Hayes of the Twenty-Third : The Civil War Volunteer Officer by T. Harry Williams
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1965. First edition. Stated. Hardcover. 324 pages ; 22 cm. Price-clipped dust jacket. Pages clean and unmarked. Binding firm.
THIS IS THE STORY of a unit commander, Rutherford B. Hayes, and of his regiment, the Twenty-third Ohio, and also of larger units, brigades and divisions, that he led. The Twenty-third was one of the famous regiments of the Civil War, known for its fighting qualities and its many members who later won high office. It was the only regiment to contain two future Presidents, Hayes and William McKinley. But this is more than a chronicle of an important man and a renowned battle outfit. It is a book that looks right into the insides of a Civil War army and tells the reader how that army was operated, marched, and fought. And, as scarcely any other book about the war has done, it reveals how a Civil War battle was actually conducted.
T. Harry Williams, who has won wide recognition for his writings on high strategy and top generals, here turns his attention to a new area of inquiry—the volunteer officer, the unit commander, and the basic element in a Civil War army, the regiment—and comes up with some highly original findings. Among other things, Mr. Williams concludes that it was the hundreds of intelligent volunteer officers, men like Hayes, who made it possible for the armies to function. There were not nearly enough professionals to fill the unit commands, and unless these amateurs had come forward the armies would have been leaderless. The method of choosing the volunteer officers, by gubernatorial appointment or election by the troops, often condemned as deficient and dangerous, was in reality a sensible way of doing it and the only method that could have been used. Rather than seeing inefficiency in the way America went to war, Mr. Williams recognizes the crude vigor of a great democracy.
Even the most specialized Civil War buff will find in these pages something fresh and stimulating—and some unusually vivid accounts of little-studied battles in West Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
T. Harry Williams is Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University. Noted for his works on the Civil War, he is the author of Lincoln and the Radicals (1941) , P. G. T. Beauregard (1955), and the popular Lincoln and His Generals (1952). His more recent works include A History of the United States (with Richard N. Current and Frank Freidel, 1959), Americans at War (1960), Romance and Realism in Southern Politics (1961), and McClellan, Sherman, and Grant (1962). Professor Williams has held offices in several professional associations, including the Southern Historical Association, which he has served as both vice-president and president. — RUTHERFORD B HAYES
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