Saturday, April 18, 2020

Booknotes: Not Till Then Can the World Know

New Arrival:
Not Till Then Can the World Know: Replacement Companies of the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry in the Trans-Mississippi by L. Spencer Busch & Valentine L. Spawr (Laurel Busch-Author, 2020).

From the description: "While the 14th Iowa Infantry was being organized in 1861, its first three companies (A, B, and C) were sent to the Dakota Territory. The remaining seven companies entered the Civil War in 1862, but to be complete the regiment still had to recruit replacements for the first three. This regimental history focuses on the replacement companies and on what the war was like for the men of the regiment in camp, on the march, and in battle in 1863 and 1864."

Laurel Busch's Not Till Then Can the World Know: Replacement Companies of the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry in the Trans-Mississippi contains both an annotated diary and a unit history narrative. "The first part is the diary kept by 8th Corporal Valentine L. Spawr, a member of the new Company C and the 14th Iowa color guard, in camp at Fort Halleck, Ky., in 1863. 

The second part covers the regiment’s fighting in the Trans-Mississippi in 1864—Sherman’s Meridian Expedition, Banks’s Red River Campaign, and battles at Tupelo, Miss., and Pilot Knob, Mo. It includes the controversy over the dismissal of Colonel William T. Shaw, the regiment’s organizer and first commander—later a brigade and division commander in the 16th Army Corps—for publicly criticizing General Nathaniel Banks and other officers after the battle of Pleasant Hill, La."

The editor/author uses "primary sources as much as possible, incorporating letters from soldiers in the same regiment and brigade, newspaper articles, and officers’ reports." The bibliography lists only a small number of online sources, but it appears to be only a select compilation (though it is not designated as such) as just a quick perusal through the footnotes reveals sources (the most obvious ones being newspapers) not listed there. The detailed roster of the three replacement companies was assembled from Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion.


  1. Very Interesting Service Record. Meridian Campaign, Red River Campaign, Tupelo, Pilot Knob. Not your typical Bull Run to Appomattox Record or Shiloh to Bentonville. Looks very interesting. Curtis Thomasco

    1. Hi Curtis,
      I don't have any notion of the quality of the diary and unit history yet, but I agree with you about the intriguing campaign record. I would like to know more about the detached battalion that these three companies were replacing, too.


If you wish to comment, please sign your name. Otherwise, your submission may be rejected, at the moderator's discretion. Comments containing outside promotions and/or links will be deleted.