Saturday, January 23, 2021

Booknotes: On Rising Ground

New Arrival:
On Rising Ground: The Life and Civil War Letters of John M. Douthit, Fifty-Second Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment by Elaine Fowler Palencia (Mercer UP, 2021).

From the description: "When John M. Douthit of Appalachian Georgia enlisted as a private in Fannin County's 52nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment on March 4, 1862 and marched with neighbors to train at Camp McDonald, he left behind a pregnant wife, an eighteen-month-old daughter, and a small farm." Between March 1862 and May 1863, Douthit (a quick skim failed to uncover mention of how the family pronounced their unusual last name) regularly wrote home, his twenty-eight surviving letters forming the core of On Rising Ground: The Life and Civil War Letters of John M. Douthit, Fifty-Second Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

During his service, Douthit "served south of Cumberland Gap; through the failed Confederate invasion of Kentucky; on the march to join Bragg's forces near Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and finally, to the defense of Vicksburg, where John and his fellow North Georgians arrived during the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou. At Vicksburg, where John's younger brother Warren Davis Douthit joined him, five North Georgia regiments solidified into what became known as the Barton-Stovall Brigade. The Brigade manned the water batteries at Warrenton, Mississippi, fought in the Battle of Champion Hill, and afterward was bottled up in the siege of Vicksburg." After the Vicksburg surrender, Douthit and his brother Davis, both men too sick with dysentery for arduous travel with their fellow parolees, were shipped to St. Louis Hospital in New Orleans where John died in July and Davis the following month.

Elaine Fowler Palencia's editorial duties are expansive and include considerable background and bridging narrative. Gaps in Douthit's correspondence are further filled with other letters written by soldiers of similar rank in Douthit's regiment and brigade as well as their Union opponents. Chapters in the book also address Douthit family history before and after the war, the latter further illustrating the lasting impact of the deaths of John and his brother. In addition to assembling a small collection of maps and photographs for inclusion in the book, Palencia also provides footnotes to the text.


  1. Drew,

    I went to grade school with a girl who had that last name. she pronounced it "DOW-thit".


    1. Thanks, Brett. My guesses were "DOO-thit" and "Doubt-it"


When commenting, PLEASE SIGN YOUR NAME. 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 deleted. Thank you.