Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Review - "Civil War Generals of Indiana" by Carl Kramer

[Civil War Generals of Indiana by Carl E. Kramer (Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, 2022). Softcover, photos, bibliography. Pages main/total:127/140. ISBN:978-1-4671-5195-5. $23.99]

Population mobility and many other factors combine to make definitive attachment of a Civil War general's name to any one particular state a frequently awkward exercise. Even so, state affiliation (however one measures it) remains a popular way of categorizing officers with stars on their shoulder straps. Found inside Carl Kramer's Civil War Generals of Indiana are capsule biographies and Civil War service summaries for 121 individuals, further broken down into 44 United States Volunteer army generals (and one Confederate general), 62 brevet generals, and 14 generals of state service.

As noted in the volume's introduction, selection was informed by any of three criteria: (1) birth (any general officer born in the state was selected regardless of the depth of subsequent ties), (2) residence (those who were born elsewhere but spent formative years or any other significant time in the state), and (3) wartime arrival (those who came to Indiana during the war, acted in a command capacity while there, and continued to have state ties after the war). There are figures in Kramer's register that Civil War readers would more readily associate with another state, but the author's decision to err on the side of inclusivity is reasonable, certainly no great sin committed against history.

Entries commonly follow a four-paragraph structure. The first very briefly recounts the subject's early life and (if applicable) any prewar political and/or military experience. The second and third paragraphs summarize the general's Civil War activities, with key dates (ex. for promotions) and perhaps some commentary. The final paragraph typically describes the end of the officer's Civil War service along with his postwar career path, death, and burial place. Most of the federal volunteer generals have photographs attached, but none were included for the brevet brigadiers or the state generals.

The text is not annotated, and the sources listed in the bibliography suggest that much of the information was compiled using a selection of classic reference books and sets. Examples of those include A Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana (2 Vols.), the Dictionary of American Biography (20 Vols.), A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly (Vol. 1), Warner's Generals in Blue, and the state adjutant general's official report.

Kramer's volume usefully introduces readers to a great number of obscure figures deserving wider notice. There are a few federal army generals that well-informed readers, especially those less steeped in western theater campaigns and battles, still might not recognize, but where the non-household names really pile up is in the brevet brigadier and state general sections of the book. Kramer's work helps expose readers to the lives of a host of unsung Indiana colonels who were rewarded with general officer brevets at or near the end of the war. State quartermaster generals and ranking leaders of Indiana Legion formations also receive just due. Those two parts of the book, the brevet and state general sections, house the volume's freshest body of information and arguably the book's principal reference value.

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