Question of the Week: 1/18-1/24/21

Who is your favorite regimental historian and/or regimental history book?

20 Responses to Question of the Week: 1/18-1/24/21

  1. I’ll consider a warship the naval equivalent of a regiment and cite Raphael Semmes’s Memoirs of Service Afloat telling the great story of the CSS Alabama.

  2. Warren Wilkinson’s Mother May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen about the 57th Massachusetts is outstanding in the way it brings that regiment back to life. I’m also a fan of Howard Coffin and his work on the Vermont Brigade.

  3. William Forse Scott ” Story of a Cavalry Regiment: The Career of the 4th Iowa Veteran Volunteers.

  4. I’ve only read a few regimental histories, and those that I read were full of mistakes and not as informative as I would have liked, considering they were written by men from the regiment. I’m sure there are great ones out there though.
    I believe in one of his Gettysburg tour videos posted on YouTube, Park Ranger Matt Atkinson mentions the regimental history of the 124th New York. He says that in it there is a map of the regiments position near Devils Den in that battle and it has every single soldier identified and marked where they stood during the fight. I haven’t seen it, but wow would it be something cool to ponder over, especially if you had a relative in the regiment.

  5. Three Rousing Cheers: A History of the Fifteenth New Jersey by Joseph G. Bilby.
    This New Jersey regimental gives an excellent perspective on a volunteer soldiers daily life in the Army of the Potomac, including the terrors of close combat as well as humors of camp life. Much of the book is woven with contemporary diaries and articles from the day. Joseph Bilby is a fantastic author that won’t let one put this book down and makes this a terrific regimental history.

  6. Not just one, but a well-researched collection of about 60 largely forgotten ones – “Guide to Missouri Confederate Units” by James McGhee. The units of a half dozen of my ancestors included. The author was my wife’s cousin. He dedicated the book to his father, a Baptist preacher, who performed the wedding ceremony for my wife & I.

  7. Lance Herdegen for his research and books on the Iron Brigade. Besides his detailed explanations of the history of the regiments in and between actions, he provides in depth looks at the individual officers and soldiers of the units. The what’s & when’s are covered but far more importantly the whys & hows.

  8. I’m going to cheat and be indecisive. George Henry Gordon’s “Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain” starts as a regimental of the 2nd Mass and is a great read. Otherwise, I like Boyle’s history of the 111th Pennsylvania and Bryant’s 3rd Wisconsin history.

  9. Personally, I vastly prefer regimental histories written by the veterans themselves. Though they aren’t always perfect and sometimes lack the benefit of hindsight or outside sources, it gives insight as to how these men valued and remembered their service – you get an idea of what was important to them. I certainly value recent scholarship, but prefer to find that information in larger volumes with small sections on particular units rather than modern monographs. In no particular order, here’s the three I’ve enjoyed the most:

    A.P. Smith’s history of the 76th NY is fairly strong, especially considering it was first published in 1867. A very underrated regiment, though the internal regimental drama around Smith leads to some missteps that a modern scholar would better examine.

    Edmund Brown’s 1899 regimental history for the 27th Indiana is one of the most vivid accounts I’ve examined, and is a very enjoyable read. For example, Brown rants about poor quality food at a particular camp, something that was very important to him but that a modern author might not discuss. Also has excellent accounts of fighting on Culp’s Hill and the aftermath of battle there.

    Though not exactly a regimental history, Edward Spangler’s 1904 “My Little War Experience: With Historical Sketches and Memorabilia” is as close as you’ll get to a veteran’s regimental history of the 130th Pennsylvania. It’s my most recent acquisition and I’m having a good time with it so far.

    1. It’s a matter of personal preference, as you imply. I prefer the modern studies. Too many of the post-war books were written by veterans who served in the units and there was a tendency to exaggerate what they did and to ignore or downplay the problems. A lot of the modern studies also work in detail about members’ backgrounds, demographics, etc. that was missing from the early books.

      1. I think that’s a fair criticism, and one that makes the more honest period histories even more valuable! I agree that modern studies have the benefit of better documentation, though I’ve seen excellent details on backgrounds and demographics in period ones too. For example, the 76th has biographies (and many images) of 53 officers as well as several shorter in-text backgrounds of enlisted, and the 27th had some cool stuff on demographics.

        It is definitely good many units have both sets of resources!

  10. We Might As Well Die Here – The 53rd Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry by Irvin G Myers

  11. My favorite regimental history is Covered With Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry At The Battle of Gettysburg and my favorite brigade history is Lee’s Tar Heels; The Pettigrew-Kirkland-McRae Brigade.

    I had many relatives fight in the 26th, 44th, and 47th North Carolina.

  12. Yankee Tigers & Yankee Tigers II, by the late Richard Baumgartner. I confess to considerable bias; my great-grandfather Warren and his brother Wesley were members of the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment covered in these two publications.

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