Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Organization & Administration of the Union Army, 1861-1865 - Winner, Non-Fiction, 1929

The Organization & Administration of the Union Army, 1861-1865
By: Fred Albert Shannon
A.H. Clark, 1928

The Organization & Administration of the Union Army, 1861-1865. Sounds like a page turner, huh? As I have admitted on non-fiction books in the past, I was NOT looking forward to this book. I do not enjoy war history. So much of the Civil War history that I have read is all about battle tactics. I HATE battle tactics. But, I persevered and I am actually glad that I did.

Shannon's book avoids battle tactics almost entirely. Instead, he focuses on the trials that the Union had when trying to organize an army. He discusses the importance of states' rights (an issue not much mentioned in the histories Union side of things) in the organization of the army. He also spends a great deal of time on the struggle faced by the soldiers when it came to provisions. These are the things about history that fascinate me - the way people lived during a specific period in history. The soldiers struggled greatly not only with the meager food rations provided them, but even more the clothing provided. Shannon presents several humorous stories of methods used by soldiers to cover up holes worn into the rears of their pants. He continues in the book to discuss the problems in recruiting and maintaining soldiers throughout the war years.

While this book might not be for everyone, I will say that I came very close to enjoying parts of it. I really felt like I learned some new things about the Civil War.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Training of an American: The Earlier Life & Letters of Walter H. Page - Winner, Biography, 1929

The Training of an American: The Earlier Life & Letters of Walter H. Page
By: Burton J. Hendrick
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1928

The Training of an American: The Earlier Life & Letters of Walter H. Page is, interestingly, not the first Pulitzer for Burton J. Hendrick, and, on top of that, it is not the first Pulitzer about Walter H. Page for Hendrick. Hendrick's The Life & Letters of Walter H. Page, focusing on Page's later years as American ambassador to Great Britain, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1923. Page, whose name doesn't often appear in our modern studies of American history (at least as far as I remember), must have been a greatly admired figure in the 1920s.

Hendrick's 1929 winner focuses on the earlier life of Page. He was not a politician - he was a journalist who spent most of his life prior to ambassadorship seeking educational reform, especially in the post-Civil War South. North Carolina-born Page felt a heavy burden for the return of the South to it's true glory days before the rise of the plantation owner and a lazy society - the South that produced George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

I truly enjoyed reading this book. Aside from a few overly long quoted passages, Hendrick tells the story of Page's life instead of just presenting a chronological account of fact. The book also gives important glimpses into the struggles created by Reconstruction in the South.