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The Wild Life of the Army: Civil War Letters of James A. Garfield

von James Garfield

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As is stated in the title, the book is a composite of letters that President-to-be, James A. Garfield, wrote during the thirty-two months he served in the Union army (April 13, 1861 to December 6, 1863). Most of the letters are to his wife Crete and other relatives, but many are to friends or to political and military personnel.

Since my primary interest is in Garfield's Stone-Campbell religious heritage, I was particularly interested in any references to persons, places, or events associated with it. There are some such references.

The book is sectioned into three primary parts:

Part I: Campaigning in the Army of the Ohio. This part includes letters written April 13, 1861 to August 27, 1862.
Part II: Sojourn in Washington: This part includes letters written September2, 1862 to January 10, 1863.
Part III: Campaigning in the Army of the Cumberland. This part includes letters written January 20, 1863 to December 6, 1863

Each part of the book includes a few pages of helpful introduction to the period by the editor, Frederick D. Williams. Another helpful feature of book is the numerous footnotes that the editor provides to explain who people, places, events, or issues are as they are named in a letter. Notice, they are footnotes, where they may be conveniently read (versus some type of “end note”).

The editor also wrote an excellent Introduction, which provides the reader with a brief background on Garfield as to why and how he is a significant historical figure.

Two appendices are included:

Appendix A: Notes of an Interview with Major-General McDowell. These notes by Garfield were taken during his “Sojourn in Washington.”
Appendix B: Acknowledgments

There is but one photo of Garfield and his staff in the field, dated 1862. I had not previously seen this particular photo. A small handful of illustrations produced by Garfield are also in the book, and I view them as enhancements.

The Index is excellent. Readers should find it very helpful. The book is available on the used book market and in many libraries.

Note: I was happy to find a reference to “Brother Lanphere” [sic] (page 300) who is most certainly John Wesley Lanphear, a Disciples minister who Garfield intended to ask to conduct the funeral service on December 3, 1863 for his first-born daughter Eliza (born July 3, 1860). Lanphear was the minister of First Christian Church, Bloomington, Illinois (my current church) from 1857 to 1860. ( )
  SCRH | Aug 3, 2013 |
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