The Bonds of War Now Available

We’re pleased to announce the release of the latest book in the Emerging Civil War Series: The Bonds of War: A Story of Immigrants and Esprit de Corps in Company C, 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry by Diana L. Dretske, available now from Southern Illinois University Press (click here for details).

The book began as a trip down a rabbit hole. Diana is the curator at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County in Libertyville, Illinois. One of the photos in the museum’s collection—”a treasured photo,” she says—featured five Union soldiers who were not fully identified. The result was “a project of recovery and reinterpretation” in which she not only tracked down the identities of the men but also felt compelled to share their stories. The result is a book that at once captures a soldiers’-eye view of the war, explores the complex dynamics of why men fought, and recounts the lives of five extraordinary “everymen.”

About the Book:

Utilizing an impressive array of local and national archives, as well as private papers, the author’s microhistorical approach records events that often go unnoticed, such as a farmer enlisting in the middle of a crop field, a sister searching her brother’s face for signs of war, and an immigrant dying in an effort to become a good American citizen.

This book, the most intensive examination of the 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry since the regiment’s history was published in 1887 centers on immigrants from the British Isles who wished to be citizens of a country at war with itself. Far removed from their native homelands, they found new promise in rural Illinois. These men, neighbors along the quiet Stateline Road in Lake County, decide to join the fighting at its most dangerous hour. The bonds of war become then the bonds of their new national identity.

The Bonds of War uncovers the common soldier from the cataclysm that is the American Civil War by offering a collective biography of five soldiers of the 96th in the Western Theater. The human drama of their lives unfolds before the reader on battlefields such as Chickamauga and within the high pine stockades of Andersonville. Their lives argue that those who seem to matter least in military history are the very ones who can tell us the most about the experience of war and the reasons for remembering.

About the Author:

Diana L. Dretske, curator and Lake County historian at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, has explored, for more than thirty years, the history of northeastern Illinois through her research, presentations, and blog. Her books include Lake County, Illinois: An Illustrated History and Views of America: Fort Sheridan. In 2012 the Illinois State Historical Society recognized her with a lifetime achievement award for outstanding contributions in promoting, preserving, and commemorating Illinois history.

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