Civil War Soldiers

Reid Mitchell, Author
Reid Mitchell, Author Viking Books $19.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-81742-9
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
This noteworthy addition to the literature of the Civil War presents a starkly realistic picture, mostly from the lower ranks, that is reminiscent of the outlook of GIs in more recent wars. The prevailing image of the enemy: an uncivilized fanatic. Civilians of the opposing side were regarded as primitive, ignorant and generally contemptible. Based on unpublished letters and diaries, Mitchell's study follows Union troops into the South (Sherman in Georgia, for instance) and the Confederate army in the North (Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania), showing that the men of both armies were offended by the behavior of noncombatant civilians, that medical support was abominable, that blacks suffered brutality from soldiers of both armies and that the temptation to desert was strong. Among the themes explored by Mitchell are the individual's reasons for volunteering, his reaction to combat, his perception of the similarity between soldiering and slavery, the morale-sustaining comfort of Christian faith, and the bravery and endurance of the Confederate soldier in particular. Mitchell teaches American history at Princeton. (August)
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