George Kimball: Edited by Alan D. Gaff and Donald H. Gaff
University of Oklahoma Press, 2014, 344 pp. + 22 pp. introduction, $34.95
Image Courtesy of amazon.com
Throughout the plethora of Civil War academia hitting the shelves recently, some of the jewels which have come out in the sesquicentennial of the conflict are the primary sources. Here, in A Corporal’s Story, we are given a first hand glance at the world of the Twelfth Massachusetts. Every visitor who has gone to the fields of Gettysburg have all had the same reaction to the extreme amount of monuments to Pennsylvania and New York with only a handful of other states. This is sometimes true with primary sources, especially when it comes to regimental histories. In this work, both Alan and Donald Gaff have edited this story by George Kimball and paints the picture of the American Civil War a bit different than other sources.
Alan D. Gaff is an independent scholar and has authored many books on combat history, not only in the Civil War, but in other conflicts as well. His works include Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest, and Blood in the Argonne: The “Lost Battalion” in World War I. He has also authored a work on the Iron Brigade. Donald H. Gaff is the assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Northern Iowa and is the author of many articles and contributions to books and reports ranging all over anthropology and archaeology.
As I was reading throughout the narrative in this work, I began to realize something much different than other primary sources I have read. Going mainly through the Eastern Theater of the war, there was quite a complete outlook on the conflict. It seemed, unlike other primary sources which tend to leave out some campaigns which the unit took a part of, this one did not seem to miss a beat. I also found the recollections of this corporal’s story to be quite simple to read in the narrative instead of parts missing from the text as others have in the past. One of the shining points of this book is the system of footnoting which both Alan and Donald Gaff presented in their work. The historical background of the footnotes not only gave a deeper understanding of the Twelfth Massachusetts but of the entire division, brigade and corps which they were a part of. George Kimball would not usually have spoken to the commander of the division, and during the Gettysburg section of the work, there is a short but detailed footnote concerning Brigadier General John Robinson who commanded the division. These footnotes give a deeper understanding into the world of George Kimball instead of a simple printing of the memoir. There were times when the narrative also seemed personal on both the efforts of Kimball and Alan and Donald Gaff.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Twelfth Massachusetts. I also recommend this book to anyone interested in a seemingly unbiased view of the war throughout the war with some of the best descriptions of combat. This book deserves a place among the many other famous primary sources that Civil War historians and students have come to appreciate over the years. Highly recommended.