Book Review – Civil War Diary of Wyman S. White

Editor: Russell C. White

ISBN: 978-0935523263

Page Count: 322

5 Saber Rating

I have to admit that I have a strong bias when I read and reread and reread this book again.  Those who have followed me for a while may recall me mentioning that I was from New Hampshire.  There are others that recall me writing that I like to follow the history of the US Sharpshooters.  Now when we research the Civil War, we all have biases.  It’s just human nature.  When I write of a venue, I largely leave my biases out because as a retired military officer, I can look at the situation very clinically.  That said, Wyman White was a Sharpshooter not only from New Hampshire, but from my same county.  He entered military service in the same city I did and I even dated a girl from his home town.  I am sorry gang, I was just predestined to give this book a five-saber rating.  I feel that by telling you this up front and letting you know this book rang my nerd bell, I am able to maintain some sense of credibility and integrity, which are key to me.  I may be equally biased when I write a book review dealing with the 3rd Louisiana Volunteer Infantry too, because I had an ancestor who served there.  So let’s get to it.  I hope you enjoy this book review.  One final disclaimer.  This book is extremely expensive now.  I probably paid $60 or so for it brand new.  It now goes for over $400 brand new.  White’s diary takes him from a youth of 15 in the election of 1856 through his initial enlistment, and finally to his release from active duty when the Sharpshooters disbanded in late 1864 through early 1865.  There are a number of things that I found fascinating with White’s description of his service. From his departure of New Hampshire to his arrival at the Camp of Instruction outside of Washington DC, the biggest surprise to me was the commonality of experience we both had leaving home for the first time on our journeys.  His book details a lot of the inner workings of the 2nd US Sharpshooters, and begins to touch upon some of the unease the officers and men had of their Brigade Commander, Colonel Hiram Berdan.  White does an excellent job of bringing his experiences to life and though he never mentions the taking of another human life directly, he does write vividly of his experiences, especially July 2nd at Gettysburg where he seemed to be everywhere.  But I think my favorite portion of the book is where he touches on the daily grind of the soldier experience in Petersburg and the ugliness of the situation that both sides had to endure.  I will not tell you how White’s Civil War experience ends, but I was surprised.  In closing, White becomes introspective and I agree with his final assessment as he finished penning his thoughts after America’s entry into World War I.  Overall, the book is an excellent documentation of a common, yet uncommonly proficient, soldier in the American Civil War and I feel it is justified in a five-saber rating, biases or not.  Great information for those that follow Union and Confederate experiences alike and those that are students of military history and military leadership.  White entered service as a Private and left as a First Sergeant with a stellar service record. 


Book Review – The Battle of South Mountain

Author:          John David Hoptak

ISBN:  978-1-59629-401-1

Page Count: 182

4 Saber Rating

I wanted to do some research for our upcoming trip to tour the Maryland Campaign and I was looking for something that gave a good overview of the Battle of South Mountain.  I admit that prior to reading the book, I only knew that South Mountain was fought as a delaying action and it was a Federal tactical victory.  I believe the author, John D. Hoptak, did a great job in articulating how the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s dogged defense of the South Mountain’s gaps downgraded what should have been a Federal strategic victory into something less. This would set the stage for the overshadowing engagement at Antietam Creek.  What I really feel the author excelled at was discussing the battle’s three phases individually.  Each of the engagements at Fox’s Gap, Turner’s Gap and Crampton’s Gap are broken down so the reader gets an excellent view of the action in each phase of the battle.  I feel that this view allows the reader to easily follow the flow of battle and allows the visitor ease of determining where they will wish to visit.  I also feel that there was an excellent use of pictures, as all Commanders mentioned are shown, and also excellent use of first person quotes to bring elements of the battle to life.  If you are looking for a quick read to accompany a staff ride or a tour in detail, I feel that Hoptak’s work fills that need quite well.  There was a decent use of maps, but I feel a couple more that detailed force disposition faced by Franklin’s Corps after Crampton’s Gap would have been nice.  Overall, I highly recommend this book for anybody who wishes to have an excellent overview of the battle with some increased level of detail. 


Corinth – “If defeated here, we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause.”

Corinth MS: One concept that a career in the military has taught me, is that all American, and in fact all nationalities of military personnel are largely the same type of people and though we have enough differences to make us unique individuals, as a body we are largely similar.  Now here’s the kicker, the same can be said about soldiers across time.  For those familiar with current military culture, I promise you that there was a “Carl” that served with Washington at Valley Forge, a “Carl” that served in Caesar’s Legions that conquered Gaul and a “Carl” that served in the fury and hell of The Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh.  Another timeless truth of soldierly life is that we understand that the Mission is the reason for our being.  The Mission may be to take a piece of ground, remove a target, or defend with your life if necessary, some nameless point on a map.  That is something that we know and accept and that hasn’t changed since before Alexander the Great pointed his chariots east 2500 years ago.     

In the Spring and Summer of 1862, one of the most hotly contested pieces of real estate on the planet was a small, unassuming railroad crossroad in a place called Corinth, MS. The strategic value of Corinth could not be understated to the Confederate cause.  It was the rail hub that linked the resource rich western Confederacy with the East.  A mere month and a half earlier, a major battle was fought just 20 miles away over the border in Tennessee at a place called Shiloh. The strategic objective of the Union forces at Shiloh was to penetrate south and take the strategic railroad crossroad. Pittsburg Landing offered the best place to land forces for a march south. After a successful siege operation, Union forces under General Grant were able to take Corinth at the end of May, 1862. The Confederates regrouped and in October launched a major offensive to retake the strategically significant crossroads.  It ended in savage hand to hand combat where cold steel ruled the day.

From a touring perspective, I would like to have the opportunity to revisit Corinth, now having a greater understanding of the roll it played in 1862.  Or at the very least, I would have liked to have spent more time there.  We had left Shiloh National Military Park and grabbed some lunch and headed right away to the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center located at 501 W. Linden St, Corinth, MS 38834, which is run by the National Park Service out of Shiloh National Military Park.  We arrived with only an hour left before it closed and decided to make the best of it.  We toured the facility and I really feel that I could have spent two additional hours there.  After the Interpretive Center closed for the evening, we went out and scoured the town and found the famous railroad crossroads.  I would also like to point out that the Interpretive Center is located at Battery Robinett so we did have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the dramatic climax of the 2nd Battle of Corinth where the 2nd Texas Legion was held off by the 11th Missouri (US) and the 27th Ohio.  There is a rather famous picture of Colonel William Rogers of the 2nd Texas Legion leading his men over the parapet and being shot by a Federal Drummer Boy. We stopped at Corinth in the afternoon right after we had left Shiloh National Military Park. They are that close. It still gives me pause to think about the fact that I walked that ground.  After we toured the town to find the railroad crossing, it was time to finish the trip to Gulfport.  If you make it to Shiloh, I highly recommend finishing the story and going the Corinth the next day.  I am told that there is a place nearby where you can take your Jeep or other 4×4 off-roading.  That is something that I could definitely explore after a couple of fun days “battle fielding.”
Battery Robinett. Colonel Rogers may have fallen at the spot where I was standing. Here a desperate charge captured the Battery, but a swift and fierce counter charge proved too much for the hard fighting Texans.
Static display of Springfield 3 Band Rifled Muskets.
An impression of troops marching off to fight greets the traveler as you walk into the Interpretive Center.
157 years ago this was one of the most contested pieces of real estate on the planet. Over 8,000 Americans gave their lives for possession of this railroad crossroads in a small corner of Mississippi. This was also why the Battle of Shiloh was fought just over the Tennessee border. In total, the spot where I took this picture cost over 30,000 Americans their lives. That is a steep butcher’s bill to pay.
What’s in your kit?
Rooster found a friend.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyone who had service over in the middle east in the last 18 years will immediately identify these as 1862 style Hesco Barriers. “Ain’t No Party Like a Working Party!”