Thursday, February 24, 2011

4th U.S. Cavalry Tribute

I stumbled across a tribute to the 4th U.S. Cavalry in the National Tribune while researching something totally unrelated. Unfortunately, I only have part of one column of the article on the page I received from USAHEC.

The author was a former volunteer cavalryman, and among other topics he seems to primarily write about actions around Corinth in October 1862.

"The 4th U.S. Cav. was as fine a regiment as was ever organized in any war. The discipline, the gallantry, the bravery and prowess of that regiment was not excelled by any regiment in any department of the armies of the United States"

He continues to write about other units who participated in the fight, including the 72nd Indiana Mounted Infantry, 5th Kentucky Cavalry, 3rd Illinois Cavalry, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tennessee Cavalry, and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. The last regiment was apparently instrumental in saving the day.

It seems all things these days are somehow connected to the 6th U.S. Cavalry, and I just realized this article has one, too. The commander of the 5th Kentucky Cavalry aat this time was none other than William Sanders, former captain of the 6th U.S. Cavalry and cousin of Jefferson Davis.

The article, for those who would like to look into this further, is the May 28, 1891 issue of the National Tribune, page 3, column 4 and possibly others (mine was in column 2).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - Distant Bugles, Distant Drums

In Distant Bugles, Distant Drums, author Flint Whitlock conducts an in-depth analysis of the New Mexico campaign of 1862. Previous works have related primarily the Confederate viewpoint of the campaign, due in large part to the availability of primary source material from the campaign. Mr. Whitlock presents a more Union-centric approach, with a careful blend of primary accounts of both sides. The principal narrators of this story are the leaders and members of the 1st Colorado Volunteers. Through exhaustive research in the Colorado state archives, he has pieced together a narrative as enjoyable and accurate as it is compelling.

Too often in historical writing, accuracy and an enjoyable writing style are mutually exclusive. This is definitely not the case for this book. Whitlock provides a very lively and entertaining account of the campaign, from its roots to its culmination. He weaves firsthand accounts of the campaign into very accurate and coherent narration of the campaign’s skirmishes and battles. Unlike many books of this sort, there are actually enough maps to enable the reader to easily follow the action. Surprisingly, the author created them himself, and they greatly assist the reader to follow the individual engagements and the campaign as a whole.

This is far from a simple battle book, however. Whitlock develops his characters as well as many fiction writers, presenting them with both their strengths and foibles. The overwhelming majority of them are multi-faceted, with the possible exception of Henry H. Sibley. Although told from a primarily Union viewpoint, the author carefully blends in the situation and decisions of both sides as the campaign develops.

At the end of the campaign, Whitlock’s summary of the major players’ careers through the remainder of the war and modern descriptions of the locations of the book was both entertaining and enlightening. Given the depth of information about the 1st Colorado, a roster for the regiment would not have been out of place, but this was a campaign study and not a regimental history.

If I had one issue with this book, it would be that at times it seems a bit too 1st Colorado-centric. The efforts of the New Mexico volunteers are dismissed outright, and I would have liked to see more of the point of view of the Regular Army units and leaders. This may simply be due to the information available to the author, however, as official reports from the Official Records often don’t offer such insight. It is a minor issue that does not detract from the book, however. This is an excellent read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in examining this generally poorly understood theater of the war.