Book Review Destruction and Reconstruction: Personel Experiences of the Civil War by Richard Taylor

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Rusk County Avengers

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Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Civil War
By- Lt. General Richard Taylor, CSA
Published by-De Capo Press
Pages- 274, Introduction, text, and index
ISBN- 0-306-80624-X

When looking at Book Reviews, I've always noticed a lack of memoirs by CW veterans, my favorite type of CW book. While I personally prefer memoirs by enlisted men above all else, I figure this much remembered and controversial book deserves attention, especially since I just re-read it for the first time in a LONG time.

To many Richard Taylor is forgotten, or just remembered for his very short service in Virginia under Jackson. Others either living west of the Mississippi or actually studying this ignored region remember him well for his leadership in the Red River Campaign of 1864, and or the epic seemingly mutual hatred between him Edmund Kirby Smith and their feud.

In this book Taylor begins with retelling the beginning of the war, and how he came to be Colonel of the 9th Louisiana Infantry, and his quick rise through the ranks to Brigadier General over others by his friend and former brother-in-law Jefferson Davis, and how he fought the elevation. He takes us back to his first meeting with the famous Stonewall Jackson, his meeting and service besides General Ewell and countless other greats in Northern Virginia. When taking us back he also gives short biographies of everyone, and makes his feelings about them plain....

After that Taylor tells of his being sent home to Louisiana to recuperate, (he suffered rheumatoid arthritis all his life) and take command of the Louisiana District. He gives us a personal account of his orders to save Vicksburg, and how he felt it folly, and that Pemberton and Joe Johnston did it to themselves. Afterwards we see his probably least known campaign fighting the Union in South Louisiana, then move on to his most well known, the Red River Campaign and beyond to the end of the war seeing General Nathan Bedford Forrest along the way after they met, and developed a seemingly mutual admiration and respect for one another, with him praising or d---ing comrades and enemies alike along the way.

From there, we get to what I personally feel General Beauregard was referring to when he said the book was the "Romance of Destruction and Reconstruction" and we see Taylor as he goes through Reconstruction and get good pictures of Grant, Andrew Johnston, and the Radical Republicans.

All and all, I think this an important book for any student of the Civil War to read. Throughout he adds quotations from antiquity and metaphors galore, but it is an easy book to read, at least until Reconstruction. There he goes so far overboard with the ancient and poetic references, so much I have a hard time following it.

But don't take my word for it, read it yourself if you haven't already, then read it again!

Michael Pepper
Coffeeville, Texas
"Rusk County Avengers" on Civil War Talk
 
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I have my own old paperback copy thereof and I have used it in my little research projects on occasions. The book is really a weak attempt to appear humble but clearly its thrust is the self glorification of Prince Richard Taylor. He benefited from his former brother in law Jeff Davis no one can deny. He is totally without formal military training but he was a serious student of ancient classical history and its warfare included. He benefits from this in that he had a sense of how to handle military affairs. He had many shortcomings which historians continue to gloss over to this date with most seemingly accepting his view of things. I have T. Michael Parrish new book called RICHARD TAYLOR SOLDIER PRINCE OF DIXIE but it seems only to be more Richard Taylor glorification. I remain waiting for a serious critical and more truthful history of Prince Richard Taylor.
 
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jackt62

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I have my own old paperback copy thereof and I have used it in my little research projects on occasions. The book is really a weak attempt to appear humble but clearly its thrust is the self glorification of Prince Richard Taylor. He benefited from his former brother in law Jeff Davis no one can deny. He is totally without formal military training but he was a serious student of ancient classical history and its warfare included. He benefits from this in that he had a sense of how to handle military affairs. He had many shortcomings which historians continue to gloss over to this date with most seemingly accepting his view of things. I have T. Michael Parrish new book called RICHARD TAYLOR SOLDIER PRINCE OF DIXIE but it seems only to be more Richard Taylor glorification. I remain waiting for a serious critical and more truthful history of Prince Richard Taylor.
Agree that Taylor's memoir, as almost all memoirs seem to be, are intended to glorify the writer. I understand that he was not a professional military man, benefited from his family connections, and was unable to stop the federal advance to Port Hudson or recapture New Orleans, notwithstanding the obstacles he was up against. But he seems to have had a generally successful career as a commander in the Shenandoah Valley and later on against Banks in the Red River Campaign. I will certainly like to read the new biography by Parrish.
 
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Saruman

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Jun 10, 2011
There's also a good book about Taylor (and Kirby Smith) called "A Crisis in Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, and the Army of the Trans-Mississippi" by Jeffery S. Prushankin.
 
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