Men from all walks of life and all ranks in the service are represented here over the span of the entire war. The famous and anonymous are included—personal stories of great battles and humorous stories of army life.
You'll find pathos, sorrow, fear, and great courage detailed in these letters. Most soldiers were very humble and modest about their own accomplishments but spoke of their comrades with love and admiration. Common soldiers often made remarkable observations.
Every memoir of the American Civil War provides us with another view of the catastrophe that changed the country forever.
For the first time, this long out-of-print volume is available as an affordable, well-formatted book for e-readers, tablets, and smartphones.
Be sure to LOOK INSIDE by clicking the cover above or download a sample.
Chandler B. Gillam wrote his wife faithfully during the two years that he was in the 28th New York Volunteers. His letters described the regiment’s food and housing and discussed generals and politics. He yearned for his home and worried about his farm.
W. L. Hicks kept a diary which he entitled , “History of the 28th New York Volunteers.” His manuscript was found amid the hundred letters in the Gillam collection. Hicks recorded the regiment’s organization, activities, and leadership changes, and told stories about military life.
Gillam and Hicks were among the first to enlist when President Lincoln called for volunteers after South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter on April 14, 1861. They and almost 800 other men from Western New York were formed into the 28th New York Volunteers. Like most volunteers, they were eager to fight to suppress the rebellion and save the Union. They did not think the war would last long.
After a month in training, the regiment moved to Washington, D.C., where it paraded before President Lincoln on July 4th. It then marched to Martinsburg and areas near Harper’s Ferry. Placed in a division under General Robert Patterson, the men expected to march forward to Winchester and prevent the Confederacy from reinforcing southern forces in Manassas. Instead, Patterson marched his division back to Charlestown. When the Union lost the first battle of Bull Run, morale sank, and Gillam wrote on August 6, 1861, that “if all the Gens. do as Patterson did, the war will last a good while.”
The waiting for action continued through the fall, although grumbling decreased after Maj. General Nathaniel Banks replaced Patterson in command. On October 21 the regiment marched to Edward’s Ferry where they saw the sad results of the Union loss at Ball’s Bluff. Gillam wrote on October 23, “Our men will not show much mercy when they go into battle which will come off this week.” His hopes for action were again disappointed.
By the beginning of 1862 it was clear that Stonewall Jackson would be the main challenge of the 28th New York. In April 1862 Company I of the 28th participated when Jackson attacked General James Shields in a battle for Winchester. Gillam wrote the rest of the 28th was not involved in that battle but they took part in the chase.
After Shields’ Division withdrew, Banks’ men were the only Union forces left in the Shenandoah Valley, while Jackson’s forces were reinforced. On May 25, the Confederate forces attacked the right wing of Banks’ Division. Although the left flank where the 28th was fighting was holding its own, its leader, Colonel Dudley Donnelly, received orders to retire. The 28th was the last regiment to leave the field. Gillam and Hicks wrote of Winchester citizens adding to the Confederate shelling by firing from their windows.
Winchester continued to change hands and by June 7 the 28th New York was back in Winchester. Gillam wrote of the May 25 fight, “Well, I have had a chance to be in one fight. I tell you the shells and solid shot don’t sound very nice whistling over a person’s head and the bullets flying round his head; it is not very nice music.”
The regiment’s second battle in Virginia was at Cedar Mountain. In July 1862 General Banks’ forces moved toward Warrenton, and Confederate forces under Jackson sought to cut them off. The First Brigade moved toward Cedar Mountain and Banks sent orders to hold the position. When the rest of the corps arrived on August 9, the First Brigade was ordered into the woods facing a cleared wheat field. Across the field was another woods where the Confederates had artillery. The First Brigade advanced through artillery fire and hand to hand combat and captured two cannon. Confeder
In 1863 Horace Porter, then a captain, met Ulysses S. Grant as Grant commenced the campaign that would break the Confederate siege at Chattanooga. After a brief stint in Washington, Porter rejoined Grant, who was now in command of all Union forces, and served with him as a staff aide from April 1864 until the end of the war. He accompanied Grant into battle in the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg campaigns and was present at Lee’s surrender at McLean’s house. Throughout the war he kept extensive notes that capture Grant’s conversations as well as his own observations of military life.
Porter was at Appomattox as a brevet brigadier general, and this work, written from notes taken in the field, is his eyewitness account of the great struggle between Lee and Grant that led to the defeat of the Confederacy.
As a close-up observer of Grant in the field, Porter was also able to draw a finely detailed, fully realized portrait of this American military hero—his daily acts, his personal traits and habits, and the motives that inspired him in important crises rendered in the language that Grant used at the time.
Porter intended to bring readers into such intimate contact with the Union commander that they could know him as well as those who served by his side. He acquits himself admirably in this undertaking, giving us a moving human document and a remarkable perspective on a crucial chapter of American history.
We also hear of Grant’s dealings with Lincoln, of the close relationship between Sherman and Grant, and of Lee’s noble bearing at his surrender. This is a stirring account that brings to life our country’s most memorable conflict.