December 21, 2007

General Robert McAllister

Farmer and railroad executive before the war, Robert McAllister (1813 - 1891) first became an officer in the Civil War as the Lieut. Colonel of the 1st New Jersey Infantry before being promoted to colonel of the 11th New Jersey Infantry in August 1862. From there, he led his regiment through the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg, McAllister was severeley wounded and carried off the field. According to this bio, McAllister went through "a four-month convalescence, then returned to his unit and was given command of his brigade. He never relinquished brigade command after that, and was repeatedly commended for his leadership in the subsequent Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and the Petersburg Campaign. He was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General on October 24, 1864 for gallant and distinguished service at the battle of Boydton Plank Road and then brevetted a full major general on March 13, 1865 for overall meritorious service during the war. When the end came at Appomattox, McAllister was there.

According to the publisher, McAllister was "not a flamboyant leader or a braggart," but rather "one of the quietly efficient commanders whose noble gallantry ultimately proved to be the salvation of the Union. He took part in all but two engagements of the Army of the Potomac and was twice wounded and three times promoted for heroism on the battlefield."

The Civil War Letters of General Robert McAllister were published by Rutgers University Press in 1965 under the auspices of the Archive Society for the New Jersey Civil War Centennial Commission. Not daring to keep a diary that might fall into enemy hands, McAllister wrote daily to his wife and daughters, providing an intricately detailed description of his wartime ordeal for posterity. Enhanced by James I. Robertson’s scholarly editing, the 637 letters presented here provide a comprehensive look at the experiences of the Army of the Potomac and one of its more overlooked generals. Due to the usually low nature of university press print runs, copies in premium condition are not easily found. Collectors should expect to pay $50 and up for a choice copy of this title. If you're looking to dig deeper than what the major generals had to say, this obscure soldier's personal letters could be a good and uncommon place to start.

1 comment:

Jim Lamason said...

A great book about basically a common man thrust into a place of leader ship by war. Thanks for posting this.