Lesley J. Gordon
Louisiana State University Press, 2014, 380 pp + 13 pp. introduction, $49.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
One of the most vital bits of information which can come from Civil War history are the stories of the regiments who fought on the front lines and gave their all for the sake of their country. Some regiments are more memorable than others such as the 54th Massachusetts and the 20th Maine. Then there are the regiments whose deeds are known, but more well-known through the work of historians who have worked tirelessly to bring their heroism to our attention. In A Broken Regiment, Lesley Gordon has accomplished this feat in remembrance of the 16th Connecticut and showcases not only the history of the 16th Connecticut but other aspects about the state during the Civil War.
Lesley J. Gordon is a professor of history at the University of Akron. She is also the author of General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend and is the coeditor of Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas. She is also an avid book reviewer and has authored many articles. She is the current editor of the scholarly journal Civil War History.
When people usually think about the 16th Connecticut, one event comes to mind: Antietam. While it was their first major action in a major battle, Gordon spends the rest of the novel describing what these men accomplished throughout the war. She opens her work with short biographies on some of the participants in the regiment including Jacob Bauer, Henry L. Pasco and many others. After a brief description of the regiment’s muster and their life at Camp Williams, Gordon moves to Antietam where the regiment’s participation is described in great detail. After reading through Gordon’s description of the 16th Connecticut at Antietam, I can easily say that it is one of the best accounts of a regiment in a battle I have read in quite some time. As the narrative goes on, Gordon takes the reader through the various events of the regiment’s history ranging from Fredericksburg, Portsmouth and Plymouth. One of the more gut wrenching accounts throughout the text is the portion of the work which has been dedicated to Andersonville. The words of Robert Kellogg wrote in his diary of soldiers who were once men and had turned into skeletons is just one of the many accounts which showcases the horrors of Andersonville Prison. This story is one of the many reasons that this regimental history stands out over some of the others written in recent years. Not only does Gordon give us the history of the regiment, she also gives us the humanity of the regiment which is an art that is hard to come by these days.
I highly recommend this work to anyone interested in regimental histories or anyone interested in the history of the state of Connecticut during the Civil War. I believe that I can say easily that this is one of the best regimental histories I have read in my lifetime. There is much in this book that can teach others not only in creating a compelling narrative, but by teaching a history of a regiment not usually discussed past their actions at Antietam. I would also consider this the best book about a Connecticut regiment to have come out in years. I hope that this work will be considered a classic in the realm of Connecticut history in the years to come as it is a triumph of scholarship.