The Memoirs of Brigadier General William Passmore Carlin

By Walsh, Julia | The Journal of Southern History, August 2001 | Go to article overview

The Memoirs of Brigadier General William Passmore Carlin


Walsh, Julia, The Journal of Southern History


The Memoirs of Brigadier General William Passmore Carlin, U.S.A. Edited by Robert I. Girardi and Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, c. 1999. Pp. xiv, 321. $50.00, ISBN 0-8032-1494-4.)

William Carlin, from southern Illinois, was an army officer on the western frontier at the start of the Civil War. He re-enlisted in the Union army as a colonel and served in and survived major battles of the western campaigns, such as Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, and Jonesboro. He briefly worked for the Freedmen's Bureau in Reconstruction-era Tennessee, but, in 1872, he returned to the regular army and spent virtually the rest of his life, until his death in 1903, dealing with rebellious Native Americans and striking miners in the Dakotas. This edited volume uses Carlin's published memoirs to trace an army officer's life before and after the Civil War.

The book shows the boredom of frontier service that was at times punctuated by disease and Indian wars. The regular army was bound by strict attention to rank and procedure, and Carlin was continually frustrated by the lack of formality in the Civil War armies, especially over issues of promotion. Carlin's obsession with rank dominates the memoir. It made it hard for him to accept orders from those he considered inferiors, and he was constantly frustrated that the quiet efforts of certain leaders, including himself, went unappreciated by Washington civilian and military politicians. As the editors note, however, this obsession was unfortunately combined with the lack of political savvy that led Carlin to ally with unpopular military leaders, particularly William S. …

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