John F. Schmutz
Savas Beatie, 2016, 336 pgs., $32.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
The War in the East during the Civil War held many of the great battles we know and remember. It overshadows the War in the West in terms of scholarly works written about the conflict and general knowledge about the eastern war is higher than the west. Many are left to wonder if there is more that Civil War authors can write about and the answer is yes. John F. Schmutz has written “The Bloody Fifth,” a regimental history on the 5th Texas Infantry which was one of only three Texas regiments to fight in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This regimental history will be separated into volumes, the first taking the regiment from secession to the Suffolk Campaign.
John F. Schmutz is a veteran of the United States Army and hails from Oneida, New York. He has had a successful career as a corporate attorney; while during his career, he had a lifelong passion for the Civil War. His first book was The Battle of the Crater: A Complete History which was published in 2009.
One of the highlights about “The Bloody Fifth” was the incredible amount of information within the pages. As I was reading, I could tell the painstaking research Mr. Schmutz has put into this regiment. The stories of the men who served during the war with this unit are fascinating. The book is wonderfully organized into the sections which this volume is handling from the organization of the unit to the Suffolk Campaign. One of the points this book offers which I find fascinating was the telling of the events themselves. For example, in the chapter of Fredericksburg, most regimental histories would delve into the actions of the regiment instead of the overall event. Here, Mr. Schmutz tells the readers about the event as a whole which lends more to the understanding of the battles. It also gives a greater understanding of the actions of the regiment as the battle was waning on. In the account on the Battle of Fredericksburg, another interesting point in the book, was the action in which the 5th Texas took part in. The usual stories we read about that battle are in the form of the attack on Mayre’s Heights. But the 5th Texas was about the attack between Meade and Jackson, which is not wholly covered in many books. Lastly, one of the appendices which I appreciated was not only the organization by company of the regiment, but the listing of the important people throughout the regiment’s history.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in regimental histories. This is how a regimental history should be written. Properly organized and researched fully without any question, Mr. Schmutz has done his due diligence. The narrative flows quite well always keeping the interest of the reader intact and with the appendices to aid the text made the book even more valuable. Aided with well drawn maps and photographs, I eagerly await the next volume in this fine series. Highly recommended.