October 3, 2009

Marching With Sherman

By the fall of 1864, thirty-five-year-old Henry Hitchcock felt the pull of the Civil War, despite the fact that for the first three and a half years of the conflict he had been a successful attorney in St. Louis. His uncle, Major General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, had stressed to Henry that he would be of more use to the Union cause by being a member of the Missouri Convention and handling other patriotic duties than as a soldier at the front, yet by September 1864, Henry was, in his uncle’s words, “spoiling for a fight." Later that month Henry applied in person to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for a commission. Realizing the inevitable, General Hitchcock wrote to his friend William T. Sherman, asking if there might be a place for the younger Hitchcock on his staff. Sherman readily agreed and the rest as they say, is history. Henry Hitchcock was given the appointment of assistant adjutant general of volunteers with the rank of major, and by October 1, 1864, had arrived At Sherman’s headquarters in Georgia as the army was preparing for its legendary march to the sea.

What follows in this book over the next 300+ pages are the home letters and campaign diaries of a very literate man who was with Sherman’s headquarters for six months, from the time of its leaving Atlanta up through the end of the campaign in the Carolinas. He often jotted down conversations with Sherman and made numerous observations about “soldiering” though analysis of military and combat issues is light. Unlike numerous other accounts written after the fact, Hitchcock’s writings were composed as events unfolded and therefore have that air of immediacy desired by historians. In his famous bibliography, Allan Nevins noted how "the highly educated Hitchcock rarely failed to note incidents and scenes of interest." M. A. DeWolfe Howe edited Hitchcock’s letters and diaries and brought them to publication with the Yale University Press in 1927. Since then, Marching with Sherman: Passages from the Letters and Campaign Diaries of Henry Hitchcock, Major and Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers, November 1864-May 1865, has become a cornerstone primary source for anyone interested in the study of Sherman’s final campaigns.

The first printing of this work was bound in blue cloth and printed on high quality paper. Despite being a well-made book, first edition copies in collector’s condition are not abundant as shown here, and those in the original white with blue lettering dust jacket are extremely rare. In fact, the copy pictured is the only one I have ever seen in jacket. For those students who are interested only in Hitchcock’s words, the book appears to have been reprinted by Bison Books in 1995.

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