Monday, April 28, 2008

old books

I have come to the conclusion that writing a regimental history is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve written one regimental history (37th NCT), and I’m working on a second (58th NCT). When one writes about a battle (which I’ve also done), one is able to be the master of that battle. A person can collect every scrap of information, can visit the battlefield, can tramp over every inch of ground. One is able (usually) to visualize what took place. When one writes about a regiment, one needs to be able to master not only that regiment, but all of the battles in which it fought. For the 37th NCT, that was over 30 plus engagements. No wonder it took six years of just writing! Yes, I visited all but one of those battlefields. (I did not visit Ox Hill. I have yet to visit Ox Hill). Have I visited every battlefield the 58th fought on? Not yet, but I’m working on it.
Maybe that is why we have so few modern (say, since 1961) regimental histories. To do a good job requires a great deal of time and effort.

Curiosity got the better of me this morning. What was the first attempt at writing about a regiment from North Carolina after the war?

It appears that Charles L. Jones wrote Historical Sketch: the following Historical Sketch of his company, regiment, and brigade, in 1874. This is a history of Company G, 55th North Carolina Troops. Jones was an officer in that company.

I have never seen a copy of Jones’s work. According to WorldCat, the book is 55 pages long, and originally appeared in an issue of D. H. Hill’s Our Living and Our Dead. While there may be a copy in an issue of Our Living and Our Dead, there are only three independent copies in other institutions: two in California and one in Missouri.

Jones’s book was followed in 1876 with W. H. Hall’s Historical Sketches of the Pee Dee Guards (Co. D, 23rd N. C. Regiment), and in 1883 with John A. Sloan’s Reminiscences of the Guilford Grays, Co. B, 27th N. C. Regiment.

The last two I have, albeit the re-releases done in 1989 and 1978.

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