Monday, October 4, 2021

Booknotes: Rebel Correspondent

New Arrival:
Rebel Correspondent by Steve Procko (Steve Procko Productions - Author, 2021).

Arba F. Shaw enlisted in the 4th Georgia Cavalry (Avery's) just after he turned eighteen years of age and served in its Company F for the duration of the war. From the description: "At the beginning of the twentieth century, Arba F. Shaw was a fifty-seven-year-old farmer. On a chilly December day in 1901, he put pen to paper to write his memories of being a Rebel private in the 4th Georgia Cavalry (Avery), C.S.A. He completed writing his account in February 1902. His local newspaper, the Walker County Messenger, in Lafayette, Georgia, published his account in more than fifty articles from 1901 to 1903." Extensively edited by Steve Procko, that collection of remembrances has now been published in book format under the title Rebel Correspondent. According to Procko, Shaw's "eyewitness accounts are perhaps the only written record of some of the day-to-day activities" of his regiment available today.

In January 1863, the 23rd Georgia Cavalry Battalion completed its reorganization and expansion into a full regiment, the new unit being the 4th Georgia Cavalry (Avery's) [to be differentiated from the 4th Georgia Cavalry (Clinch's) regiment of the same number, a mix-up that took some time to resolve and is explained in Chapter 14]. The regiment fought in the Chickamauga, East Tennessee, and Atlanta Campaigns. Escaping the "siege" of Savannah, Avery's 4th was reorganized again and redesignated the 12th Georgia Cavalry, which fought during the 1865 Carolinas Campaign before surrendering at Bennett Place with the remnants of the Army of Tennessee. Shaw himself was wounded at the Battle of New Hope Church. Returning to the unit after a convalescence, he was badly wounded again only five months later.

Procko retains the original serialized presentation of Shaw's newspaper-published memoir. Further organized into chapters, those parts are italicized and extensive bridging text (a dense amount of material that could easily fill an entire book on its own) inserted between each installment. Both memoir and text are footnoted. While contextualizing Shaw's experiences within the wider war around him, Procko's text additionally serves as a parallel history of the regiment. It also tells the tale of the memoir itself while also being chock full of additional biographical details for Shaw and other members of his unit. There's no bibliography available to offer some kind of instant impression of the amount of additional research that went into all of the above, but a glance through the footnotes gives off a favorable vibe. Numerous photographs, historical illustrations, and area maps are also sprinkled throughout the text. The final chapter is a compiled roster of Shaw's Company F. While scarce records render it incomplete, for those individuals that are included there is quite a bit of information provided.

1 comment:

  1. I am leery of self-published books but this looks great. Looking forward to your full review.

    ReplyDelete

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