Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Brothers One and All and Beyond

Last week I had the pleasure of exchanging some emails with Mark Dunkelman. Mark is the author of few books including the very well received Brothers One and All. Mark has spent a good deal of his life researching and writing about the experiences of the 154th New York Infantry. Some may think that after the regimental history what more can be gleamed from the history of civil war regiments. I think Mark has proven that there is a lot more of the story to tell then just the movements, battles and military experiences of the typical Civil War Regiment. Mark has gone the next step to investigate and tell the story of individuals in the regiment and how these individuals came together to function as a “band of brothers.”

What is evident in “Brothers One and All” is that these bounds did not cease to exist in 1865 when the war ended but continued to helped shape the lives of the survivors. To that point Mark has written another book on the 154th NY that deals with how the Civil War was the ”cataclysmic event” for at least 12 soldiers that shaped the rest of their lives.

I know that in my own research on the First Maine Heavy Artillery there are plenty of standalone stories around the lives of individual soldiers that would make good reading. I am sure the same could be said about these soldiers from the 154th NY. I look forward to reading Mark’s book when it comes out later this year because his interest in understanding the individual stories of Civil War Soldiers greatly mirrors my own. I have included a description of Mark’s forth coming book below. This information and more on Mark’s research regarding the 154th NY can be found at his web site.


"War's Relentless Hand: Twelve Tales of Civil War Soldiers (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006). A happy-go-lucky soldier falls at Gettysburg. An officer survives a hair-raising escape after capture at Gettysburg, only to die in the Atlanta campaign. A young volunteer retreats into insanity. Though they did most of the fighting and dying in the American Civil War, “ordinary” soldiers largely went unheralded in their day and have long since been forgotten. Mark H. Dunkelman retrieves twelve of these common soldiers from obscurity and presents intimate accounts of their harrowing, heartbreaking, and occasionally humorous experiences. Their stories, true to the last historical detail yet as dramatic as the most powerful fiction, put a human face on the terrible ordeal of a country at war with itself.

These were soldiers from the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, a regiment that Dunkelman has studied for forty years. He weaves a complex and personal portrait of each man--portraits that reveal how, even for the common soldier, war was a cataclysmic event forever marking his life and the lives of those around him. Through a vast array of primary sources, Dunkelman reconstructs the lives and legacies of soldiers who died on the battlefield and others who later died of war-related injuries, some who were permanently disabled and others who saw their families undergo trauma.
A reluctant soldier is doomed by red tape. A veteran is crippled for life because of his brutal treatment as a prisoner of war. Father and son are killed at Chancellorsville. A dying private is immortalized by Walt Whitman. Separated by the war, a husband and wife agonize when their children contract a deadly disease. A veteran claiming he was blinded by campfire smoke is at the center of one of the largest pension scandals of the postwar era.
Recalling a lost world, War’s Relentless Hand tells of the resilience, perseverance, and loyalty that distinguished these men, the families and communities that supported them, and the faith and character that sustained them. Though the full human cost and grief of the Civil War can never be calculated, deeply felt and carefully retold lives like these help convey its magnitude.”

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