Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Booknotes: Yours Affectionately, Osgood

New Arrival:
Yours Affectionately, Osgood: Colonel Osgood Vose Tracy’s Letters Home from the Civil War, 1862–1865 edited by Sarah Tracy Burrows & Ryan W. Keating (Kent St UP, 2022).

Yours Affectionately, Osgood: Colonel Osgood Vose Tracy’s Letters Home from the Civil War, 1862–1865 is the third installment in KSUP's Interpreting the Civil War: Texts and Contexts series. This edited collection is a collaboration between Tracy descendant Sarah Tracy Burrows (who "has compiled this expansive collection from her family’s private papers") and historian Ryan Keating. "Tracy’s letters home follow his journey as a soldier and prisoner of war from his enlistment in August 1862 through the end of the war in May 1865, as Tracy then readjusted to civilian life."

Most of the letters are from Tracy to his widowed mother (the need to care for presumably the reason behind his delayed enlistment), with those letters supplemented by correspondence with other family members as well as Tracy's fiance. Tracy's regiment, the 122nd New York Volunteer Infantry, was mustered into service at the end of August 1862 and saw its first field service during the Maryland Campaign. This was followed by participation in the Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Overland, 1864 Shenandoah, Richmond-Petersburg, and Appomattox campaigns and battles.

According to the editors, the only major correspondence blackouts occurred in two places: during Tracy's imprisonment (and escape) and his regiment's brief period of detached service guarding enemy POWs at Johnson's Island, Ohio. Those gaps as well as Tracy's postwar life are addressed through supplemental primary sources.

The volume's general introduction discusses Osgood Tracy's life before the war, offers a general description of the nature of the letter collection, and provides some background information about a select group of army comrades most frequently mentioned in Tracy's letters. Historian Ryan Keating lends additional context through the volume's extensive chapter introductions and footnotes.

From the description: Tracy's letters "provide a uniquely detailed perspective of everyday life in the Army of the Potomac, adding considerably to the existing literature on the experiences of citizen soldiers in America’s Civil War. A well-educated young man, Tracy offers his opinion on pressing social and political issues of the time, including his definite abolitionist sentiments; ruminates on the Union war effort and its campaigns; and demonstrates his deep commitment to family, as well as his sweetheart, Nellie Sedgwick, back home."

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