Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"Getting Used to Being Shot At": The Spence Family Civil War Letters

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"Getting Used to Being Shot At": The Spence Family Civil War Letters

Article excerpt

"Getting Used to Being Shot At": The Spence Family Civil War Letters. Edited by Mark K. Christ. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002. Pp. vii, 240. Illustrations, acknowledgments, introduction, notes, bibliography, index. $24.95.)

As the Arkansas regiments of the Army of Tennessee were being mercilessly expended in the futile defense of Atlanta, Capt. Alexander E. Spence of the First Arkansas Infantry wrote home, "It makes me mad to think of affairs in Arkansas. I think our army over there might as well be disbanded for all the good they do. Arkansas has been given up almost without a struggle." By the end of the year, Captain Spence was dead on the field at Franklin, Tennessee. His attitude and his fate were typical of thousands of soldiers from the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy. Editor Mark Christ's Getting Used to Being Shot At, a compilation of more than fifty letters from Alexander Spence and his brother Thomas F. Spence, who was killed at Murfreesboro, reveals much of the futility and of the courage and sacrifice of these soldiers-in-exile.

The Spences of Arkadelphia were a prosperous family, although not of the planter elite, and thus the two brothers had received a more than common education. Alexander had worked as a clerk before the war, and Tom was serving as Clark County's sheriff at the time of Arkansas's secession. Their letters, therefore, display a level of literacy and a political awareness beyond that of the average Confederate soldier. Thomas Spence enlisted as a private but in 1862 was promoted to captain in the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, a regiment that served under Ben McCulloch at Wilson's Creek and Elkhorn Tavern before being transferred east of the Mississippi River in time to take part in the Battle of Shiloh. …

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