Pennsylvania in the Civil War

Virtue ~ Liberty ~ Independence 

Atlantic Monthly Book Review

History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers,
1861-1865,Volume I

History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865.  Prepared in Compliance with Acts of the Legislation, bySamuel P. Bates, Member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.Vol. Harrisburg: R. Singerly, State Printer.

The plan of Dr. Bates's work, as developed in this first volume, includes an historical sketch of each of the Pennsylvania regiments, followed by a sort of tablular biography of all the men in it. Only the names and places of enlistment of the three months' men are given, but in the case of those enlisted for the war the date of muster into service is added, as well as the number of years served, and a brief description of the promotion, discharge, death, hurt or desertion of every soldier. This accuracy and detail are due to brave men who will have in the vast majority of cases no other record of their heroism, and the book is properly a monument to them. To others it has necessarily in great part only the curious attraction which only city directories possess. Even the histories of the different regiments, which cover a long period of eventful and varied service must be somewhat meagre; but, considering the difficulties of the work and its limitations, we are inclined to compliment the author upon his success.

He contrives to do justice to the achievements of each body of men, and to give such picturesque relief as is possible to them; in repeatedly telling the story of the same battle, he manages to tell that part of it which concerns the particular regiment celebrated, without cumbering the reader with circumstances. We like particularly the care with which he remembers the gallant deeds of the men as well as the officers; nothing about the famous Bucktail Regiment is left quite so distinct in our minds as that heroic act of Private Martin Kelly, who, when his regiment faced a body of the enemy, "seeing that the colonel was about to give the order to advance, said, 'Colonel, shall I draw their fire?' and deliberately stepping from behind a tree, received without flinching a volley of balls, falling dead upon the instant."

The whole sketch of the Bucktail Regiment is interesting--the most interesting in the book--but other episodes, as the battle above the Clouds, and the march of the Pennsylvania Volunteers through Baltimore (the day preceding the attack on the Massachusetts troops) are also well treated; and the story of the part borne by Captain Ricketts's Battery F in the battle of Gettysburg is told in such a graphic and forcible manner, that whoever reads it will hardly forget again the fight sustained in the dark by the Pennsylvanians against the seventeen hundred Louisiana Tigers, reduced in that encounter to six hundred, and never afterwards known as an organization.

We shall look with interest for the second volume of Dr. Bates' work, which we hope will contain biographies of distinguished Pennsylvania soldiers and civilians. The temperature and sensible fashion in which he has executed this most laborious part of his task is sufficient promise of good and faithful work in the rest.

Source:  "Review and Literary Notice," in The Atlantic Monthly, March 1869, Boston, Massachusetts, Volume 23, Issue 137.








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