Monday, January 6, 2020

Review - "Colonels in Blue - Missouri and the Western States and Territories: A Civil War Biographical Dictionary" by Roger Hunt

[Colonels in Blue - Missouri and the Western States and Territories: A Civil War Biographical Dictionary by Roger D. Hunt (McFarland, 2019). Softcover, photos, reference lists, bibliography, name index. Pp. 249. ISBN:978-1-4766-7589-3 $39.95]

Roger Hunt's Colonels in Blue - Missouri and the Western States and Territories is the seventh installment in his Colonels in Blue series, which is an ongoing project aimed at creating a comprehensive "biographical dictionary" of Union officers who "attained the rank of colonel in the Union army, but failed to win promotion to brigadier general or brevet brigadier general"* (pg. 1). Existing series coverage encompasses "the New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, the Mid-Atlantic states, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin," and this book addresses colonels who led infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments from Missouri, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Oregon, and Texas along with the western territories of Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington.

Every state and territory section in the book begins with a helpful regimental table that lists each commanding colonel and his dates of service. Unlike elsewhere, those colonels who were promoted out of the regiment are featured here, with their final rank designated in bold.

In the main biographical dictionary sections, the colonels are arranged alphabetically. Where applicable and/or known, individual entries include a brief Civil War service history, birth and death date and place, occupation(s), civilian public offices/honors, educational background, burial place, a miscellaneous section (most commonly consisting of residence information), and a full reference list. The service history sketch is a very date-intensive rundown of promotions, higher formation attachments, episodes of incapacitation (sickness/wounds/capture), and battle honors. Also frequently found are notes on personal conduct, particularly for those colonels who committed acts of gross malfeasance or were for a variety of reasons proved militarily unfit for command. The reference list section of each entry draws upon a large amount and variety of sources, including books, periodicals, government documents (especially pension records), archival collections, and a great number of newspapers.

As one might expect given the state's manpower contributions relative to the rest, well over half of the book is devoted to Missouri officers. Making his colonel register even more valuable was Hunt's wise decision to include all the home guard, reserve corps, and militia regiment commanders. This is particularly notable in the Missouri section of the book, for the Missouri State Militia, Enrolled Missouri Militia, and Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia regiments were very important frontline and rear area units that served within the state's borders and they continue to receive little in the way of detailed attention in the literature. Those researching the Missouri-Kansas border war, and the 1864 Missouri Campaign in particular, will also benefit from the author's work on the Kansas militia colonels.

Uncovering photographs (CDV-type or otherwise) of obscure Civil War figures, of which there are an enormous number in this volume, can be a very frustrating task, and Hunt deserves a great deal of credit for his dedicated detective work in this regard. It's difficult to accurately assess without a manual count, but it does appear that Hunt's scouring of public and private archives (including his own personal collection, which must be quite extensive by now) for photographs of some kind produced success around half of the time for the figures listed in the book. At first glance, that might not seem too impressive, but it rather is. Undoubtedly, a large proportion of these images are published for the first time in the pages of this book.

Another highly useful tool for serious Civil War researchers and genealogists that's well organized to suit its purpose, Roger Hunt's newest installment in his authoritative Colonels in Blue series is a great addition to any reference library..


* - To read about those that did achieve the higher rank, start with Ezra Warner's classic Generals in Blue and Hunt's own (with Jack R. Brown) 1998 book Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue.

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