Sunday, March 13, 2011

Curiosities of the Civil War by Webb Garrison

Garrison has made a compilation of many little known “curiosities” of the Civil War. It became clear to me early on that Garrison's level of curiosity is much higher than mine.
Was I really interested in Rev. B. C. Ward, a Congregationalist pastor from Illinois, who tried to recruit an infantry company composed of ordained clergy? (52) Was I really interested in the many accounts of severely handicapped men who fought in the War? Or the people who lost limbs, or the Major General who was afraid of horses or the Union Admiral and Confederate Major General who had migraines?
Sections in the lengthy work include the roll of women, hostages, and horses in the War, weapons used, role of “coloreds,” rivers, flags, quotes from leaders and newspapers and soldiers' diaries, sounds, friendly fire, brave adventures of wives, unusual names of boats, cost of the war, condensed milk and coffee paste, undercover agents, the only woman positively known to be killed in combat, pay scales, and much, much more.
I did find some items interesting. “Richard Thomas, leader of a band of Confederate irregulars, made a name for himself by dressing as a woman and calling himself 'the French Lady.'” (65) Maj. Gen. William Sherman had captured Confederates march at the head of the column as the Federal forces approached Savannah, Georgia to test for buried torpedoes (land mines). (66) U. S. Army Lt. Gen. Scott was too heavy to sit in a saddle. John Wilkes Booth could often be seen riding a one-eyed horse. A battle was fought at Glorieta, New Mexico, in 1862 “later described as being 'fully as furious as Gettysburg.'” (129) President Lincoln believed himself to be the illegitimate son of a man named Inlow. (219-220) Lincoln died in a bed John Wilkes Booth had once slept in. (222) Pvt. Jim Hanger became the first man to have a leg amputated during the Civil War. (404)
If you like those kinds of tidbits, you'll like this book.
Garrison was convinced of the value of his work. He writes, “...many of the 'curiosities' briefly treated in this volume loom to sudden and perhaps crucial importance.” (528) I'm not convinced. The value of this book would be, I think, to someone wanting to write a novel about the Civil War. The hundreds of little known facts included could provide added color to any plot. I seriously doubt many will read this book from cover to cover (as I did). The bibliography is large and the three columned 16 page index is adequate and is essential to this type of book.

I was provided with a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of this review.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 528 pages.

Publisher information.

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