Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Leftover Random Thoughts on "We Shall Conquer or Die”

My actual review of this book is here, but I had a few other thoughts, comments, and reactions that I felt were better in a separate post. They concern the book but are more “personal" than material for a formal review, so I created this second post. 

I was reading this book because it is a Civil War book that I had been hearing about for a while, and I thought I could enjoy and learn about a topic that was not overly familiar to me. I have not done a whole lot of reading lately, and this one sounded like a nice one to try, especially with its subject including Kentucky. 

As I started reading it, however, it really surprised, even shocked me, not for the quality, as I have seen Derrick's writing on his blog and other websites, but because of how it adds to my understanding of my own research. None of my personal work deals with partisan warfare or western Kentucky, yet on the first page of the introduction, marked as page “x,” not even to the traditional "real" numerals yet, I saw a mention of James Shackelford, colonel of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry (USA) that referred to him as a “guerrilla hunter.” I recognized his name (but not his story) because one company of that unit had been partially recruited in Campbell County. A quick online search turned up more details on Shackelford too. This was quite the first impression.

Next came a mention of the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry (USA). Once again, one company in this regiment had been formed with several men who joined in Newport. I had not noticed their introduction to war was against Nathan Bedford Forrest. Now, I notice that a request for a leave of absence I found was written from "Camp Crooks" which I'm guessing was named for Colonel John Crooks of the 4th Indiana Legion, who was among the main Union military men discussed in this book.

They actually became co. H of the 3rd Ky. Cavalry, under captain Lewis Wolfley 

Additionally, the book discusses the 71st Ohio Infantry and its performance at Clarksville, Tennessee. I was familiar with this unit's reputation, due to Shiloh and Clarksville, because two of my favorite Campbell County stories are of men in company K of this regiment. The book also mentioned harsh comments about its colonel, Rodney Mason, in a Cincinnati newspaper that I had not seen before. 

Yet again, I was caught off-guard when this book mentioned the steamboat USS Fairplay, on which at least two Campbell County men served. Even after the previous surprises, this stunned me a little bit. The book even includes a picture of this ship.

Another unit mentioned, even if briefly, was the 100th United States Colored Infantry. Three men with Campbell County connections were in this regiment.

The author also explains how “mounted infantry” differs from cavalry. One unit I’m studying that had dozens of Campbell County men, the 53rd Kentucky, was often called “mounted infantry,” though not consistently so, but I understand their service a bit better now, especially since part of their service record indicates that they guarded parts of Kentucky against guerrillas. (Why I had not looked up how that type of unit differed from infantry and cavalry, I do not know.)

My research, of course, focuses mostly on individual soldiers/sailors, a basic understanding of their service and a look at their entire lives, but not the details of the everyday military service of their units. Perhaps I mention the most famous battles or campaigns some of the units joined, but the mentions of these regiments and the ship in this book and the smaller fights and skirmishes, they fought have given me a better understanding of their service, and perhaps have showed me ways to improve my research of these and other men, some of whom I just learned were "guerrilla hunters."

I never expected to find anything like those connections to my project in this book. Not at all. Both the title and subject seemed completely different than anything I’m doing, but i guess that’s why I should not judge a book by its cover, or perhaps even by its title, LOL. 

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