Kindig shines light on a little-known Civil War history—what life was like for the common Confederate soldier.
A great deal is known about the generals and other officers who led the troops during the Civil War, but not as much is known about the men beneath them. In Courage and Devotion, Bruce R. Kindig strives to create a complete history of one Confederate battery, the Bankhead’s/Scott’s Tennessee Battery, with an emphasis on what life was like for the common soldier. This thoroughly researched account is a treasure trove of information for Civil War enthusiasts and those with a connection to this battery.
Kindig, a retired history teacher, has held a lifelong passion for the Civil War. In his studies he came across an account of John Marsh, a young man noted for his courage and devotion in battle, and wanted to learn more. What he discovered was that no one had written a history of this particular battery before, so he set about gathering information on it. This book is the culmination of more than thirty years of research, including tracking down records in small-town libraries and interviewing descendants of the veterans.
The battery is followed faithfully throughout the war, with detailed accounts of each encampment, engagement with the enemy, and personnel change. This is a fairly straightforward account, heavy on facts and light on narrative. There are a few anecdotes scattered through the book, such as the time Scott’s battery was a favorite to win a drill competition between batteries (they came in second), but for the most part, the writing is cut and dry. What sets it apart from just a recitation of facts is Kindig’s accounting of troop morale as evidenced in letters and diaries he found during his research. “My God, what suffering,” wrote one soldier. “Wet through—cold and chilly—no sleep for four or five nights, and march through mud and water, some without any shoes, and some sick, and some with fingers and toes frozen, while behind on the bloody field were thousands moaning out the little life left them.”
In addition to the accounts of the battery’s involvement in the war, Kindig has included brief biographies of nine officers and ten enlisted men to give an insight into the type of people who made up the battery and their reasons for joining, which ranged from Southern patriotism to simply needing a way to earn some money. He also includes useful lists of recruitments, transfers, deserters, discharges, and maps of the various engagements. All of this information will prove useful to those researching this battery or one of the 252 men enlisted in it, though some of the maps are difficult to read because of the tiny font size used for the print.
Overall, Kindig succeeds in his effort to provide a history of this battery, from Smith P. Bankhead’s very first recruits in Memphis on May 13, 1861, to its disbandment after the defeat at Missionary Ridge on December 9, 1863. Packed with detailed information, it will serve as an important resource for historians and genealogists alike.
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