"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

One More Review

The June 2012 issue of Civil War History magazine, published by Kent State University Press, contains a review of I Will Give Them One More Shot, written by Samuel B. McGuire. Mr. McGuire holds a Masters Degree in History from the University of Kentucky, and is currently a PhD student of History at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he is employed as a History Department Teaching Assistant and Special Collections Research Assistant. The review is on pages 286 to 287 of the magazine, and can also be read here.

In general, Mr. McGuire seems to like the book, stating that “George W. Martin’s study is an intriguing regimental history. . . ,” and “Martin undertook extensive research—uncovering newspaper editorials, soldiers’ correspondence, and diaries . . .” Maguire also says that “This regimental history will undoubtedly captivate general audiences, and the detailed rosters will certainly prove useful to genealogists and scholars alike.” I would like to thank Mr. McGuire for these kind words.

I do, however, find myself taking issue with a few of his comments. In his second paragraph, McGuire says: “Martin depicts many soldiers' na├»ve jubilation upon enlistment; he oversimplifies, however, the complex issues facing Georgians, stating merely that ‘sectional differences between North and South over issues such as tariffs, trade, control of Congress, and slavery were threatening to tear the United States apart.’” While it is true that I may have “oversimplified the issues,” McGuire implies that this was the only reference to the war’s causes. Most of Chapter One of I Will Give Them One More Shot addresses the Georgians’ state of mind in the months before the war began, with emphasis on what was happening in the communities from which the men of the First Georgia came. Because the story is about a specific military unit, I chose to devote most of the work to those events relating to the regiment’s experiences, and not to spend space giving a detailed analysis of the events leading up to the war.

Mr. McGuire also states that “In July 1861, the Georgians engaged Union forces at Laurel Hill, but the author romantically claims, ‘the vastly outnumbered [Confederates] fought gallantly but were overwhelmed by superior federal numbers.’” This quote, from page 94, is taken out of context, as it refers not to the First Georgia, but to the Battle of Rich Mountain, where a Union force of approximately 2,000 troops under General William S. Rosecrans outflanked and defeated a Confederate detachment numbering only about 300 Rebels. The First Georgia was not at Rich Mountain, but was posted at Laurel Hill, some miles away. The defeat at Rich Mountain led General Robert S. Garnett to abandon his works at Laurel Hill.

McGuire concludes his review by writing that “Martin has composed a fine story, yet, because he fixates on the minutia of army life, readers may often lose sight of the wider context of the war.” Again, I believe he misses the point. I Will Give Them One More Shot was not intended to be a broad history of the first year of the Civil War. Rather than give a retelling of generals and campaigns (though they are given ample space where they are important to the story), my intent throughout the book was to describe the day-to-day life of the common soldier (to “fixate,” as you will) as he transforms from an idealistic recruit with romantic visions of glory, to a hardened veteran whose illusions have been worn away by the harsh realities of war.

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