July 17, 2008

Forty-Six Years in the Army

Acquiring a first edition of Lieutenant General John M. Schofield's military memoirs will provide the Civil War book collector with quite a collecting coup but offers little in the way of great historical analysis. Though reading copies are quite easy to come by for the book is still in print, first editions are exceedingly rare with prices for premium copies often commanding in excess of $500. While they're for sale on ABE, I don't recall ever seeing a copy for sale in a bookstore or at a book fair. All of which is a bit surprising for the book was first published by The Century Co. (of Battles and Leaders fame) in 1897, which was the book division of the The Century Magazine, regarded as the leading periodical of the 1880's and 1890's. Though Schofield's public stature (he retired as General of the Army) was certainly not equal to Grant's or Sherman's, one would think that ample copies would still be around. Nevertheless, they are surprisingly scarce plus this massive, clothbound, 557-page tome did not wear well over the years.

Not only in the physical sense, but from a literary perspective as well. For instance, Nevins complains that "what could have been and enlightening and valuable memoir is little more than a critique of published official reports on the engagements of which Schofield was a part," while Eicher describes Schofield's memoirs as "a mishmash of notes and rememberances strung together chronologically in a rather diasappointing fashion."

As a brief overview and according to the Arlington National Cemetery website, "Schofield graduated from West Point in 1853, ranking seventh in his class. He served throughout the Civil War in command positions, receiving the Medal of Honor for heroism in battle. He remained in the Army following the war and was the military officer who recommended that Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, be established as a military base by the United States. From 1876 to 1881 Schofield was Superintendent at West Point. After serving in various departments throughout the country he succeeded to command of the entire Army upon the death of Lieutenant General Phil Sheridan. Schofield was retired for age on his 64th birthday and died in Saint Augustine, Florida, on March 4, 1906. He is buried in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery. Pictured copy for sale here.

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