Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Citizen-Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Citizen-Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War

Article excerpt

Citizen-Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War * Andrew S. Bledsoe * Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015 * xx, 322 pp. * $47.50

Although library and bookstore shelves groan under the weight of hundreds of studies of Civil War generals and the common soldier, North and South, battlefield leaders of the Union and Confederate armies have received scant attention from historians. The corps of so-called "company grade" officers, captains and lieutenants, in both armies came overwhelmingly from civilian life and were charged with leading their peers, friends, and family members into the maelstrom of Civil War combat. They occupy a historiographical netherworld between the "great man" tradition that evaluates the course of events from the perspective of leaders at the highest levels and more modern perspectives that seek to understand events through a variety of voices.

Andrew S. Bledsoe, assistant professor of history at Lee University, has made an admirable start on addressing this critical gap in Civil War historiography. Using a population of more than 2,500 volunteer junior officers on both sides of the conflict, Bledsoe places these battlefield leaders within the American republican tradition-a tradition that not only emphasized military service by all male citizens but that also mistrusted standing armies and military professionalism. …

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