Monday, April 16, 2007

Book Review: Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry

Lest people start to think that I only review books after I finish one of Eric's, I'll be featuring a few more titles here over the next couple of months. I'm finally managing to finish some of these titles that I've acquired....

Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry, by George F. Price, is a history of the 5th Cavalry Regiment from its creation in 1855 until the book's initial publication in 1883. It was reprinted in a limited edition of 750 copies by Antiquarian Press Limited in 1959. The book is written in three parts: a narrative history of the regiment, a listing of officers assigned to the regiment, and an appendix.

The narrative covers the regiment from its creation in 1855 until 1883, when the regiment was stationed in Montana. Price's account provides a good idea of how regular army units were organized and trained prior to the Civil War. His history is 176 pages long, with 5 brief chapters totalling 32 pages covering the regiment's activities during the Civil War. While there are some good nuggets in there, some of the coverage is very skimpy. In one paragraph, for example, Price covers the battle of Gettysburg, the pursuit of Lee's army, re-equipping the regiment at Giesborough Point, and operations at Bristoe Station and Mine Run.

To my mind, the best of the book's information is in the second section. Price lists biographical sketches of every single officer assigned to the regiment throughout its history. This is a gold mine of information, as even the junior officers are covered. It is a very long section and the majority of the book at 406 pages, but to my mind worth every one of them. In some cases there is obvious bias, and some of them are rather lengthy (Albert S. Johnston, for example, nets 18 pages), but overall this is a very valuable resource.

The appendix also contains a wealth of data. Compiled from the regiment's official papers, it includes listings of all field officers, all commissioned and noncommissioned staff members, company officers organized by company, regimental duty stations, the complete battle roster, and more.

Overall, this is an excellent, though hard to find, resource. It is very important to remember, however, that this is a secondary source as far as the Civil War section is concerned. Price was not actually assigned to the regiment during the Civil War, though he is listed as a captain of the 5th cavalry on the title page. He served in volunteer cavalry units in the far west during the war, so the majority of the Civil war information is taken at second hand from unit records and conversations with those who were still serving when he was posted to the regiment.

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