Digging deeper – Regimental Histories

Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Location
North Carolina
Regimental histories encompass many different sub-disciplines of military history, such as medical, religious, military discipline, logistics, supply, etc. A good regimental will examine each of these facets as they relate to each regiment. Some regimens were better supplied, some more religious, while others had more deserters. Here is a list of books I have used over the years. My apologizes that this list is slightly more Confederate than Union, but I do write Confederate regimentals. If there are books that focus more on the Union side, please post them in the comments. (And please feel free to disagree with my list.) PS - this is a list of books to help people understand regimentals themselves.

Wiley – The Life of Johnny Reb (1943) and The Life of Billy Yank (1952). If you read nothing else, these two books are incredible studies on the lives of the common soldiers of the time. There are chapters on food, religion, enlistment, combat, weapons, music, etc.

Carmichael – The War for the Common Soldier (2018). This book is a companion to the two listed above by Wiley, but really pushes some of his ideas further. Carmichael looks more into the psyche of soldiers than Wiley does.

Cashin – War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War (2018). Once again, a step deeper into the war. Cashin helps us understand how the soldiers (and at times, civilians) viewed the world around them, including resources like food and the forest.

Bunch – Military Justice in the Confederate Armies (2000). This is probably the only book on the subject – military justice and the Confederate armies. Bunch digs deeply, explaining concepts like courts-martials, how they worked, punishments, etc. [Is there a Federal version – army level?]

Radley – Rebel Watchdog: The Confederate States Army Provost Guard (1989). Radley examines topics like stragglers, the passport system, escorting prisoners, etc. It is a good companion to Bunch’s book listed above.

Goff – Confederate Supply (1969). While there are other books of more recent publication that examine logistics and supply, they are still not as detailed as Goff’s work on Confederate supply. At times, this book is more administrative in nature, but there are tidbits throughout that relate to the regimental level.

Smith – The Smell of Battle, The Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War (2015). The epilogue in this book is entitled “Experiencing Total War.” Smith puts a very human spin on the war – what men saw in battle, how offensive the camps smelled, etc. It helps us to understand just how offensive to the senses an army or camp really was.

Jones – The Right Hand of Command: Use and Disuse of Personal Staffs in the Civil War (2000). This book (and the next on the list) are much broader in overview, but staffs were not only employed by generals but staffs were used all the way down to the regimental and company level. Jones looks at both sides.

Bartholomees – Buff Facings and Gilt Buttons: Staff and Headquarter Operations in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 (1998). Bartholomees takes aim at the various staff positions, from personal staff, to quartermasters, commissaries, training, how the staff worked, etc.

Pitts – Chaplains in Gray (1957). I think I might like Jones’s Christ in the Camp or Religion in the Confederate Army (1887) a little better, but Pitts’s work is a little more all-encompassing.

Lowry – The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War (1994). I think the title explains what needs to be known about its content and focus. There is a newer book on the subject – Giesberg’s Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, ****ography, and the Making of American Morality (2019), but I’ve not read this title yet.

Cunningham – Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service (1958). There is a chapter focused just on medical officers in the field. There are a lot of books on hospitals, but that chapter is really the only thing that covers that end of the medical service.

Adams – Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War (1952). I think Adams’ book is better than Cunningham’s, dealing much more with the field (and hence regimental) side of medical care.

Humphreys – Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (2013). There have been many books over the past twenty or thirty years that give a wide overview of medicine in mid-19th​ century. So far, I think this one the best, with chapters on women, infectious disease, and the work of the USSC.

Speer – Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War (1997). There are many books on individual prisons out there. Speer gives a good overview of creating prisons, prisoner exchange, and escapes, and gives a brief overview of every prisoner of war camp in both the North and South. Kutzler’s Living by Inches: The Smells, Sounds, Taste, and Feeling of Captivity in Civil War Prisons (2019) is on my to-read list.

Weitz – More Damning than Slaughter: Desertion in the Confederate Army (2005). Desertion plagued both armies, although we tend to focus more on the Confederate side. Weitz does a good job diving into the subject.

Noe – Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army After 1861 (2010). Reluctant Rebels kind of goes along with More Damning than Slaughter but examines in more detail those Confederates who joined the Confederate army because they had to.

Nosworthy – The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War (2003). There are several books that could fit into this category, such as Griffth’s Battle Tactics of the Civil War (1987) or Hess’s The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat (2008), but Nosworthy is just a little more in depth. The downside is that there are several chapters that just don’t pertain to the writers or readers of regimental histories.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Location
North Carolina
Michael,

Would you consider Wheeler's Voices of the Civil War (1976) Forward by Bruce Catton, as an acceptable source for Regimental Histories?
For me, not really. If you notice, there are no general histories of the war, no biographies, no sets of letters or diaries, no history of battles, on the list. Almost everything covers a pretty specific part or topic of a regiment. Wheeler's work seems pretty broad.
 

Red Raider

Private
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Location
Lost in Books
For me, not really. If you notice, there are no general histories of the war, no biographies, no sets of letters or diaries, no history of battles, on the list. Almost everything covers a pretty specific part or topic of a regiment. Wheeler's work seems pretty broad.

I have not gone too far into it. I got it as a lot from eBay last year. I appreciate the professional opinion.

Joe
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
The State of Maine has several--the ones that I used in a project on local soldiers:
History of the 4th Maine Battery, Light Artillery in the Civil War (1905)
History of the 7th Maine Light artillery by A.S. Twitchell (1892)
History of the Maine 1st Cavalry by Edward Parson Tobie (1887)
History of the Maine Heavy Artillery by Horace Shaw (1963)

I especially used the history by Tobie. All include personal sketches.

There are others--but these are the ones I used. I'm sure that I can come up with a full list if wanted.
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
I agree on several in your list - of course the Wiley books. Portals to Hell is excellent. I would add Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War to your list - it's a great look at the impact the sheer number of deaths had on life in the USA. I'm not disagreeing on the others - I just haven't read them all!
 
Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Location
North Carolina
I agree on several in your list - of course the Wiley books. Portals to Hell is excellent. I would add Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War to your list - it's a great look at the impact the sheer number of deaths had on life in the USA. I'm not disagreeing on the others - I just haven't read them all!
I have that as well. I had thought about adding Meg Groeling's The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead. But, there were a couple of things about the book I did not like.

 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
It's hard to find a book you love completely. But I can feel great affection for a book that has even one small and telling fact that I will use in my final product.
 

Andy Cardinal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio
Regimental histories encompass many different sub-disciplines of military history, such as medical, religious, military discipline, logistics, supply, etc. A good regimental will examine each of these facets as they relate to each regiment. Some regimens were better supplied, some more religious, while others had more deserters. Here is a list of books I have used over the years. My apologizes that this list is slightly more Confederate than Union, but I do write Confederate regimentals. If there are books that focus more on the Union side, please post them in the comments. (And please feel free to disagree with my list.) PS - this is a list of books to help people understand regimentals themselves.

Wiley – The Life of Johnny Reb (1943) and The Life of Billy Yank (1952). If you read nothing else, these two books are incredible studies on the lives of the common soldiers of the time. There are chapters on food, religion, enlistment, combat, weapons, music, etc.

Carmichael – The War for the Common Soldier (2018). This book is a companion to the two listed above by Wiley, but really pushes some of his ideas further. Carmichael looks more into the psyche of soldiers than Wiley does.

Cashin – War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War (2018). Once again, a step deeper into the war. Cashin helps us understand how the soldiers (and at times, civilians) viewed the world around them, including resources like food and the forest.

Bunch – Military Justice in the Confederate Armies (2000). This is probably the only book on the subject – military justice and the Confederate armies. Bunch digs deeply, explaining concepts like courts-martials, how they worked, punishments, etc. [Is there a Federal version – army level?]

Radley – Rebel Watchdog: The Confederate States Army Provost Guard (1989). Radley examines topics like stragglers, the passport system, escorting prisoners, etc. It is a good companion to Bunch’s book listed above.

Goff – Confederate Supply (1969). While there are other books of more recent publication that examine logistics and supply, they are still not as detailed as Goff’s work on Confederate supply. At times, this book is more administrative in nature, but there are tidbits throughout that relate to the regimental level.

Smith – The Smell of Battle, The Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War (2015). The epilogue in this book is entitled “Experiencing Total War.” Smith puts a very human spin on the war – what men saw in battle, how offensive the camps smelled, etc. It helps us to understand just how offensive to the senses an army or camp really was.

Jones – The Right Hand of Command: Use and Disuse of Personal Staffs in the Civil War (2000). This book (and the next on the list) are much broader in overview, but staffs were not only employed by generals but staffs were used all the way down to the regimental and company level. Jones looks at both sides.

Bartholomees – Buff Facings and Gilt Buttons: Staff and Headquarter Operations in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 (1998). Bartholomees takes aim at the various staff positions, from personal staff, to quartermasters, commissaries, training, how the staff worked, etc.

Pitts – Chaplains in Gray (1957). I think I might like Jones’s Christ in the Camp or Religion in the Confederate Army (1887) a little better, but Pitts’s work is a little more all-encompassing.

Lowry – The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War (1994). I think the title explains what needs to be known about its content and focus. There is a newer book on the subject – Giesberg’s Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, ****ography, and the Making of American Morality (2019), but I’ve not read this title yet.

Cunningham – Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service (1958). There is a chapter focused just on medical officers in the field. There are a lot of books on hospitals, but that chapter is really the only thing that covers that end of the medical service.

Adams – Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War (1952). I think Adams’ book is better than Cunningham’s, dealing much more with the field (and hence regimental) side of medical care.

Humphreys – Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (2013). There have been many books over the past twenty or thirty years that give a wide overview of medicine in mid-19th​ century. So far, I think this one the best, with chapters on women, infectious disease, and the work of the USSC.

Speer – Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War (1997). There are many books on individual prisons out there. Speer gives a good overview of creating prisons, prisoner exchange, and escapes, and gives a brief overview of every prisoner of war camp in both the North and South. Kutzler’s Living by Inches: The Smells, Sounds, Taste, and Feeling of Captivity in Civil War Prisons (2019) is on my to-read list.

Weitz – More Damning than Slaughter: Desertion in the Confederate Army (2005). Desertion plagued both armies, although we tend to focus more on the Confederate side. Weitz does a good job diving into the subject.

Noe – Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army After 1861 (2010). Reluctant Rebels kind of goes along with More Damning than Slaughter but examines in more detail those Confederates who joined the Confederate army because they had to.

Nosworthy – The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War (2003). There are several books that could fit into this category, such as Griffth’s Battle Tactics of the Civil War (1987) or Hess’s The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat (2008), but Nosworthy is just a little more in depth. The downside is that there are several chapters that just don’t pertain to the writers or readers of regimental histories.
Thanks for posting this list. Some title I have read, some I have in a pile of books to read, and others I intend to take a look at.

I was curious as to your thoughts on Mitchell Reid's books, which I have thought about gettimg but haven't pulled the trigger on yet. Maybe they aren't quite they kind of book you're looking at though? By the same token, your thoughts on Living Hell by Adams?

I also wanted to give a shout out about Reluctant Rebels. It is a rare book (these days anyway) that gave me a whole new perspective on the Civil War.
 
Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Location
North Carolina
Thanks for posting this list. Some title I have read, some I have in a pile of books to read, and others I intend to take a look at.

I was curious as to your thoughts on Mitchell Reid's books, which I have thought about gettimg but haven't pulled the trigger on yet. Maybe they aren't quite they kind of book you're looking at though? By the same token, your thoughts on Living Hell by Adams?

I also wanted to give a shout out about Reluctant Rebels. It is a rare book (these days anyway) that gave me a whole new perspective on the Civil War.
I have not read either of those you mentioned. I have flipped through both (at least twice), but not felt compelled enough to buy them. I'm not sure why.
 

nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
Virginia has a regimental series that gives a history of every regiment in every branch that served the Confederacy during the Civil War. Most of these histories are brief, from one hundred to two hundred pages long, but they do at least give some idea about the organization and the battles and campaigns that each regiment participated in. I wish each state would attempt something like this, it would at least provide some background information for scholars and other interested parties to glean from if they are interested in a particular unit.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
I agree on several in your list - of course the Wiley books. Portals to Hell is excellent. I would add Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War to your list - it's a great look at the impact the sheer number of deaths had on life in the USA. I'm not disagreeing on the others - I just haven't read them all!
I want to work Gilpin Faust's "Good Death" theory into my manuscript. Such a brilliant piece.
 
Joined
Aug 27, 2020
Location
North Carolina
Virginia has a regimental series that gives a history of every regiment in every branch that served the Confederacy during the Civil War. Most of these histories are brief, from one hundred to two hundred pages long, but they do at least give some idea about the organization and the battles and campaigns that each regiment participated in. I wish each state would attempt something like this, it would at least provide some background information for scholars and other interested parties to glean from if they are interested in a particular unit.
Broadfoot has done a roster series for Florida - it is several volumes. They are currently working on a regimental series for South Carolina. Each South Carolina regiment has it's own volume. North Carolina started working on a series in the 1960s. There are twenty volumes to date. The last five or six volumes on the North Carolina series have really good regimental histories with rosters. The other volumes have small regimental histories with good rosters. Several of the other North Carolina regiments have histories published by McFarland. I'm not aware of any good series for Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, but it does appear that many of the Texas regiments have histories. While I own many of the Virginia regimental series, I am not a fan of the works. No notes, and small regimental histories. But I guess they are better than nothing.
 
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