The George S. MacManus Company has begun publishing a new series of catalogues on America’s Civil War. The Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, bookseller issued a series of catalogues on America’s epic struggle a few years back, but this is a new series with new material. The first installment is Catalogue 408. Civil War, Part I. Next month we will be back with a look at Part II. For now, we will describe a few of the first 569 items, ranging from Abernathy to Griggs. There will be a couple more volumes before the alphabet is completed. Works offered range from accounts by lowly soldiers to the highest generals and political leaders. Both sides are well represented, perhaps the losers a bit more so than the victors. Maybe that should not be so surprising, as despite the outcome, the South seemed to remain focused on the Civil War through the ensuing years, even as the North tended to move on. Here are a few of these publications.
Item 274 offers a first-hand look at the decisive, final campaign that broke the back of the Confederacy – Sherman’s March through the South with Sketches and Incidents of the Campaign. Sherman was not trying to be a nice guy, or leave the South feeling anything but defeated, when he marched through Georgia and the Carolinas. He succeeded spectacularly, even if he left a path of pain and destruction behind. The war would soon be over. This book was written by David P. Conyngham, a correspondent for the New York Herald who witnessed the campaign. It was published in 1865, only a short time later, so it provides first-hand look at Sherman’s march unaltered by time and hindsight. Priced at $200.
Varina Davis was a “stand by your man” kind of woman, in the mold of Elizabeth Custer. History remembers Robert E. Lee as a man whose performance, even in defeat, was way beyond what could have been expected considering the strategic disadvantages. Few have credited Jefferson Davis with outperforming his circumstances. Nonetheless, he was always Varina’s hero, which is seen in her biography Jefferson Davis. Ex-President of the Confederate States. A Memoir. By His Wife. It was published in 1890, the year after he died. Jefferson Davis was a reluctant secessionist. He had served the United States as Secretary of War and was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi when the break came. However, once it came, he handed in his resignation to the Senate and was selected the one and only President of the Confederate States of America. Despite his earlier reluctance, he remained a defender of the Confederacy and the right to secede for the rest of his life. Item 333. $200.
Jefferson Davis wrote his own account of the Confederacy, though obviously a little earlier than Varina’s biography. It is titled The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, and it was published in 1881, in New York of all places. In it, Davis argues for a lost cause, the legitimacy of secession and the Confederate Government. Too little, too late. This copy belonged to John Wise, son of a Confederate general, and the man who rode through enemy lines to bring Davis the final bad news, that Lee was about to surrender. Davis wrote that Wise “…had mounted his fleet horse, and, escaping through and from the enemy’s cavalry, some of whom pursued him, had come quite alone to warn me of the approaching event.” Wise notes, “President Davis’ recollection of my visit is inaccurate to the extent that he forgot I bore him a dispatch from Gen. Lee.” Davis used the news to hightail it south, some say dressed as a woman, in an attempt to flee to Mexico. He was captured. Item 345. $3,000.
Sometimes, a book’s title can reveal the sentiments of its author. Item 29 is Official Report Relative to the Conduct of Federal Troops in Western Louisiana, during the Invasions of 1863 and 1864. It is hard to “invade” your own country. Author Henry Watkins Allen obviously viewed the South as an independent country, the Confederacy legitimate. That is not surprising. Allen was a Confederate general and the last Confederate Governor of Louisiana. Not surprisingly, he found the Union troops’ behavior wanting. He describes his report as an account of “the atrocities and barbarities committed by the Federal officers, troops, and camp followers…” As Federal troops bore down on him, Allen hightailed it to Mexico, where he died a year later. $400.
This is a surprising title: The Youngers’ Fight for Freedom: A Southern Soldier’s Twenty Years’ Campaign to Open Northern Prison Doors – With Anecdotes of War Days. How could Confederate soldiers find themselves imprisoned for twenty years? Even Jefferson Davis served only two, Robert E. Lee not a day. It turns out that while author W.C. (Wal) Bronaugh was a legitimate soldier, the Youngers were part of Quantrill’s Raiders, brutal Missouri guerilla fighters who continued their activity long after the war ended. The Younger brothers teamed up with the even more infamous James brothers (Jesse and Frank) and were eventually captured and imprisoned for bank robbery in Minnesota in 1876. Bronaugh took up their cause and worked tirelessly to free them. He succeeded, though it did take twenty years. Bob Younger died in prison, and Jim killed himself the following year, unable to cope with life outside. However, Cole Younger lived out a normal life, at one point conducting a “Wild West” tour with fellow outlaw Frank James. Item 155. $200.