Thursday, April 27, 2023

Booknotes: Through Blood and Fire, revised & expanded edition

New Arrival:
Through Blood and Fire: The Civil War Letters of Major Charles J. Mills, 1862-1865, Revised and Expanded Edition edited by J. Gregory Acken (Kent St UP, 2023).

From the description: "Charles J. Mills, the scion of a wealthy, prominent Boston family, experienced a privileged upbringing and was educated at Harvard University. When the Civil War began, Mills, like many of his college classmates, sought to secure a commission in the army. After a year of unsuccessful attempts, Mills was appointed second lieutenant in the Second Massachusetts Infantry in August 1862; however, he was seriously wounded at Antietam a month later. Following a nearly yearlong recovery, Mills eventually reentered the service as a staff officer, although he remained physically disabled for the rest of his life. He was initially with the Ninth Corps during the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns and later at the Second Corps headquarters."

If you are saying to yourself "hey, I've seen this one before," you would be correct. More from the description: "Compiled, edited, and privately published in a limited edition in 1982 by the late Gregory A. Coco, Through Blood and Fire did not achieve widespread attention and has been out of print for decades. This new edition of the Mills letters, extensively revised and edited by J. Gregory Acken, incorporates additional letters and source material and provides exhaustive annotations and analysis(.)" If you're curious, the Coco edition looks like this.

This new and improved edition retains both the original foreword by Richard Sommers and Coco's preface. I have never read Coco's publication so I can't comment on the differences between the two, but Acken's introduction does provide such information. Scrapping the previous organization of the material, Acken rearranged the Mills letters into shorter, more numerous chapters, adding additional historical context through an introduction and bridging text within each. The maps found in the Coco edition (some of which were hand-drawn) have been redone here by cartographer George Skoch, and some of the original illustrations have been replaced with photographs.

I would imagine that much of the reader/researcher appeal of these letters lies in Major Mills's staff officer experiences and observations. "During his time in the army, Mills served under seven different generals and witnessed some of the most intense fighting of the war. Mills’s letters to his family offer enlightening insights about the Civil War in the East as seen from the perspective of an educated, impressionable, and opinionated Bostonian Brahmin."

Gregory Acken's "revitalizing" edition of Through Blood and Fire makes more widely available an important firsthand account of the 1864-65 campaigns in the East.

No comments:

Post a Comment

***PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING***: You must SIGN YOUR NAME when submitting your comment. 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 removed. Thank you for your cooperation.