Friday, November 2, 2007

'New' Biographical Reference

I found a new (for me) biographical reference yesterday. While doing some research on George Myers' reenlistment officer, Thomas W. Simson, I came across an entry on a Google search from a reference I hadn't seen before. The work was Guy Vernor Henry's two volume Military Record of Civilian Appointments in the United States Army , published in New York in 1873.

Henry compiled the work in attempt to capture the service of military officers who did not graduate from the military academies, feeling that their service and contributions were not being preserved for the future. From a scholarly standpoint, some of the information could be considered suspect, as Henry solicited the officers or their survivors to provide his information and some of it cannot be verified. He didn't let this lead to hyperbole, however, and the vast majority of the entries are very concise. For a unit like the 6th US Cavalry, the majority of whose officers were not military academy graduates, the books are very helpful.

One part of the first volume that I was very happy to discover was the section on medical officers of the regular army. I had previously unearthed very little information on surgeons and assistant surgeons appointed and assigned to the regular army.

The two volumes vary slightly in organization. The first volume attempts to list officers by branch of service, while the second simply lists them alphabetically. Only on rare occasions in the first volume is someone listed under the wrong branch of service. Both volumes are indexed, however, and information is easily located.

Overall, I think Henry's work is a valuable research tool, and a good companion for Heitman's and Powell's works. And although the files are quite large (42MB for Volume I and 30 MB for Volume 2), as a free download you can't beat the price.

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