May 1, 2010

Sleeper's Tenth Massachusetts Battery

Back in January I posted on John Billings' seminal work about the common ACW soldier titled Hardtack and Coffee. In the course of research for that post, I learned that Billings had served in the 10th Massachusetts Battery and that he also authored the history of that unit. That book was begun in the 1870s and then initially appeared in 1881, six years before Hardtack.

Billings' unit history is titled The History of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery of Light Artillery in the War of the Rebellion and according to the Nevins-Robertson-Wiley bibliography, is considered to be "among the top dozen unit histories pertaining to the Civil War." His sources were about as good as it gets for the era, for he used his own wartime diary, about 300 letters, and a comrade's manuscript as the foundation for his work.

The battery served in the Army of the Potomac from August 1862 through the end of the war and in addition to the unit's movements, Billings paints a worthy portrait of soldier life, the countryside they moved in, and of the various officers. David Eicher opines in his bibliography that the best material "focuses on camp life outside Washington, the Antietam campaign, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness campaign."

The first edition was published in 1881 by Hall and Whiting in Boston. That is a highly collectible and pricey book as illustrated by the fact that I could find only a few copies for sale via the internet. The book was then reprinted in 1909 by the Arakelyan Press and was bound in reddish-orange cloth with gilt lettering on the spine and front panel.

More recently, Butternut and Blue reissued the book as a facsimile edition, though it now appears to be out of print.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Cornell University Library has made a scan of the 1881 title available for free, and a print-on-demand facsimile of that edition is available from the Library through Amazon.