The Loyal, True, and Brave: America's Civil War Soldiers
Phillips, Jason K., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
The Loyal, True, and Brave: America's Civil War Soldiers. Edited by STEVEN E. WOODWORTH. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 2002. x., 222 pp.
IN this volume Steven Woodworth promises no new insights about Civil War soldiers but intends to present "the sum of the research that has already been done" (p. xii). Anyone familiar with the vastness of Civil War documents and scholarship knows this is an intimidating task. Using contemporary accounts, veterans' memoirs, and generations of scholarship, Woodworth outlines major historical debates on enlistment, combat, motivation, hospitals, prisons, camp life, black soldiers, and the meaning of the war. By including excerpts from primary and secondary sources, Woodworth highlights the differences between contemporaries' and historians' perceptions of the conflict. The explanation and analysis addresses students rather than authorities, and the book encourages novices to explore the literature in depth.
Unfortunately the book's shortcomings outweigh its virtues. First, for a broad overview, the volume neglects many prominent scholars. No summary can include every notable contributor to the history of Civil War soldiers, but a book without the work of Michael Barton, Eric T. Dean Jr., David Donald, Drew Gilpin Faust, Michael Fellman, Randall C. Jimerson, Charles Royster, and Maris A. Vinovskis misses important contributions that have enriched our understanding of the troops and their time. This is particularly frustrating because much of this scholarship would have complemented Woodworth's topics. Vinovskis's demographic study explains not only how men enlisted (a subject Woodworth explores) but also the social and economic factors that influenced their decisions. Dean's scholarship on post-traumatic stress disorder and Faust's work on Christian revivalism in the Confederate army could have expanded Woodworth's chapter on how men reacted to terror and mortality. Likewise, Royster's explanation of the war's destructiveness would have improved Woodworth's summary of the meaning of the war. …