Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review: Common Soldier, Uncommon War

One of the most interesting and entertaining of Civil War books that I've read recently is Common Soldier, Uncommon War, by Sidney Morris Davis. Davis was a private in Company F, 6th US Cavalry, and his memoirs cover his service from his enlistment as the regiment was forming until the end of the war.

Sidney takes the reader on an almost day by day adventure through the war in the boots of a common soldier. As a result, it's one of the most comprehensive looks at life in the Union cavalry during the Civil War that I've ever seen. Nothing escapes Morris' mention. From how new horses were assigned to soldiers and how new soldiers were taught to ride them to the hijinks of 'foraging' to opinions on the effectiveness of various officers, Morris has an opinion.

His modest yet tongue in cheek writing style and plethora of amusing anecdotes make this memoir a very easy read. Every page seemingly has a new story or incident worth noting. the editor, Charles F. Cooney, did an excellent job of not intruding overly much in the narrative, merely adding the occasional footnote to clarify a location or individual.

In addition to the multitude of details that this book provides on life in the cavalry in the Civil War, it also has a vivid section on the experiences of Union soldiers in Belle Isle prison late in the war. Morris was captured during the Battle of Fairfield in July 1863, as were many in his regiment, and he chronicles their experiences on the long march back to Richmond from Pennsylvania and their subsequent experiences with prison life.

One drawback to this work is that it is very difficult to find. Affordable used copies can occasionally be found on Amazon and Alibris, and Eric was kind enough to send a note recently of a reprinted edition.

Lest everyone think that I love every book that I read, the next review will note be quite so positive. While I believe if one doesn't have anything good to say they should stay quiet, it is fair to warn others of books' contents before they spend money to buy them so long as the comments are fair and factual.

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