action together as designed but were rather detached from one another at the front or before and reassigned to different formations that often ending up serving hundreds of miles apart from each other.

Legions came in a variety of strengths, and the one organized in Texas in early spring 1862 by Colonel Thomas Neville Waul was one of the larger ones, being initially composed of twelve infantry companies commanded by Lt. Col. B. Timmons, six mounted companies led by Lt. Col. L. Willis, and two (instead of the more typical one) artillery batteries led by captains W. Edgar and J.Q. Wall. Preceded only by Robert and Leif Hasskarl's rudimentary 1976 work Waul's Texas Legion, 1862-1865, Michael Steinman's Waul's Legion: History of the Texas Legion is only the second book-length study of the unit to appear in the literature. It is divided into four major parts: service history (50 pages), assignments and orders of battle (20 pages), biographical sketches (30 pages), and roster (200 pages).

The large dimensions of Steinman's book (an 81/2 x 11 inch softcover 346 pages in length) might lead a prospective reader to expect an extensive narrative history of the legion's Civil War service, but that isn't really the case. As indicated above, the service histories, which follow each of the infantry, cavalry, and artillery components across the Trans-Mississippi and western theaters, are basic overviews that together run around 50 pages. Though each branch of the legion participated in the 1862-63 Vicksburg Campaign, they did not actively serve together in the field. After the Vicksburg surrender, the paroled infantry reorganized back to Texas, where the two battalions were consolidated into what would be called Timmons's Regiment. There they defended the state's vulnerable coastline for the duration of the conflict. When the cavalry battalion (a.k.a. Willis's Texas Cavalry Battalion) was split off in October 1862, it was first assigned to William H. Jackson's command in North Mississippi. The battalion participated in the Holly Springs Raid and operated around the Vicksburg area over the first half of 1863 before being reassigned to Chalmers's Brigade of General Forrest's cavalry command. Over the next twelve months, the battalion fought in several raids and battles. including the Meridian Expedition, Fort Pillow, and Tupelo. It ended the war serving in the Gulf region. Edgar's Battery did not cross the Mississippi. Instead, it was attached to Walker's Texas Division and marched and fought all over Arkansas and Louisiana. Hogue's Battery (Company B) did cross into Mississippi with the rest of Legion. After its Vicksburg parole and exchange, it was disbanded in February 1864, the remaining men reassigned to the McMahan's Battery (2nd Texas Field Artillery). Being a bit more detailed, the cavalry section is arguably the strongest of the three parts, with the artillery the least developed. Supporting cartography (collected at the rear of the book) consists of a set of state maps with location labels for sites mentioned in the text.

As mentioned above, the service narratives are followed by the order of battle section. In it, the infantry, cavalry, and artillery formation and administrative assignments are arranged in tabular format by date. An organizational history of each company is next, with officer and NCO tables attached along with some brief text. The volume's collection of biographical sketches covers individuals that either served with the unit or were associated with it in some significant manner. Their ranks range from private soldiers on up to general officers. As is the case for most studies of this type, roster information was gleaned primarily from the CSRs. Entries typically include name, unit, enlistment date and location, rank, and miscellaneous remarks (the last often related to notes regarding death, discharge, transfer(s), surrender/parole, desertion, and illness).

Given the large number of officers and men that fought with Waul's Texas Legion and the wide breadth of their war service, there's little doubt that enough source material exists to produce a truly comprehensive narrative history of the unit's Civil War career. While readers will have to wait for another author to produce a work along those lines, Michael Steinman's multi-purpose study does provide an abundance of valuable reference tools to go along with its more outline-form history of the Legion's many campaigns and battles.

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