Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

A Yankee at Arms: The Diary of Lieutenant Augustus D. Ayling, 29th Massachusetts Volunteers

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

A Yankee at Arms: The Diary of Lieutenant Augustus D. Ayling, 29th Massachusetts Volunteers

Article excerpt

A Yankee at Arms: The Diary of Lieutenant Augustus D. Ayling, 29th Massachusetts Volunteers. Edited by Charles F. Herberger. Voices of the Civil War. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, c. 1999. Pp. xiv, 301. $36.00, ISBN 1-57233-034-1.)

Civil War enthusiasts will find A Yankee at Arms enlightening because it offers a perspective on the war rarely seen in a single volume. Augustus Ayling enlisted shortly after Lincoln's call for volunteers in April 1861 and remained in the service of the U.S. army until January 1866. Lieutenant Ayling was a meticulous record keeper who served in three different theaters of action. His diary presents a personal view of the war through its entire duration and chronicles in elaborate detail some of the most significant events of the conflict, including the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack, McClellan's peninsular campaign, the battle of Fredericksburg and Burnside's infamous retreat, and the fall of Vicksburg. In many respects, Ayling was a typical Civil War soldier. Although reared in Boston, Ayling was not a radical abolitionist who enlisted to destroy slavery. Nowhere does he mention the Emancipation Proclamation, and his only reference to African American troops is a brief mention of Fort Pillow. Ayling's racist ideology, as shown when he refers to black contraband of war, whom he intermittently employs as cooks or foragers, as "my boy," "the boy" or by other diminutives, was typical of the times. …

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