Edited by Richard Brady Williams with a Foreword by Robert K. Krick
The University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 359 pp., $45.00
Image courtesy of amazon.com
In the study of the American Civil War, nothing is more valuable than the primary source. During the time of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, there has been many works written about the great conflict, but the influx of primary sources has waned just a bit. Thankfully, there is this book about one of the least looked at type of people in the entire war: the cartographers. The lack of study into mapmaking is one of the great issues with Civil War academia and I’m proud to say that Richard Brady Williams has brought something to light which is needed for study and is greatly appreciated. To go into the mind of the mapmaker was quite a different experience in Civil War reading and there was another great aspect to what this work provided: a Prussian who fought for the Confederacy.
Richard Brady Williams is an independent historian who bases himself in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His previous work is Chicago’s Battery Boys: The Chicago Mercantile Battery in the Civil War’s Western Theater. In that work, he covered a great amount of the Western Theater and now with this work finds himself in the Eastern Theater of the war.
I would be remiss, however, if I did not tell you a little about Captain Oscar Hinrichs before going into detail of the work. However, before the publication of this work, little has been written or known about Captain Hinrichs. There was the general knowledge that he was one of the cartographers for General Jackson but beyond that, there is not much on his early life. In his introduction to the work, Williams states that Hinrichs was well educated, articulate and observant, all qualities which a cartographer needed, along with being involved in the major events of the war; these were what he considered to be a good primary source which should be preserved and he was correct. The book is split into the events of his life ranging from leaving the country which was politically tumultuous up until his appointment in the engineer corps. In his attempts to leave the country, he was one of the men who had shown that he wanted to join the Confederacy and was almost arrested because of it. Part of his account reads almost like a novel. As the journal goes on, the major engagements are split up into portions of the war. The chapters are not just separated into battles like many other works, but into areas of his life which are of importance. Instead of just a chapter on the Battle of Chancellorsville, he gives us a chapter ranging from January to the end of June which encompasses some large events. While the work is called Stonewall’s Prussian Mapmaker, the story does not end with the death of Stonewall Jackson. Hinrich’s career goes on and so does his diary. I praise Williams for not ending the work at the death of the commander shortly after Chancellorsville. The entirety of the war is given here all the way from early talks of secession to the last fight of the army. One thing which I found interesting in this work was that Hinrichs was Prussian fighting for the south. While little is known about his early life, many Germans and Prussians who were in the country eventually fought for the Union, but here, Hinrichs fights for the South. The introduction states that due to his ties to the South, he could not turn against them. It is quite something when we still see the question being battled over which side to take during the beginning of the war. There is always the scene of Lee giving up the command of the Union army due to his loyalty to Virginia, but here, it seemed on more of a personal level.
This work is highly recommended to any Civil War historian or buff. The editing done by Williams is second to none and should be praised for bringing someone as interesting as Oscar Hinrichs to the light of academia. I have no doubt in my mind that this work will be hailed as one of the greatest primary sources to come out of this decade. The tireless work of the editor has paid off and now the public has one of the greatest stories of the war at their disposal. Highly Recommended.