Monday, July 13, 2020

Booknotes: Sacrifice All for the Union

New Arrival:
Sacrifice All for the Union: The Civil War Experiences of Captain John Valley Young and his Family by Philip Hatfield (35th Star, 2020).

According to author Philip Hatfield, "(t)he story of Captain John Valley Young personifies the body of rugged Union Army volunteers from West Virginia during the Civil War: highly resilient, stubbornly independent, and fiercely patriotic. Using Captain Young’s wartime letters to his wife, Paulina Franklin Young, and his daughters, Sarah and Emily Young, along with his diary and numerous other original soldier accounts, this book reveals the experiences of a Union soldier and his family who were truly willing to “Sacrifice All for the Union.”"

More from the description: "Young, a farmer and Methodist-Episcopalian minister prior to the Civil War, during April 1861 raised a company of Union volunteers at the strongly pro-Southern village of Coalsmouth, Virginia, (modern St. Albans, West Virginia). He was adamantly opposed to slavery, yet often expressed a bitter ire at having to fight a violent civil war because his beloved nation had thus far failed to eradicate the awful practice. His company became Company G of the 13th West Virginia Infantry and was later transferred to the 11th West Virginia Infantry."

Young and his unit fought guerrillas and Confederate soldiers on both sides of the mountains in Virginia. Small West Virginia-based presses are responsible for much of the book literature detailing military actions in the Kanawha Valley and the rest of the state, and this book certainly is a part of that ongoing tradition. "While he displayed an unshakeable desire to preserve the Union, Young’s convictions were severely tested as he and his family faced constant dangers from guerillas and Confederate raids in the Kanawha Valley. Captain Young also participated in more than one hundred skirmishes and eleven major engagements in the bloody Shenandoah Valley, and at Petersburg, and Appomattox; more than any other Union officer from West Virginia." Though he survived the war, Young ultimately succumbed to tuberculosis in 1867.

The book is written in narrative format with extensively quoted letter excerpts directly incorporated into the text. From a glancing look through the chapter notes, it's apparent that Young left behind both war diary and letters. The appendix section contains company muster roll information and returns from various dates.

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