Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Booknotes: Hoosier Spies and Horse Marines

New Arrival:

Hoosier Spies and Horse Marines: A History of the Third Indiana Cavalry, East Wing by James A. Goecker (McFarland, 2023).

From the description: Hoosier Spies and Horse Marines "traces the history of a remarkable troop of Hoosier horsemen—the East Wing of the Third Indiana Cavalry—during the Civil War. From the backwaters of the war in eastern Maryland to the epicenter of cavalry action in the eastern theater, they fought at Antietam, Brandy Station, Gettysburg and around Petersburg, and helped subdue Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley. Along the way they served as spies and fought in dozens of vicious skirmishes and battles. At Appomattox, they escorted one of the most famous generals to come out of the war."

The six companies (A-F) that make up the object of this unit study were initially intended to become part of the First Indiana Cavalry, which was oversized at 14 companies and geographically scattered. To bring order out of this bit of organizational mess, the demi-regiment in Washington, D.C. was detached and formally redesignated as the East Wing of the new Third Indiana Cavalry. If there's an East Wing there has to be a West Wing, and that Third Indiana unit, eventually consisting of the remaining companies G-M, served in the western theater. The two units never fought alongside each other.

Upon quick perusal of the bibliography, it looks like author James Goecker was able to mine archives (in Indiana and elsewhere) for a fair number of member journals, letters, and other personal papers. The text appears to be primarily a military history narrative of the unit's campaigns and battles with the Army of the Potomac, bookended by organizational and postwar chapters. A number of fine-looking, full-page battle maps are sprinkled about in support. The appendix section consists of a Gettysburg casualty list and a detailed unit roster, the latter also including a more simplified list from an 1864 reorganization.

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