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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Adding Value to Your Civil War Battle/Campaign History, Final Postscript

           One more way has occurred to me to make it easier to attain the standard of research set by Dr. Sommers, though on a smaller scale  This way does not involve the history of a battle or a campaign.  What I mean is, write a unit history.  Focusing on a single unit reduces the amount of material you must master.  As a general rule, the bigger the unit, the more the material one must master.   On the other hand, some units generated more material than others—a lot more.  A particularly literate infantry regiment might have penned more diaries, letters and memoirs than relatively less literate brigades.  Some units authored so little as not to afford worthwhile subjects for a unit history.  I currently have a manuscript at SavasBeatie on the 12th Regiment Virginia Infantry, in which a couple of my wife’s ancestors served.  The 12th Virginia’s soldiers generated volumes of material.  Two future governors of the Old Dominion served in the 12th.  At least four volumes were published by the 12th’s soldiers, and other volumes remain in manuscript.  When I chose a unit to write about, also I considered the 12th Regiment Mississippi Infantry, in which another of my wife’s ancestors served.  Very few letters, diaries or memoirs existed from that regiment.  There were individual writers from the 12th Virginia who have left more surviving material than the entire 12th Mississippi.  I also considered the 29th United States Colored Troops, an infantry regiment raised in Illinois.   Practically no literature survives from that regiment.  One could probably write an interesting article about how African Americans were recruited in a state that banned free blacks, practiced de facto slavery (calling it indentured servitude), and had almost declared itself a slave state (in 1829), but without the particulars afforded by diaries, letters and memoirs, it would be a pretty dry and indeed speculative tome.