Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav

Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., by James Larson. San Antonio: Southern Literary Institute, 1935.

I finally finished this book last night and enjoyed it very much. James Larson was an enlisted man in Company H, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment when the war broke out in 1861. He accompanied his regiment east from the frontier to the western theater, where he served for the duration of the war. The book was published by his daughter after his death in 1921 in a limited edition of only 300 copies.

This book is valuable for the insight it provides into service by the common cavalryman in the western theater during the war. Larson's modest, candid writing style makes it easy for the reader to visualize the incidents that he describes, without much of the hyperbole often found in first-person accounts of the war. I have posted a few of these over the last several weeks, and a few more will follow in the future.

Larson provides excellent accounts of the departure of resigning officers at the war's outbreak, details of the long march east to the fighting, service with Minty's brigade, the opening skirmishes of the battle of Chickamauga, the battle of Nashville, and Wilson's 1865 raid to Selma and Macon. His narrative provides an enlightening view of the war from the perspective of an enlisted cavalryman.

This work provides little insight into grand strategy or macro views of battles, as Larson didn't have those views of the fights in which he was engaged. He does an excellent job of staying within the purview of what he saw and heard. What limited speculation that he does make is clearly labelled as such.

Overall, I think this book adds to the body of knowledge on the war, despite the overabundance of books on the subject, and merits publication in a second, larger edition if such a thing could be arranged.

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