A year ago I posted about John Billings’ timeless Hardtack and Coffee, considered to be the standard work about the common soldier’s life in the Union army, written, of course, by one who was there. Today’s post is about a book titled Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia 1861-1865 which tells the story in homespun style of what the common Confederate private went through on a day to day basis and therefore stands as a companion volume to Billings’. One reviewer notes that McCarthy’s comments “are charming discourses on uniforms, camp life, rations and marches” while Nevins describes the book as “deserving of its reputation as ‘the most interesting and informative of all memoirs written by privates.’” The illustrations by fellow Confederate, William L. Sheppard, only add to its luster.
The book’s author was Carlton McCarthy (1847-1936) who by one account was a well-educated child with upper class upbringing. Due to his youthful age, McCarthy served in the Richmond home guard until he could formally enlist as a private with the Richmond Howitzers in 1864, ultimately surrendering with that unit at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. McCarthy’s older brother was a Confederate captain who was killed at Cold Harbor and served as an inspirational source for much of his material.
Kevin Levin of Civil War Memory gives an insightful review of McCarthy’s work as it pertains to the disbanding of the Confederate army following Appomattox and the soldiers’ journeys home.
Following the war, McCarthy took up his pen and wrote this book about his experiences in the war. The work was first serialized in the Southern Historical Society Papers between 1876 and 1878. Its first appearance in hardcover was an 1882 self-published, 224-page effort prepared by “Carlton McCarthy and Company” that featured a tan colored, embossed cloth binding with black and white plates internally. A second edition followed in 1888. Like any desirable book of this vintage, the price for a first edition will vary greatly with the condition. As you can see here, they’ll range from $27 for a truly beat reading copy to $350 for a copy in pristine condition. The pictured copy is an author-inscribed first edition and is offered for sale here.
McCarthy also served as the mayor of Richmond from 1904 to 1908. He passed away in 1936 and is buried at the Riverview Cemetery in Richmond.